On the bus, on the street, in a home…I am immersing in a culture; however, once I open my mouth, it’s immediately apparent I’m someone from a distance. Last night I was on the bus with my girlfriend. We boarded the bus (nobody pays attention), get tickets (not a glance), sit down (no notice), begin speaking in English (two girls sitting in front of us simultaneously jump and look at each other—sort of sideways eying us). There’s an American sitting behind us on the bus! (giggle)
I’ve already had a couple “language incidents.” I was at the checkout counter in Tesco a few days ago. The cashier begin asking me a question about one of the items I was purchasing. I meant to say, “I only speak a little Czech, and not very well.” Instead I said, “You only speak a little Czech, and not very well!”
Several people in line chuckled slightly at that one.
It’s a rather dangerous language. If one mispronounces the word for “library” slightly, it comes out something like a slang word for excrement. (There are a whole other list of words I’ve been warned about. Yesterday it was “pizza.” There is another word that sounds almost like the Czech pronunciation of pizza that is a crude word for a certain private part of a woman. Must be very careful with that one.)
Of course it works the same way from Czech to English. The Czech word for “really” sounds almost exactly like “F*&$ you.”
Going to take a while; but I’m going through the same thing all people new to a country experience.