Wednesday, April 13, 2005

'No' really does mean 'yes' in Czech

A common question I get asked from my friends and family in Australia is, "How is the language difference going?" To which I reply something to the effect "Not too bad!" or "I've had my frustrations/or caused some frustrations!"

The single most commonly misunderstood word has got to be "no" I mean "yes" I mean "yeah". The Czech word for yes is Ano, and their version of yeah is No. Misunderstandings happen all the time - coming out of a fitting room, the attendant puts out her arms to take unwanted clothes and obviously says in Czech "Do you want me to take those for you?", instantly I answer "No" and a battle ensues until I realise I'm saying ""(which she is interpreting as "yeah, yeah")"Oh ne!ne!...nerozumim...pardon...Anglicky"; asking someone "Do you speak English?" "No" they answer, which of course means "yes" but we automatically think they are saying that they don't understand (this happens ALL the time). It doesn't matter how many times you say to yourself no is yes your brain is so conditioned to no being no that it will always mean no. It's one of those security words that you're taught from birth, like stop, it can save your life and is a reflex vocalisation, you don't think about it, it just comes out.

Most of the time I can get by without trying to speak Czech. I have a wonderful understanding with an older Czech lady that lives below us since taking her garbage downstairs for her one day. We have passing conversations with each other, she speaks Czech, I speak English, we understand each other instinctively. It started the garbage day, I was saying that I was going to the bin and that I'd take hers, she was saying something like it's very kind of you, I was going to leave it near the door for my son to take down later(my summation) but that would be wasn't til I got back upstairs that I realised that we were having a little conversation that neither of us knew what the other was really saying. We still have these conversations. Very strange, but friendly.

Our little corner shop lady is another story. She takes great pleasure in teaching me the Czech word for whatever I buy. I have gone in there armed with a Czech word like egg. In my dictionary it said egg = vejce (j=y). This I tried out on her,"vejce", "nerozumim?", I drew a picture for her in the air, "nerozumim?", then I spied them in the back corner of the shop and pointed, "vajechna" she said. After a quick search on the web I know that both words mean egg?? I don't know what the difference is, and I don't know why she did't understand. Supermarket eggs have vejce on the carton?

So...does that sound like fun?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey bud, the difference is simple: vejce = 1 egg, vajechka = plural, many eggs. Easy,isnt't it?

9:36 pm  
Blogger Portmans said...

Yes, sounds simple enough. But why didn't she understand that I wanted an egg? I've since tried my pronunciation on other Czechs with no problem. Why does a carton of eggs have VEJCE on the carton? Does the plural revert to singular after a certain number?

10:18 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The answer is, vejce is the same as fish.Both singular and plural. Vajichka is directly translated to "little eggs". But it doesnt make any difference. The both words mean the same thing.

10:47 am  
Blogger Lucky Joestar said...

Speaking of “yes” meaning “no”: I’ve lived in both Czechia and South Korea. The Korean word for “yes” is “네”, pronounced exactly like “ne,” the Czech word for “no.” The Korean word for “no” is “아뉴,” which sounds like it would be spelled “aňo” in Czech, and that’s pretty close to “ano,” the Czech word for “yes.” Imagine the fun Koreans would have in Czechia … or Czechs in Korea. ^_^

3:43 am  

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