Dearth of Slovak on contemporary Czech TV a pity, says Czech language expert

Prior to the split of Czechoslovakia, Czechs and Slovaks understand one another's languages without any difficulties whatsoever. But now, 12 years later, young Czechs find it increasingly difficult to understand Slovak, and Czech Television has - for the first time - dubbed a Slovak-produced serial for adults into Czech. But the dubbing of Zachranari (Mountain Rescuers) has met with a mixed reaction from Czechs, with some people saying it is completely unnecessary

Zachranari, photo: www.czech-tv.czZachranari, photo: www.czech-tv.cz I discussed the issue with Karel Oliva of the Institute for the Czech Language, who says in the past Czechs were exposed to Slovak all the time.

"The TV news was half Czech and half Slovak. There were so-called Slovak Mondays [also called Bratislava Mondays], when there were theatre plays taken from Slovak TV, and there's a legend - which I think is at least partly true - that by that time in Bratislava it was possible to play theatre pieces which were forbidden to be played in Prague, or in the Czech part. So for most intellectuals these Mondays were something like a small feast."

Do you think Czechs would somehow benefit if Slovak was somehow maintained in the Czech media, if they were hearing Slovak on the radio or on TV?

"Generally, yes. Because it's always better to know another language at least passively. That's on one hand. On the other hand I think Slovakia as a country has a rich cultural life and it's definitely kind of a pity that we don't get as big a portion of Slovak culture as we could. If we had more Slovak programmes on Czech TV that definitely would be beneficial."

You're based in Prague of course, but do you know is there a similar situation in Slovakia with understanding the Czech language, or is it different from here?

"I'm pretty sure that it's different. I really have to criticise my compatriots, because compared to Slovaks, Czechs are more, so to speak, concentrated on their own cultural life, on their own language. The Slovaks are, as far as I am able to judge, are more open to Czech influence. For example, the whole of western Slovakia regularly watches Czech TV, and there are even transmissions of Czech TV into regions where there is no direct Czech signal.

"This is of course also true of Slovak TV in the Czech Republic, but according to polls which I have seen, the ratio of viewers of Czech TV in Slovakia is much higher percentage-wise than the percentage of Czech viewers of Slovak TV in the Czech Republic. Which is definitely a pity."