Slovak Language Lessons for Beginners - Lesson 3

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Lesson 3


BASIC PHRASES AND USEFUL WORDS

samozrejme = of course
mimochodom = by the way
ešte raz = once again / one more time
Prečo? = Why?
Lebo... = Because... (less formal)
Pretože... = Because (more formal)
Hovoríte po anglicky? = Do you speak English?
Rozumiete po slovensky? = Do you understand Slovak? 
Trochu. = A little bit.
Veľa šťastia! = Good luck! 
Šťastnú cestu! = Have a good trip! 
Blahoželám! = Congratulations!
Gratulujem! = Congratulations!
Všetko najlepšie (k narodeninám)! = Happy Birthday! (literally: "All the best (to your birthday)!")
Dobrú chuť! = Bon appetit! Enjoy your meal! (literally: "[Have a] good taste!")


THIS, THAT, THAT OVER THERE + NOUN

In [Lesson 2], we learned how to form sentences using the standalone 'this', 'that' and 'that over there': "Toto je..." ('This is...'), "To je..." ('That is...'), "Tamto je..." (That over there is...) 

This is how you can connect 'this', 'that' and 'that over there' with nouns (either actual or implied by context):

gender:           masculine        feminine        neuter

this                     tento               táto                toto
that                     ten                  tá                   to   
that over there      tamten            tamtá             tamto

You will need to use the appropriate form, depending on the noun's gender.
Examples:

tento vlak (this train), táto vidlička (this fork), toto mesto (this city)
ten vtip (that joke), tá žuvačka (that chewing gum), to kreslo (that armchair)
tamten strom (that tree over there), tamtá cesta (that road over there), tamto lietadlo (that airplane over there)
Tento dom je môj, ale tamto auto je vaše. = This house is mine, but that car is yours.
Tá škola je jeho, ale tamtá je jej. = That school is his, but that one over there is hers. (Here, the noun 'škola' is implied by context in the second clause.)

WHOSE IS THIS... ?

If you want to ask who an object belongs to, you can use koho (which retains the same form, regardless of the gender of the object you are asking about):

Koho je ____ ? = Whose is _____ ?
Koho je tento sveter? = Whose is this sveter?
Koho je táto lyžička? = Whose is this spoon?

Alternatively, you can use čí, čia, čo - but you have to be careful about gender:

gender:           masculine        feminine        neuter

whose                    čí                    čia                čie
Čí je tamten nôž? = Whose is that knife over there?
Čia je tá záhrada? = Whose is that garden?
Čie je toto dieťa? = Whose is this child? (Note: "dieťa" is of neuter gender, even though it ends in -a)


ADJECTIVES

Once again, you will need to know the gender of the noun the adjective refers to, and use the right form of the adjective. Let us take the adjective pekný (nice, as in beautiful/pretty), for example:

gender:           masculine        feminine        neuter

nice                   pekný              pekná           pekné
With some exceptions, the masculine form of the adjective will end in , the feminine in , and the neuter in (or -y, -a, -e, respectively, if the preceding syllable is long).
From now on, I will only list the masculine form of the adjective, but you should be aware that you always need to change its form to match the noun you want to use.

Môj dom je pekný, ale moje auto nie je veľmi pekné. = My house is nice, but my car is not very nice.
Tamto je moja pekná dcéra. = That over there is my pretty daughter. 

WHAT IS ____ LIKE ?

To ask what someone or some thing is like, you should use aký, aká, aké:

gender:           masculine        feminine        neuter

                            aký                  aká              aké
Aký je tamten obrázok? = What is that picture like?
Aká je táto záhrada? = What is this garden like?
Aké je jeho vysvedčenie? = What is his school report like? (vysvedčenie = school report with grades, issued at the end of the academic year)

CHARACTERISTICS

dobrý = good
zlý = bad
veľký = big, large
malý = small
vysoký = tall
nízky = short (about height)
mladý = young
starý = old
nový = new
tučný = fat
chudý = thin
pekný = nice (pretty)
škaredý = ugly
atraktívny = attractive
široký = wide
úzky = narrow
dlhý = long
krátky = short (length)
milý = nice (personality trait), dear (ofter used in letters, e.g. milý pán Novák - 'dear Mr. Novak')
príjemný = pleasant, agreeable
nepríjemný = unpleasant
múdry = smart, clever
hlúpy = stupid
inteligentný = intelligent
silný = strong
slabý = weak
usilovný = hard-working
pracovitý = hard-working
lenivý = lazy
vtipný = funny (witty)
smiešny = funny (ha-ha)
zábavný = entertaining
nudný = boring
čistý = clean
špinavý = dirty
skromný = humble
drzý = arrogant
arogantný = arrogant
veselý = happy (cheerful)
šťastný = happy (in life), lucky
smutný = sad

COLORS

farba = color
Akej farby je ____? = What color is _____?
Akej farby je vaša nová košeľa? = What color is your new shirt?
čierny = black
biely = white
červený = red
zelený = green
modrý = blue
žltý = yellow
hnedý = brown
ružový = pink
fialový = violet (the usual Slovak word for 'purple')
purpurový = purple (somewhat unusual in Slovak - better to use fialový in most cases)
béžový = beige
zlatý = golden (also means 'cute', 'nice' [personality trait])
strieborný = silver
You can use tmavo- and svetlo- prefixes to indicate dark and light shades of individual colors, e.g. tmavomodrý (dark blue) or svetlozelený (light green).

Rejoice: Our sentences can now be more complex still!

Tento modrý sveter je veľmi pekný, ale nie je čistý. = This blue sweater is very nice, but it is not clean.
Ich mladá sestra nie je škaredá, ale veľmi atraktívna a milá. = Their young sister is not ugly, but is very attractive and nice.
Prečo sa nemáš dobre? Lebo som smutný. = Why aren't you feeling good? Because I am sad.

SLOVENSKÉ ŠKOLSTVO = THE SLOVAK EDUCATION SYSTEM

Elementary school (základná škola) lasts for eight or nine years, and children enroll at the age of six. After that, the students continue on to secondary school (stredná škola), which typically lasts for four years. There are several different types of secondary schools - some of them offer vocational training, while others (especially the 'academic' secondary schools - gymnázium) focus on preparing students for university. Secondary school studies finish with a school-leaving examination (maturita) that is quite demanding - students have to pass oral exams in several subjects before a committee of teachers. Before leaving secondary school, of course, the students organize their prom - stužková. Universities (vysoká škola or univerzita) typically last for five years. Doctors and lawyers often spend six years in university, and can begin their studies - unlike in the United States - immediately after finishing their secondary education.

In Slovak elementary and secondary schools run from 1 to 5, where 1 is the best grade, and 5 is the worst:

    1 = výborný (excellent)
    2 = chválitebný (praiseworthy)
    3 = dobrý (good)
    4 = dostatočný (sufficient)
    5 = nedostatočný (insufficient - failing grade)

1s and 2s are seen as relatively 'good' grades, whereas 3, 4, 5 are not seen as good. A 1* (jednotka s hviezdičkou - 'one with a star') is roughly equivalent to an A+.

Unlike most people in the United States, Slovaks wear their university degrees on their sleeves - they will use them in e-mail signatures, in official documents and letters, and put in on their apartment doors and mailboxes. There is, in fact, a time-honored tradition to spray your last name, along with your newly-attained degree, on the sidewalk in front of your university building when you graduate. (Not everyone does this, of course.)

Here are some degrees you might see:

        Ing. (inžinier, inžinierka) for someone with a 5-year degree in, say, engineering, mathematics or economics
        Mgr. (magister, magistra) for 5-year degree in the social sciences or law (most teachers have this degree)
        MUDr. (often shortened simply as doktor) is a medical degree
        MVDr. for veterinarians
        JUDr. is a law degree (like juris doctor)
        RNDr. is an advanced graduate degree in the natural sciences (mathematics, physics, biology, etc.)
        Bc. is a bachelor's degree

A Bc. is rarely someone's final degree. Someone with only a bachelor's degree is, in fact, often seen as a university dropout. This is because, in the past, university programs lasted five years. Only recently did Slovak universities have to adjust, due to Europe-wide harmonization efforts, to the 'Bologna system' of a three-year Bachelor's degree, followed by a two-year Master's degree.

Most degrees come before the name: Ing. Ján Novák, Mgr. Anna Petríková, MUDr. Jozef Dúbravec, Bc. Katarína Slaná. The exceptions are doctoral degrees: Today, these would mostly be Ph.D., but in earlier times common doctoral degrees included CSc. (candidate of the sciences) and DrSc. (doctor of the sciences). So you could see something like this: Ing. Juraj Kolesár, Ph.D., or Mgr. Veronika Nagyová, CSc.

There is a persistent, commonly repeated, myth in Slovakia that our elementary and secondary school education is world-class. This is false: Slovak students, in fact, achieve only average results on international education comparison tests - not very far, as it happens, from the United States, and well below the best performers (East Asian countries and Finland). Slovak universities are generally regarded as low-quality, and in fact are quite terrible, with - sadly - very little original research activity and ripe with plagiarism. Partly for this reason, employers often simply require that someone has a university degree, but do not care much about which university it came from, or what grades the student earned.


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