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I would like to learn Slovak - is it difficult?
There are over 5 million people speaking the Slovak language in the Slovak republic and other few million abroad. So why not you?
Slovak is a Slavic language like Czech, Russian, Polish, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Ukrainian, Belarussian or Slovene. It is officially spoken in Slovakia and by Slovak minorities abroad (mostly in the Czech Republic, Yugoslavia, USA, Canada, Australia, but also in a number of other countries).
If you come to Slovakia from the Czech Republic, you will probably not need to learn Slovak. Both languages are mutually comprehensible and most literate Czechs and Slovaks are able to read in both languages or conduct a conversation, each speaking his/her own language, without any difficulty.
OK, let's say Czech is not your mother tongue, in that case Slovak may be a little bit more difficult. Although Polish, Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian are somewhat similar to Slovak, it is not so easy to understand each other without prior knowledge of its basics. And if your mother tongue is English, French, German, Japanese or Swahili, then the only way to master the language is to learn it.
To make it easier for most Europeans, Americans and other users of Latin alphabet, you do not have to learn new hieroglyphics in Slovak. However some letters do have also an accented form, as you can see in the chart below:
These accents (diacritics) indicate a slight change in pronunciation, but this is not difficult to learn. In spoken English they sound as in following examples: á as a in rather, ä as a in sap, č as ch in chew, ď as d in duel, dž as g in gin, é as ai in pair, ch, by the way, is pronounced as ch in scottish loch, í as ee in feel, ĺ as ll in bell, ň as gn in (fr.) cognac, ó as ou in four, ô as uo in duo, I'm afraid you will have to learn from your dog the sound of ŕ (gr r r r...), š as sh in shoe, ť as t in mature, ú as oo in tool, ý as ea in dream and finally ž as g in lingerie.
Compared to English, Slovak is extremely easy to read correctly, because, taking diacritics into account, every letter is read and usually always pronounced the same way. On the other hand, the grammar is relatively irregular, and many rules of grammar have to be learned and repeated until the language construction gets into your veins.
Anyway, Slovak is a beautiful melodious language and many people enjoy listening to it even if they do not understand a word of it.
So do you still want to learn Slovak? Of course the best way to learn any language is to live among people who speak it. But if you cannot afford to spend a few months in Slovakia, then you may try and find a language school which offers a Slovak course.
In case you do not have such an opportunity and/or want to learn the language by yourself at your own pace, we recommend that you purchase the following book: Colloquial Slovak - A Complete Language Course which comes with audio tapes included (if you are in Europe, then the following links may be of use to you: Germany, France or United Kingdom). German readers may find it more useful to get Slovencina, Lehrbuch, which explains the Slovak language to the users of the language of Goethe more specifically.
Whether you take classes or buy a book, a good dictionary is a must. Depending on your mother tongue and location, have a look at: Slovak-English, English-Slovak Dictionary & Phrasebook (USA, UK), Slovak-English English-Slovak Compact Dictionary (USA, UK), Langenscheidts Universal-Wörterbuch Slowakisch (Germany).
And do not forget to share your experience with others in our discussion forum on learning the Slovak language. We wish you a good luck in your endeavour.
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