During a ten minute presentation on a topic of your choice, you cannot look at your notes and the only prompts you have are the few points on your presentation slides. Sticking to this rule may seem easy, but for international students about to give the whole presentation in Czech, it most certainly is not.
Despite this, 19 brave students delivered their presentations at an international competition for students of Czech as a foreign language before a committee of experts at the end of April. The contestants included two international Masaryk University students who study programmes taught in English: Diogo Teixeira, a Portuguese student currently in the fourth year of General Medicine studies, and Tessa Bell, a physiotherapy student from the US.
In spite of the fierce competition, both Masaryk University students were successful. Diogo Teixeira, who is from Portugal, came second in the Interests and Hobbies category with his presentation on “Stereotypes and Prejudices”, while Tessa Bell from the US came third in the professional category for her presentation of her bachelor’s thesis entitled “Rehabilitation after Stroke”.
“The success of our students in this competition – organized by the Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies at Charles University and the European Commission – is a great achievement. This is even more so, when you consider that they both study at Masaryk University on programmes taught in English and only have Czech lessons once a week, while a number of the other participants have as many as several Czech lessons a day,” says Ivana Rešková, who teaches Czech for Foreigners at the Faculty of Medicine.
Eight semesters of compulsory Czech
All the international students of general medicine and dentistry at the Faculty of Medicine attend compulsory Czech courses during the first four years of their studies – primarily because starting from their third year, they need to communicate with patients in Czech during their lessons and training. Students on the English-language Physiotherapy programme must communicate with patients as soon as their first year.
It is not always easy for the lecturers to talk their students into taking part. “Our lecturer has been trying to persuade me ever since the end of the second year, but I only decided now to give it a try – after all, delivering a presentation in such a difficult language as Czech is quite a challenge. It took me about a month to get ready and learn more about the topic,” says Diogo Teixeira.
The presentation was a little easier for Tessa Bell, as she talked about the topic of her bachelor’s thesis and did not have to spend time collecting the information. “Even so, the presentation took me more than a week. My boyfriend is Czech and also a student at the Faculty of Medicine, so he helped me correct the mistakes in the presentation and in my pronunciation, which helped a lot,” says Tessa Bell.
However, talking in Czech for ten minutes is still not easy. “Especially when you realize how good the other participants are. It is also difficult to prepare for the second part – the discussion. You have to understand the questions of the committee and be able to answer them in Czech. But it was certainly an interesting experience,” says Diogo Teixeira about his participation in the competition.
The Institute for Language and Preparatory Studies at Charles University has been organizing this international competition since 2013 and the international students of Masaryk University – and their teacher, Ivana Rešková – regularly participate in it. In 2013, Roye Mauthner, an Israeli medical student at MU, came first with his presentation “Schizophrenia as the Language of the Soul”. This year, the participants represented eleven nationalities, including Russia, China, Germany, Belgium, Serbia, Pakistan, and El Salvador.