Situation: I had once attempted and am considering returning to self-learning Czech. My native language is Polish. The two languages are quite similar, to the extent that there are significant parts of Czech, particularly written, that I can either understand or deduce the meaning of purely based on my knowledge of Polish.

Problem: The close similarity between the languages makes learning much easier. However, this also causes certain problems. The many similarities mean it is easy to assume I already know a given word or grammatical structure. As a simple example, "shopping" in Czech is "nákupy", quite close to Polish "zakupy". When I encounter it in a Czech text, the meaning automatically "falls into place" in my mind, leaving no motivation to internalize and practice the (minor) differences between the languages.

Question: What are the techniques to overcome this difficulty?

(Note that this question refers to interference from native language specifically, so it is diffeent from other related questions such as this one)

  • 1
    Quite often, the similarity can be misleading. For example, zakupky in Ukrainian mostly refers to wholesale, while for retail shopping you'd say pokupky. The term for that phenomenon is False Friend. One should try hard to avoid these, because if you don't, some nasty mistakes can occur e.g. magazyn (PL. shop, storehouse) vs. EN. magazine, or handel (PL. trade) vs. EN. handle, or many others.
    – bytebuster
    Jun 28 '17 at 18:10
  • @bytebuster actually, English magazine can refer to a storehouse, specifically one used to store ammunition. Jun 29 '17 at 14:34
  • This question can also apply to other pairs of very similar languages, such as Spanish/Portuguese, Indonesian/Malaysian, Irish/Scottish Gaelic, Swedish/Danish, or Hindi/Punjabi. Jul 16 '17 at 11:35
  • 1
    BTW, yesterday, I have seen a funny Czech-Polish false friend. Bank Zachodni in Polish means West Bank. In Czech, it rather sounds like Toilet Bank. In Czech, west is „západ“ and „toilet“ is „záchod“.
    – v6ak
    May 31 '18 at 5:30

It sounds like you have a much better passive understanding of Czech (reading and listening) than you have in actively speaking or writing the language. You need an immersive environment where Czech is the language that you must use to communicate. Consider taking a trip to or moving to the Czech Republic (and try to stick to speaking in Czech as much as possible), get a Czech-speaking pen pal, or enroll in a Czech-speaking educational program (i.e. where you will be required to complete assignments and communicate with instructors in Czech).

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