Experience from a Czech to
English Translations Translator
The Czech Republic was once part of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire, which was notorious for its bureaucracy, argued as one reason why bureaucracy has
become an intricate part of the Czech mentality. Small foreign business persons can find
it extremely difficult to do business in the country, not understanding how or who to
bribe or how to acquire the multitude of stamps required to accomplish anything there.
Soon after I arrived in the Czech Republic, I circulated a joke that one has to fill out
several pieces of paper before they can draw the last one with which they intend to wipe
their own arse. When the regime switched to capitalism shortly after the fall of
communism, it was common among translation agencies to demand the exact number of words in
the target language as found the source document otherwise there would be big
trouble. Czech and English are quite different languages and have their own roots,
so such a strict policy is inevitably ridiculous. Things have improved over the ten years
I have translated there, but still the overall approach can be rather backwards. Several
times I have lost translation customers who would complain how I could dare to
so loosely translate their material. I found my greatest success was with foreign
translation clients who knew what English should read like, and Ive generally given
up on servicing Czech customers because of how they perceive things. 15 years after the
fall of communism I still read translations into English which hurt my eyes and
Many times I tried to convey my opinion by arguing that the English
translations I read around town must be similar to how I write in Czech, that being a second language for me, but this
argument was discounted as impossible and I failed to win an audience. While translating,
I understand the Czech, convert it to a mental concept, and then try to word it from
scratch, erasing from my mind the original word and phrase order of the Czech sentence.
When I proofread it later I polish it while completely forgetting about the original Czech.
Czechs like to be highly perfectionist and bureaucratic in their literary expressions, as
if the convoluted and roundabout nature of their sentences will wow the reader like a
politician tries to wow the voter by speaking in a manner which no layman can understand.
But English is more straightforward and to the point, and the style of the two languages,
and the mentality of the two peoples, is quite different.
When the Czech authors, who might have a basic understanding of English,
see how loosely I have translated their material, they worry that their hard earned wow
factor has been unduly diluted and therefore lost its effect, for which reason they are
not confident in my translations. I always say that a translation should serve its final
audience and not the author. This is something that much of the Czech population fails to
understand when translating their prospectus material into foreign languages. <link
from somewhere to my Philosophy of Translations on the Translators page>
Some Facts Regarding the Czech Language
The earliest preserved written Czech is from the 13th century, mostly in
the form of hymns transcribed in Bohemia. The first books were printed in the 1470s, also
Official Czech grammar was first formed in 1533 by Benes Optat, Petr Gzel
and Vaclav Filomates, and the first systematic general grammar was formulated in 1603 by
Vavrinec Benedikti of Nudozer.
The Czech language always pronounces its stress on the first syllable of
The Czech language has 4
genders (neuter, feminine and 2 masculine - animate, inanimate), 7 cases (Nominative,
Genitive, Dative, Accusative, Instrumental, Locative, Vocative) and 2 numbers
whether the object of the word is breathing or not breathing. This
creates more combinations and permutations than any other language, making it a very
difficult language to master. Within a sentence the ending of almost every word changes
depending on what it refers to (an adjective referring to a word having a certain case and
gender would change according to the prescribed rules). Many Czechs find this level of
exactness and detailed interconnections between words beautiful. One advantage
is that it can make legal and legislative text more precise, requiring much less words
than would the English language, for example. But it also requires an intelligent mind and
someone who has sufficiently mastered the language to formulate the sentence properly.
99% of the Czech population is literate and they are very proud of their
language. Its education is quite intensive and starts at an early age, and its
bureaucratic and detailed nature may be partially attributable to the same nature of its
History of the Czech Language
The Czech language belongs to the western group of Slavic languages, along
with Slovak, Polish, Pomeranian, high and low Sorbian, and Polabian (now extinct). It is
also loosely related to the east and south Slavic language groups.
The Czech language diverged from the other Slavic languages between the
tenth and sixteenth centuries through several major sound changes. Closer to the sixteenth
century, the Czech language also lost the dual number and 2 Slavic past tenses, while the
multitude of declensions and significance of the verbal aspect increased.
The Czech language is
comprised of four major dialects - Bohemian, Central Moravian, Eastern Moravian, and
Silesian. Standard written Czech is based on the Prague dialect, its colloquial form
referred to as Common Czech, which has its origins in Central Bohemia. While the Bohemian
dialects are more uniform due to the influence of Common Czech, the Silesian dialects are
most diverse and approach in similarity to the Polish language. The eastern Moravian
dialect is something between Czech and Slovak.
Overall, the Czech language has several core influences, the strongest of
which are Old Church Slavonic, Latin and German.
The Written Language of Czech
Until the end of the 13th century, the Czech language was confined within
the limitations of the Latin alphabet when describing the various sounds not found in
Latin. One in particular is a tightly rolled r not present in any other language (not even
Slovakian) and which Czechs get a great kick out of when listening to foreigners who try
to pronounce it. They often proudly declare that it is the toughest consonant to pronounce
in the world. As more complex texts appeared, a more complex writing system became evident
and digraphs and trigraphs were introduced as a means to represent sounds not
found in the Latin language. Around the fifteenth century Jan Hus, a
religious reformer, introduced a diacritical writing system, adding certain symbols above
selected characters (c, d, n, r, s, t, a, e, i, o, u, y) to depict the string of letters
formed from the digraphs and trigraphs and to distinguish between the palatal and
palatalized consonants and long vowels. The 16th century saw the addition of a long u. The
only digraph to survive the reforms is ch, a high pitched sound one makes by blowing air
between their tongue and the upper ceiling of their mouth.
The modern Czech alphabet looks as follows:
Inevitably, all these new characters have posed a problem for webmasters
and programmers, as the original founders of the internet did not anticipate or plan for
its extensive use in all the worlds languages. Many of these Czech characters require 3 bytes to
describe, as opposed to the customary 1 for the standard Latin character. There are also
different code pages, which can often conflict with one another.
Development of the Czech Translation Industry
Under communism, the English language was shunned as part of the
governments propaganda machine against the evil western capitalists, but
following the Prague Spring and the fall of communism, there was an explosion in demand
for the English language, as Czech companies sought to establish new business relations
and the general population, in particular the young, were willing to embrace the west as
part of their desire to rid themselves of the shackles of the previous regime.
Furthermore, as multinational companies moved in from the west while racing to parcel out
the newly opened market east of the Berlin Wall, Czechs had to quickly learn English if
they wanted to share in the lucrative positions offered by those global concerns.
On the countrys entry into the
EU there was a further explosion in demand in the form of legislation on both sides
Czechs are generally diligent, hardworking and technically minded, and the
countrys close proximity to Germany and its position in the heart of Europe has
attracted much in foreign investments, many automobile makers setting up shop there and
which has resulted in many spin-off industries. This too has had an affect on increased
demand for translations between Czech and English.
< try to pump in keywords translator and translations
< proofread top section as well
Interesting Czech Translation Links
http://seznam.cz/ - The dictionary
I like to use the most for my translations. Press on Slovnik (meaning
dictionary) and then either CJ > AJ (Czech to English) or AJ > CJ
(English to Czech). It also has many other language dictionaries relating to Czech.
http://slovnik.cz/ - Another
online dictionary similar to the one above but with English menus.
- Translate text and web pages between Czech and English online for free! You can also
translate web pages - just select the URL option and enter the address of the page
to be translated.
- A free online Czech to English dictionary and many other language dictionaries, or where
you can buy many electronic pocket Czech
dictionaries, or in other languages.
- This travel related dictionary database is from the freeware multilingual program Travlang Online Ergane. It contains 1900
terms. Also see travlang's Czech to English Dictionary.
Has an keyboard for those without a Czech one installed on their computer. Several
language combinations, including English to Czech.
- A selection of dictionaries, including one from English into Czech and Czech to English
- LingvoSoft Online English to Czech put the most advanced language management and
communication solutions at the tips of your fingers. The modern and convenient way to
manage your multilingual communication needs they provide both state of the art text-to
speech capabilities and full English transcriptions so you will always know the correct
pronunciation of any word. A powerful and sophisticated service, the Online Dictionaries
provide millions of combined entries accessed via a smart, user-friendly interface that is
second to none. Some highlights include a convenient auto complete function, word tips, an
in-line Thesaurus and instant reverse-translation. And to make it even more convenient, it
even remembers your preferred dictionary and translation history eliminating the need to
select your preferred language pair and direction every time you use it. Able to pronounce
words, its innovative Text-to-Speech feature is built on advanced human voice modeling.
Now you no longer need to speak out transcriptions - simply select a word and, with a
touch of the screen, have your device pronounce it for you.
- Wikiled Free Online multilanguage Dictionary Translation from Czech to
English for word.
- Links to some Czech literature translated into English.
- Download our free dictionary (for Windows) and browse both the Czech-English and the
English-Czech lists. Look up a word, add or modify an entry, and learn words at your own
rhythm from a personal learning list. An online version is also available, so you can
browse the dictionary without downloading it.
Background picture: a mosaic
of an archway in the Prague castle.
Copyright © KENAX, by Karel Kosman - All Rights Reserved Worldwide.
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