Ahoj from Praha!
Let me start off by saying, Czech is an incredibly confusing language, for native English speakers at least. I used to consider myself good at languages, until I got here. So, when my Czech teacher said that we were going on a field trip for breakfast at a Czech restaurant, where we would read menus and order in Czech, I was a little scared.
What does ordering food in Czech have to do with active learning? Everything! Active learning is pretty much any kind of learning that occurs outside of the classroom: group projects, field trips, independent work of all varieties. My Czech class is an excellent example: we each presented different topics, after the teacher looked them over to make sure the spelling, vocabulary, and grammar was correct. And let me just say, Czech grammar is.... difficult. (A coffee: káva. I'll have a coffee: Dám si kávu. Prague is a nice city: Praha je pěkné město. I live in Prague: Bydlím v Praze. See how the nouns kava and Praha change endings depending on if they're the subject or object? Almost every noun does that, but not all of them, and it depends on how it's being used and how many there are. Jedna kávu, dvě kávy.... Okay, I'll stop talking about grammar.)
So even after being in Prague for two months, active learning of the Czech language has taken a lot of different forms. From having a conversation in Czech/English to grocery shopping or buying train tickets for Pilsen or Dresden, every time I run into a language barrier has been an opportunity to learn. Some are discouraging, like when the old lady on the tram was smiling at me and rambling away in Czech before I had a chance to tell her I don't understand. Some are encouraging: I finally made it to a meeting point after asking several people for directions, one gentleman whipped out the GPS on his phone to show me a map, because I only half-understood his spoken directions. Some are just plain entertaining, when both parties resort to strange sign language and laugh at themselves, which happens more often than I care to admit.
Back to breakfast! I promised deliciousness in this post! I won't disappoint!
Our field trip was to "Cafe Louvre," not the most Czech-sounding of places. However, the restaurant has a long history of famous authors, thinkers, and international elites visiting and even developing favorite tables. Here's a link to their website, where they go into more depth about the famous visitors. We weren't there for the history, we were there to embarrass ourselves ordering food in Czech, and to enjoy each others' company outside of the classroom. Luckily, our teacher wasn't taking notes, so it wasn't too high-pressure, and we all made our orders.
Domácí lívance, a kind of sweet pancakes.
Luckily for one of our kamarádky, "latte" is pretty much the same in most languages.
By the end of breakfast, we were all full of delicious food and feeling a bit more confident in our Czech skills. While we learn a lot in class and from homework, going on field trips is a happy medium between lecture and getting lost. This type of active learning is certainly tastier than sitting in a classroom!
Dorothy McQuaid is the CEA MOJO for Prague this Fall. Her mild-mannered alter ego is a senior Marketing major at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.
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