It's true that communism made studying English less profitable than in the freer parts of Europe, but many people of my generation wanted to and did study English. During the Gierek Decade, regular people started being allowed to visit non-communist countries, and even earn money there. Earlier, when Gomułka was in power, it was also possible, although more difficult. So many people did study some English to be able to communicate with the rest of the world. However, reaching a decent level of proficiency was difficult back then, as there were almost no qualified teachers, a shortage of books in English and a very limited access to recordings of native English speakers speaking English.
Having spent my childhood surrounded by Poles (around the RC church, in Ealing - an enclave of Polish refugees), I spent 5/6 years in a school with at least a dozen Poles in each class. They seemed to me an unusually talented bunch - a mixture of a work ethic, justifiable pride in a job well done, a tradition that values culture ... all very subjective and anecdotal. But it's not just in languages that they excel. (I shall spare BC's blubhes and stop now. )
Having spent my childhood surrounded by Poles (around the RC church, in Ealing - an enclave of Polish refugees), I spent 5/6 years in a school with at least a dozen Poles in each class. They seemed to me an unusually talented bunch - a mixture of a work ethic, justifiable pride in a job well done, a tradition that values culture ... all very subjective and anecdotal. But it's not just in languages that they excel. (I shall spare BC's blushes and stop now. )
Velvet Revolution at the end of 1989. English was widely taught from 1990 on, but the English teachers in schools were mostly teachers of Russian, who had had to re-train rapidly. They did a sterling job in the cirumstances, but their own mastery of the language was weak - for some it was only the language they had studied at school forty years before.
Since then, the situation has changed dramatically. Most under-30s speak and write English as well as young Germans, and many of those aged up to about 50 have some command of the language. Many of the international companies that bought out Czech firms in the 1990s have insisted that their employees have some degree of English, and usually provide free language courses, which has helped.
Czech teachers of English are now very competent. Indeed, many private language schools, which insisted on native-speaking teachers until about six or seven years ago, now employ Czech teachers of English, especially at beginner to intermediate levels. They have found that properly trained Czechs are very often better language teachers than native speakers armed only with a four-week TEFL course.
To my shame , I have been unable to acquire much Czech in my long residence here - there are some drawbacks to old age! Life was not too easy in 1998 if you had no Czech; I have few problems today.
You are right in everything apart from this part:
Last edited by CarloSsS; 09-Jun-2012 at 22:39.
Please note that I'm not a teacher.
OK, I accept that many Czechs, especially those in rural areas, would not pass FCE or reach IELTS level 6 if they took the exams tomorrow, but the same is true for many people over most of what was traditionally known as 'Western Europe'. I stand by what I said in my last post.
Czechs living outside Prague (even in larger cities like Ostrava or Plzeň) are not very good at English. Of course, a lot of them will be able to help a foreigner to find a trolley stop or a pub, but anything more is beyond their abilities.
File:Knowledge of English EU map.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia I know it is not much, but this map at least gives some comparison.
I stand by what I said too. I think I have enough experience to claim something like that.
Please note that I'm not a teacher.
During my last visit to Prague, which was three years ago, I had to resort to a combination of Polish and gesticulation only once, to ask a man in his 60s where the airport was and how to get there at 3 a.m. It turned out pretty complicated, but fortunately for me and a friend who I was going to meet there, his patience was great. I have always found Czechs to be very kind to strangers, something I see less of here.
However, I did meet some Praguians (even young) whose English was rather poor, to the point of seriously hindered communication.