TBLT Czech Lessons – Task 5: Giving Directions. Part 1 – Language Introduction

Our next task resulted from our needs analysis. However, I was facing some very difficult choices. Before I tell you how the task went, let me explain a little the problems Czech learners encounter when learning how to tell where things are.

1. The underlying principle when you’re speaking in Czech about the position and location is that of static and dynamic verbs. Observe:

Kostel je vlevo. – The church is on the left. X Jděte dolevaGo left.

Rozhledna je nahořeThe view tower is up. X Jděte nahoru. – Go up.

Every learner needs to understand this principle of things/people standing/lying/living/being (static) as opposed to going to a place, putting something somewhere, moving to a place, etc. (dynamic) For every statement you wish to make about a position, you need to make a judgement as to whether it is a Static or Dynamic situation.

The resulting adverbials are as follows (I’m providing just a simple illustrational list as there are more of these):

Jsem: I am Jdu: I go
vlevo on the left doleva left
vpravo on the right doprava right
nahoře up (at the top) nahoru up
dole down(stairs)/at the bottom dolů down
uprostřed in the middle/centre doprostřed to the centre/middle

 

2. The same principle applies to the prepositions of place. Observe:

Auto je před kostelem. (static)  – The car is in front of the church. X Dám auto před kostel. (dynamic) – I’ll put the car in front of the church.

The whole matter becomes more complicated when you take into account the fact that each of the prepositions of place is followed by a different declension case and therefore by a different form of the noun phrase. Observe:

Static Dynamic
Kniha je v autě.

The book is in the car.

v+Locative Dám knihu do auta.

I’ll put the book in the car.

do+Genitive
Auto je u kostela.

The car is at the church

u+Genitive Dám auto ke kostelu.

I’ll put the car to/near the church.

k, ke+Dative
Kniha je na stole

The book is on the table.

na+Locative Dám knihu na stůl.

I’ll put the book on the table.

na+Accusative (!)

Same preposition, different case

Auto je před kostelem.

The car is in front of the church

před+Instrumental Dám auto před kostel.

I’ll put the car in front of the church.

před+Accusative (!)

Same preposition, different case

 

Let me remind you that Czech has three to four genders, as the Masculine Animate has very different forms to Masculine Inanimate, several main patterns for each gender and a multitude of sub-patterns. Usually, the cases are taught one by one, starting with the singular, then the plural.

Fascinating as it may be for a grammar nerd (me), it is mind-boggling for an average learner.

As you can see in the table above, a simple task of using the prepositions of place, which in another language, such as English, could be completed by a beginner, requires at least an intermediate level of Czech.

After a great deal of thinking about where to start and how to proceed, I decided to leave the prepositions and the instruction of cases until later. I realised the learner was a beginner and even though this is a Task-Based Method, it is probably the first time someone is trying in in Czech. So I simplified the Final Task to be able to give general directions to a place and be able to say where things are. In my line of thinking, and I’ll tell you about it in my next post, the most important thing was for the student to understand the distinction between the Static and the Dynamic concept and provide enough practice.

In my next post, I will describe the task cycle.

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2 thoughts on “TBLT Czech Lessons – Task 5: Giving Directions. Part 1 – Language Introduction

  1. Sounds like a nightmare. I still think I’d be tempted to cover receptive directions first and see what your learner can understand or use communication strategies to negotiate understanding. No need to worry about production, in my mind. However, I don’t know him and I didn’t do the needs analysis.

    So interesting and nice to see where TESOL methodology might go awry with more grammatically complex languages.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Marc, I do admire your persistence in reading about Czech grammar, thanks! I agree with doing receptive tasks and we did plenty of them in the task cycle, but my student loves conversation and roleplays so he wanted to try on his own. I think the most important decision was to forget about teaching the prepositions for the moment and focus on the adverbials, which are easier. But there was a moment when my student wanted to use the prepositions and I had to explain my strategy. Cheers K.

      Liked by 2 people

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