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Well, you decided to volunteer in Slovakia?! When moving to or visiting a different country, it’s most likely you will have to adjust to local culture, customs, and language of course. So,  are you ready to dive into the wacky and wonderful world of the Slovak language? How hard could it be, right? Well, you will need to buckle up before going on a linguistic adventure through Slovakia.

Imagine this: you’re in the heart of Slovakia, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, charming villages, and incredibly friendly locals. Wouldn’t it be awesome to impress them with your Slovak skills? Here’s why you should give it a shot:

It would be an instant Icebreaker: Knowing a few Slovak phrases will make you the life of the party, you can navigate the country easier, ask for directions, order food without any awkward moments, and actually understand what the cashier at the supermarket wants from you. And, from my experience, Slovaks actually love it when foreigners try to speak their language.

To go over basic facts, Slovak is part of the West Slavic group, so if you know some Czech or Polish, you’re already halfway there! Alphabet’s got 46 letters, and, most importantly the letters actually sound like they look – what a relief!  However, there are still some funky ones with hats like č, š, and ž. They look like they’ve dressed up for a party, but sometimes it could be tricky to pronounce them:

  • Č (ch as in "chocolate")
  • Š (sh as in "sheesh")
  • Ž (su as in "treasure")
  • Ť and Ď (like a soft t and d, almost like you’re about to sneeze – just go with it!)

To get you sounding like a local in no time, here are some phrases to sprinkle into your conversations:

  • Hello: Ahoj (casual, like “Hey!”), Dobrý deň (formal, like “Good day!”)
  • Goodbye: Dovidenia 
  • Please: Prosím (use it to get what you want – like “please”)
  • Thank you: Ďakujem 
  • Yes/No: Áno/Nie
  • Excuse me/Sorry: Prepáčte (useful for when you accidentally bump into someone)
  • How are you?: Ako sa máš? (casual), Ako sa máte? (formal)
  • My name is...: Volám sa…
  • And my personal favorites V pohode - it’s cool; and Taky je život - that’s life

P.S for ESC volunteers BDC is really helpful with learning the language, volunteers are getting group or individual lessons for Slovak language, you are also provided with needed materials (textbooks) for studying. You will be able to practice speaking and conversations with your mentor. And from my personal experience being around local people and youngsters at the club is one of the best tools for better understanding the language.

Text: Ani Datashvili

Ani je dobrovoľníčka programu Európsky zbor solidarity na projekte v organizácii Mládež ulice. Projekt bol podporený z programu EÚ Európsky zbor solidarity.

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