Prague is the capital of the Czech Reupublic, also known as Czechia.
Like in many countries, the capital city is just a slightly more international and diverse place than the rural areas. This means that a number of different languages are spoken in Praha, both from around the world, but also from the minority languages spoken in the different regions of the country.
The languages spoken in Prague include (but are not limited to) Czech, English, Ukrainian, Slovak, German, Polish, Hungarian, Romani, Russian, Vietnamese and several others. Some are languages native to the Czech Republic and others are second languages or immigration languages.
In the following, I'll get more into each language and have a look at how they're represented in the Czech capital.
Czech - The Native And Official Language Of The Czech Republic
The mother tongue and official language of the Czech Republic is the Czech language which is spoken everywhere in Czechia.
Czech is a language belonging to the Slavic family of languages, and more precisely, the West-Slavic and Czech-Slovac branch. This means that Czech is related to such languages as Russian and Bulgarian, but more closely related to Polish and Slovak, the latter being mutually intelligible with Czech.
The Czech language is spoken by a little under 11 million people in the world, but most of them reside in the Czech Republic.
The language is written with an adapted version of the Latin Alphabet, much like Polish and unlike many other Slavic languages, such as Russian, which is written with the Slavic alphabets.
Although Czech is a Slavic language, it has been strongly influenced by languages such as German and Latin throughout history, which is visible in its amount of loanwords from these two languages, much more so, than other Slavic languages which are geographically situated further away from the rest of Europe.
If you'd like to learn more about Czech, or possible learn to speak Czech, go read my article called "How To Learn Czech By Yourself".
For an example of what Czech sounds like, watch the short video below:
Minority Languages Prague And The Czech Republic
Like most countries, the Czech Republic has more than one "local" language even though Czech is the official tongue of the country. In the capital, Prague, all the local minority languages are represented even though the percentages might not be the same as in the rest of the country.
The minority languages officially recognized in the Czech Republic (and therefore Prague) are:
In the following I'll try briefly getting into each of these languages and their status in the Czech Republic as well as in Prague.
There are a little under 100.000 or 1% Slovak speakers in the Czech Republic and a significant amount of them are young people working the the Czech capital, Prague. The number of Slovaks going to live in the Czech Republic also seems to be growing.
Linguistically Czech and Slovak belong to the same group in the same branch in the same language family. In other words: The two languages are very close, and in effect they're almost completely mutually intelligible, which makes it possible for Czechs and Slovaks to each one speak their own language without this causing any problems in terms of communication.
German used to be an important language in the Czech Republic from the middle ages an up until the 20th century. German was in periods spoken as a first language by many Czechs and the capital, Prague was even known for the "Prague German Dialect".
The influence of German on the Czech language is also very important, and the historical close connection between the two countries becomes evident when you look at the many German loan-words that still exist in the Czech language. German and Czech do remain unrelated languages, though. German is a Germanic language related to English, whereas Czech is of Slavic origin.
Today, the German language spoken in Prague and the rest of the Czech Republic is standard German.
So how many speak German?
Back in 2001, around 0,4% of the Czech population declared themselves as Ethnically German. That was around 40.000 people. Since Czechia joined the European Union and the Schengen zone in 2004, the influx of German citizens into the Czech Republic has been growing, and today the number might be higher.
Still, 0,4% of the total population is not a lot, and even though there might be a lot more Germans in Prague than in the rest of the Czech Republic, you still will be unlikely to meet a lot of Germans in the city, other than tourists.
The German language is taught in Czechia as a second language, however, which means that many Czechs might speak the language to a certain degree. Some data suggests that over 8% of the Czech population speak German, and it is more than likely that a lot of people in the tourist business can get by in German in cities like Prague.
There are around 50.000 ethnic Poles living in the Czech republic, or 0,4%, most of them in the Zaolzie region in the North-Eastern part of the Czech Republic, close to the Polish borders. In other words, Poles aren't very present in the capital city, Prague.
Poles in Czechia mostly speak a specific dialect of Polish, or more precisely Silesian.
The Polish language is closely related to Czech, although not as close as Slovak. The two languages aren't completely mutually intelligible, but when both speakers make efforts, communication is possible.
While not a lot of data seems to be available, 0,13% of Czechs are said to speak Hungarian. While the Czech Republic and Hungary don't share any borders, Slovakia and Hungary do, and since Czechia and Slovakia used to be united in Czechoslovakia, one must assume that an important exchange was going on between the two countries, which also influenced modern day Czechia.
The Hungarian language is quite interestingly completely unrelated to all other languages spoken in the Czech Republic and Hungarian is not a part of the Indo European language family, which includes most other European languages.
The Romani language has been present in the Czech Repulic as well of most of Europe for centuries, but due to the history of the 20th century, both in the communist era and under the Nazi regime, the number of the Romani people including those who speak the language is hard to pinpoint.
Numbers from 2011 tells us of around 40.000 Romani speakers in the Czech republic, but the real numbers may be more than 200.000. How many of these live in Prague is hard to tell.
The Romani language belongs to the Indo Aryan family of languages meaning that it's only remotely related to the Indo European languages. Romani is in reality much closer to languages from the northern part of the Indian subcontinent such as Hindi, Punjabi and Bengali.
Almost 200.000 Ukrainians, live in the Czech Republic. This is close to 2% of the Czech population. Most of these have settled in Czechia as labor-migrants, and the majority have arrived since the early 90's.
It's hard to say how many of these people live in Prague, but it is likely quite a few people.
Ukrainian is an East-Slavic language which means that it is closely related to Russian but also pretty close to Czech despite the two languages not being mutually intelligible.
While the Croatian language is recognized as a minority language in the Czech republic, it is becoming increasingly rare. Today it is spoken by around 800-2000 Czechs, but that number is expected to decline since the Croatian language isn't being taught in schools, which means that the new generations of Croatian Czechs don't learn their ancestral language.
Croatian is a South Slavic language like Macedonian and Bulgarian. The South Slavic group in the Slavic language family is known for being more different from the rest of the Slavic languages, including Czech, than most other languages in the Slavic language family.
What's special about the dialect of Croatian spoken in the Czech republic is that it's got more loanwords from both Czech and German than the standardized Croatian language spoken in Croatia.
The Czech Croats generally live in the region of Moravia, and they are almost non-existent in the capital city, Prague.
Vietnamese is a surprising language to include on a list of minority languages in the Czech Republic, but the fact is that over 80.000 Vietnamese live in the country, making for close to 1% of the total population of Czechia. About 10.000 Vietnamese live in Prague itself.
The history of Vietnamese immigration goes back to Soviet times when Vietnamese were encouraged to migrate to Czechia as migrant-workers. After the end of the communist era migration has continued and even accelerated resulting in the Vietnamese surname Nguyen now being the 9th most common surname in the whole of the Czech Republic. (According to Wikipedia)
Other Spoken Languages In The Czech Republic And Prague
Other than the above mentioned minority languages, a wide range of other immigration languages are spoken in the Czech Republic.
These include Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Mongolian, English, Chinese, Belarusian, Kazakh, Italian, Greek Serbia, Hindi and French.
While some are spoken by significant numbers in Prague and the country as a whole, most are spread thin with less than 10.000 speakers throughout the country of Czechia.
Foreign Languages Taught In Prague And The Czech Republic
Other than Czech, the native language of the Czech Republic, its minority languages and the large array of immigration languages, Czechs also learn to speak foreign languages in school.
In communist times, Russian was one of the most common second languages to be taught in school, but after the end of the Soviet Union, Russian has become a lot less popular. Today the first choice among school students is English. After English follows the language of Czechia's neighbor, Germany and only then Russia.
Other languages like Spanish and French are studied as well, but the amount of young people archiving fluency in these languages are limited.
At a national scale, close to 12% of Czechs consider themselves English speakers. Most of these are to be found in the big cities like Prague and especially in the tourist sector.
German follows close behind with a little under 9% of the total Czech population speaking the language.
Russian is spoken by mostly the older generation, but it still counts for about 7% of the Czech population.