The official language of the Czech Republic and Prague is Czech, but about 50% of Czech people, especially the younger generation, speak the English language.
There is a high concentration of people speaking English in Prague, especially in the centre and in tourism jobs.
Prague also has the highest concentration of expats living in the Czech Republic (about 1/3 of the total number of over 1 million of people). Most expats are from Europe or Easten Europe, but the common language is again English.
There is also a large number of international companies based in Czech Republic (and in Prague) which require people to communicate in English.
How to use of English language has developed over the years
I think, most people around 45-47 years of age (and lower) will have some grasp of English. I was in my last year at secondary school, when the Velvet Revolution happened in 1989 and half-way through the school year, we started to learn English language.
Before 1989 English Language wasn’t on a school curriculum and learning English wasn’t encouraged (as the Czech Republic was under the communist regime and the main language taught at schools, apart from the native Czech language was the Russian language).
Obviously, the younger the person, the more chances are that they will have a better understanding of English because they started a lot earlier than me.
These days, the English language is pretty much compulsory at primary schools and many children start learning the basics when they are in nursery school.
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What other languages people speak in Prague ?
Czech language is the official language of Czech Republic (and Prague).
But, Czech language is quite difficult to learn and understand, so we (Czechs…) know that we need to learn other languages to communicate with the rest of the world.
Because Prague is located in the centre of Europe you will also hear Czechs speaking in German, French, Italian, Spanish and also Russian. There is also a large Slovak community living in the Czech Republic (and Prague) and Slovak is fairly similar to Czech language, so it might sound the same to a foreign ear.
Before 1920-40 the main foreign language spoken in Prague (and Czech Republic) was German and then for over 40 years the Russian language or Spanish (since Cuba was a communist country, too).
Quite bizarrely, my mum learned Spanish at school but has never been to Spain until about 20 years ago, long after the country’s borders opened up for free travel.
So, whilst some Czech people speak many languages, some Czech people speak none, other than Czech language. People over 50-60 are likely to understand Russian, German or Spanish and people under 50 are likely to know better English, French, German or Spanish, but not Russian.
Do people speak English in Prague?
If you stay in the tourist spots around Prague, you should be able to get by just by speaking in English.
Everyone in the service industry – tourist attractions, hotels, cafes and even supermarkets will understand you and will be able to communicate with you in English language.
Notices, announcements, public transport and restaurant menus are often written in English, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting around on public transport or eating out.
Once you leave the Prague centre, you will notice that the Czech language is more prominent, so it’s always a good idea to have a basic dictionary or a guidebook on your packing list.
If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you can easily download one of the many apps that can help you to translate from English to Czech and vice versa.
Google Translate will automatically translate any webpage and if you scan any book or newspaper it will translate it too.
My totally favourite translator app (again it’s Google owned) is voice-activated and you can speak into it in English and it will translate and talk in Czech.
Where you might not be able to speak English in Prague?
Whilst most people working in the central Prague will have at least a basic grasp of English, once you start to move towards the outskirts of Prague, do the less touristy things in Prague or venture into another towns in the Czech Republic that are not exactly on the foreign tourist radar, you might start to notice that English is less and less spoken and you will need to rely on a google translate to make your self understood.
Also, most central restaurants have English speaking staff, but if you want to eat in a local pub, restaurant outside the tourist area or try self-service canteen you might need to translate the dishes first for yourself or point to the dish you like to get yourself understood.
How well Czech people speak English?
Just because English language is the most taught language (after Czech language) at schools, doesn’t meant that everyone who has learn it can speak fluently.
This very much depends on each individual and again from my experience I’d say that the younger the person, the better English pronunciation they have.
English language statistics & numbers
I’ve looked up a recent statistics about English and Czech Republic and it makes an interesting read. About 45% of people said that they can speak English, however about 10% also said, that their grasp of Enlish is only minimal.
About 15% of people admitted that their English level is only basic. Only about 15 % of people can use English on day to day basis and only about 7% of people are proficient in English.
The problem with statistics like these is that they count in the whole population (around 10,5 million) which include all ages.
This includes students and young people who have perfect English and retired people who can’t speak other language than Czech.
The survey also included people from the whole Czech Republic, where people in small towns and villages are less likely to speak English. Prague and other major cities has much higher concentration of people speaking English.
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