Časopis Slovo a slovesnost
en cz

Relations between written and oral forms of language in teaching Czech foreigners

Helena Confortiová



Vztah mezi psanou a mluvenou formou jazyka při vyučování cizinců češtině

1. When teaching a language, we find a problem in how to harmonize written and oral forms of that language. It depends on the students’ motivation: if they need it only to understand Czech surroundings, to speak about everyday life, or to discuss special professional topics, then they need not learn how to spell every word correctly. On the other hand, if they will need writing capability in the future, they must study written forms from the very beginning.


2. If we take into consideration the four skills that are necessary for mastery of any language (reading, writing, speaking, listening), we may find the following relationships between the written and oral forms as well as between active and passive knowledge of the language.

(1) Writing and speaking are active creative arts of language when compared with reading and listening, although the former are less extensive (in terms of the range of vocabulary and grammatical forms employed). I can write and/or speak using only the words I know actively.

(2) Reading and listening, while they do not require creative action, are unlimited and this is why their mastery takes a long time, and is in fact endless. If I read something or I listen to somebody, I will encounter words that I do not understand.

(3) Writing and reading can be done at any time, and are not limited by any barriers; furthermore, they depend only on a person’s will. Use of a dictionary is possible when we write or read.

(4) Speaking and listening are the most difficult activities because a person can meet with unexpected situations; he/she does not have enough time to think it over; in fact, he/she must react (answer) immediately. Listening and speaking are the basic factors in any conversation; but just listening (without reply) can be difficult for anybody who is not accustomed to natural, fluent speech (by means of mass communication, e. g. broadcasting, lectures, TV, etc.). Use of a dictionary during communication (conversation) is also possible but not normal; it will slow down conversation and thus can be used only rarely.


3.1. When we teach foreigners Czech language at our Institute[1] in intensive courses two methods are usually employed for the first stage (for the long–term courses lasting for 3–5 months).

A. The audio–oral–visual method is used, i. e. the students listen, look and speak (repeat). This means that the class is based on listening and speaking. Pictures from the textbook (Hronová, 1974) are displayed in order for the students to know what the teacher is talking about. There are two books. The first is for students and contains only pictures, and the second one, for the teachers, contains all texts and exercises. The topics of K. Hronová’s book are mostly descriptive – classroom, livingroom, family, dining–room and town. Students are not allowed to write any Czech word. It is assumed that students will learn everything at school during 4 hours in the morning and 2 hours [166]of repetition in a language laboratory in the afternoon. This course lasts 2–3 weeks and then the basic Czech language course begins.

B. The audio–oral–visual method, together with reading, is used with another book (Cvejnová – Šenkeřík, 1992). It entails listening, speaking and reading. In this book the pictures are on the left side of the page, and the sentences describing them are on the right. The authors start with basic dialogues in communication, with greetings, introductions, daily schedule, etc. From the beginning, the students learn how to read, which greatly influences the development of other skills. This means not only reading but also writing – students are asked to copy something at home. In this way, a student’s visual ability is engaged from the beginning not only by the actual pictures but also by the ”pictures of words” in the new language (in the new alphabet). This course lasts 3 weeks (5 hours daily in the morning) and is also followed by a basic Czech course.

3.2. For the short–term courses (4 or 6 weeks) the books mentioned above are used only occasionally. If a student chooses a short–term course, he/she doesn’t want only to repeat something mechanically or to learn idioms by heart. Mostly he/she would like to understand why a word has a specific ending and he/she wants to form similar sentences. That’s why we use other books: Welcome to Czechoslovakia (1990) is written for English–speaking students and was planned for 2 weeks (for special groups of students who lived with Czech families). Mluvíme česky (1992) serves the 4–6 week courses; it was planned to have corresponding English, French and Spanish editions but for technical reasons it was not possible to print them. Grundkurs Tschechisch (1991) serves German–speaking students (who are linguists) also for 4–6 week courses.

3.3. Another method is used in our Institute, too. It is the so called suggestopaedia[2] and is based on Professor Lozanov’s method. During lessons in the classroom, students not only listen, look, speak and read, but they also move, walk, exercise and play. They speak with different voices, they listen to music, they relax, etc. It is evident that in this way they engage both hemispheres, which results in better retention of new words in the memory.


4. In all courses for beginners (and also for the intermediate level or advanced students) pronunciation (speaking) is very important. From the very beginning, the teacher must pay attention to students’ pronunciation and intonation. It is commonly known that students’ pronunciation is better while speaking, because they can imitate their teacher, than while reading. Students read out (aloud) much worse than they speak. When reading they mangle words (vowels and consonants) and very often they use the intonation of their native tongues. When speaking, they hear the intonation of their partner and sometimes students can use words that were said by their partner in questions or replies.

There are two problems in listening (understanding):

(1) The first problem is the speed of speech: many Czechs speak quickly and subsequently students do not understand.

(2) The second problem results from the difference between literal and colloquial Czech. Students notice very early that people outside of school use different grammatical endings of different words. In teaching foreigners Czech, we must alert them to frequent colloquial forms, to special lexical expressions, to changeable word–order and intonation. Time–consuming work will be recompensed by the students’ interest.


5. Students coming to our country wish to learn Czech, i. e. they want to speak to people: listening and speaking are the most important activities for them. [167]Almost all of them are at the same time interested in reading, especially reading Czech newspapers or magazines. There is nobody who wants to learn only reading without speaking and listening. Some students come to our country with a good knowledge of written Czech, i. e. they can read and understand what they are reading, but they do not understand speech. On the other hand, some of the students, mostly children of Czech emigrants, can speak and understand but they cannot write: this is the reason they are here.


6. The fact that foreigners come to our country to learn Czech is a great advantage for them: they are surrounded by a Czech environment all the time. This helps them very much: they can speak not only with their teachers but also with other people, they can listen to different voices and different pronuciations, they can learn a lot about our country. Their communication with people in general can be more successful.


7. Conclusion: Let me summarize the results of our experience. Acquisition of these four skills can be done gradually depending on their degree of difficulty. The easiest skill to acquire is reading. Students can use a dictionary and – because a majority of people are visual types – they can have a greater passive knowledge of the language than an active one. The second skill – less difficult – is speaking. Students can formulate their questions and sentences based on their knowledge, they can use synonyms although they often communicate only what they are able to say and not what they want to say. More difficult is writing. In formulating ideas in a foreign language, students may use correct words and correct grammatical forms, but the structure of a sentence will carry traces of their mother tongues. The most difficult skill is understanding what the partner says. Listening can pose great problems not only because of a partner’s pronunciation and way of speech, but also because of their spontaneity: nobody can be totally prepared for what he/she will hear, especially in conversation. Only a prolonged stay in the country, i. e. lengthy and daily practice, can improve this most difficult skill.




Confortiová, H. – Krejčová, M.: Mluvíme česky (Základní učebnice pro krátkodobé kursy). UK Karolinum, Praha 1992.

Cvejnová, J. – Šenkeřík, K.: Elementární kurs češtiny pro cizince. UK Karolinum, Praha 1992.

Horáková, L.: Welcome to Czechoslovakia – Vítejte v Československu. UK Karolinum, Praha 1990.

Hronová, J.: Úvodní audioorální kurs češtiny pro výuku zahraničních studentů – Obrazová část. UK SPN, Praha 1974; Pokyny pro vyučující. UK SPN, Praha 1984.

Ostmeyerová, Z. – Ostmeyer, J. – Bytel, A.: Grundkurs Tschechisch. UK Karolinum, Praha 1991.


[168]R É S U M É

Vztah mezi psanou a mluvenou formou jazyka při vyučování cizinců češtině

Při výuce češtiny jako cizího jazyka musíme nalézt způsob, jak dát do souladu výuku písemné a ústní formy jazyka. Záleží vždy také na tom, za jakým účelem zahraniční posluchač přijel češtinu studovat.

Porovnáme-li vzájemně čtyři základní dovednosti, které má student při studiu cizího jazyka zvládnout (čtení, psaní, mluvení a poslech s porozuměním), můžeme je seřadit do 4 skupin (vždy po dvou) podle jejich vzájemných vztahů:

1) Psaní a mluvení jsou aktivní dovednosti oproti 2) čtení a poslechu, které řadíme mezi dovednosti pasívní. Psanou formu jazyka představuje 3) psaní a čtení, zatímco 4) mluvení a poslech reprezentují jeho mluvenou podobu.

Podle stupně obtížnosti pokládáme za nejsnadnější dovednost čtení, kdy posluchač může používat slovníku. O něco obtížnější je mluvení, pokud posluchač vystačí s tím, že řekne to, co umí, nikoli to, co by chtěl říci. Těžší je psaní, při kterém student musí ovládat gramatický systém jazyka (morfologii i syntax), musí mít dostatečnou a dobrou znalost lexika a znát stylové využití jazykových prostředků. Za nejtěžší dovednost pokládáme poslech s porozuměním (což je obvykle doprovázeno i mluvením, jedná se tedy o mluvenou podobu jazyka), kdy se cizinec musí vyrovnat nejen s neočekávaným lexikem, ale i s různou výslovností, tempem řeči a způsobem vyjadřování rodilého mluvčího. V češtině situaci ještě ztěžují rozdíly mezi spisovnou a hovorovou formou jazyka, se kterými musíme posluchače v rámci výuky češtiny jako cizího jazyka seznámit.

[1] Institute of Language and Professional Training of Charles University in Prague with study centres in four other towns has more than 35 years’ experience in teaching foreigners Czech.

[2] About suggestopaedia see Supplement to Proceedings of Seminar to the 400th anniversary of J. A. Komenský: K problematice výuky češtiny jako cizího jazyka, Poděbrady, 1992. J. S. Bartmann, author of the article „Nové vyučování a učení” (New teaching and learning – Metodické listy, p. 13–21, internal print), has read several lectures in our Institute since 1990.

Ústav jazykové a odborné přípravy
zahraničních studentů Univerzity Karlovy

Slovo a slovesnost, ročník 54 (1993), číslo 3, s. 165-168

Předchozí Renata Blatná: Intonational and stress deviations from the norm and their reflection in dictionaires

Následující Jan Čadil: The role of extra-linguistic means in written texts