I first visited Prague in 2002, after I finished university. I don’t think I was entirely clear what country Prague was in (*whispers* it’s the Czech Republic), but it looked pretty on the internet and they had a teacher training program so I could support myself teaching English. Prague won the mental coin toss over Moscow and Budapest to determine where I would go.
Growing up we did a lot of moving around with my father’s work: Asia, Europe, Alaska, mainland USA. With that background, after spending five years in America finishing up high school and attending university, I was feeling pretty hemmed in. I knew I liked Europe and wanted to see if I could learn a language for real, not just in the laboratory setting of school. (I could.) I thought I might fit in better as a foreigner in a foreign country, instead of a foreigner in my own country. (I did.)
I stayed for 3 months in 2002 before coming to a few realizations:
* Not so many schools are hiring teachers in February
* People who are terrified of speaking in front of groups of people should think twice before becoming teachers
* I don’t really like teaching, anyway
* I DO like Prague
* This certain Slovak person would make a great husband for someone, or me
* Definitely me, if he would just lose the attitude (his version of this story involves attitude on MY side, but that is just silly)
* Consonant clusters are, like, hard. Also, the endings of words change. This made me deeply uncomfortable. (Now it seems natural.)
So I went back to USA for a year to regroup, and moved to Prague (what would end up being) permanently in 2003. I learned to teach. I practiced consonant clusters, and spent a lot of time repeating ř, ř, ř, ř. I got the Slovak to lose the attitude and realize we were meant for each other. I learned Czech. We got married. I learned better Czech. I started working as a proofreader and translator. I had a baby. I luxuriated in three years of maternity leave, the last two spent in England with the Slovak’s job. We plan to move back to Prague later this year.
As to particulars:
Mother tongue: English
Other languages: 5 years of school Spanish and 2 years of school Russian, good and buried under a nice fat layer of fluent Czech with Slovak influence.
The Slovak is an only child who grew up in the place he was born. Moving to Prague after university was his first move. (It was my…25th? Ish?) He grew up speaking Slovak and Hungarian as mother tongues, but was never formally educated in Hungarian and spoke it less and less as he got older. He studied Russian in school, as you did in those days, though to be fair this mostly consisted of memorizing the words that were different from Slovak and pronouncing the rest with a Russian accent. This is still his method of speaking Russian. (It works.) He learned English and French in school and on his own, English in particular from American students staying in his town. This – not, as often believed, his marriage to an American – is the origin of his convincing American accent in English. He moved to Prague in 2000 in search of work and met the love of his life two years later. We married in 2004 and embarked on Project: Multilingual Baby in 2007.
Mother tongue: Slovak with Czech influence
Other Languages: fluent English, rusty Hungarian, French and Russian
Baby K doesn’t have much of a life story at this point. She was born in Czech Republic with two citizenships, neither of them Czech. At four months she flew on an airplane for the first time, to England, where she spent the next two years. She speaks English and Slovak, with English dominant and Slovak lagging behind. Hard to avoid, since the community language is English and her only source of Slovak is her father, who works all day. She enjoys Charlie and Lola, science fiction and chai lattes.