- How arrogant to be in a foreign country and expect the inhabitants to speak English!
- How unacceptable not to be able to say anything in their language back to them!
- I speak 2 other languages fluently and another one conversationally - I hate not being able to say even basic things in Czech!
- They must think I am so rude and stupid!
- I just should be able to speak Czech!
I realise that most of the above thoughts are irrational. I have only been in the Czech Republic for a month and during that time I have had to do a lot of admin (endless hours on the phone to French bankers, removal firms etc) and I couldn't prepare myself and learn any Czech before I moved here, as we only found out last minute that my partner had been offered a job here. I have also found it very difficult to find a teacher for intensive day-time lessons. So, all in all, not being able to speak the language is not my fault.
I also mainly get positive reactions when I use Mluvíte anglicky? and some people seem quite pleased to be able to use their English with me. Those that don't speak English smile politely and leave me alone. I only had one bad experience, when the counter clerk in an office got annoyed that I couldn't speak Czech and started banging the desk saying "Český! Český!" BUT, I still don't feel that it's right to expect other people to speak English to me.
Apparently, this is not the typical expat way of thinking. Last night I was in a pub with a group of people from all over the world. It was great to talk to Germans, Russians, Romanians, Americans - you name it, they were there. I struck up a conversation with a Czech guy. When I told him about my feelings about not being able to speak Czech, he said this was the first time he had heard this in his whole life from an expat (and especially a British one) and was amazed and pleased to hear that I didn't expect everyone to speak to me in English and that I was keen to learn Czech. When I told the German guy that I was planning on learning Czech, he said "But why? You don't need it!" Why do many expats think this? To me, it's like turning up at a house party without a bottle. Sure, you can drink other people's drinks for a while, but soon they will get fed up with you and tell you "On yer bike, mate!". And rightly so.
I am really lucky in that where I am going to work in a month's time, Czech lessons are provided for free. However, I still want to learn as much Czech as I can before April, so I have signed myself up for intensive Czech lessons. Eight hours a week for the next four weeks. I'm really looking forward to it. I hope that pretty soon, Nemluvím česky will become a thing of the past.