Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Max’s Good News for the month

It's above all about the kids learning that their neighbours across the border are neighbours just like any others.
- Jaroslav Polaček, principal, Lidická základní

The two German states that border the Czech Republic are Sachsen (Saxony) and Bayern (Bavaria). According to the Czech Ministry of Education, over 280 Czech schools, from kindergartens to high schools, have formed partnerships with schools in those two states.

For the Czech Lidická elementary and the German Schkola Hartau, as an example, that means weekly exchanges for the children – a group of Czech children go to the German school for an entire day while a German group go to the Czech school. And on days that they stay at their home school, the children have lessons in the language of their schoolmates across the border.

Yes, believe it or not, the German kids are learning Czech. For those of you who are familiar with the region, you will know that in the past, language learning was always a more one-sided practice. The Czechs usually learned German either because they were part of Austria, occupied by the Germans or preparing for the next occupation. In addition to that, most Czechs think that foreigners are either incapable of learning their language or stupid for wanting to because there are so few Czech speakers in the world.* It is very good to see that attitudes on both sides of the border are changing.

* Knowing Czech has actually helped me immensely while travelling in other countries where Slavic languages are spoken as well as in understanding Slovak and learning Polish and Russian.

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