Slovak Language Profile
Slovak (Slovenčina) is a Slavonic language spoken by approximately 6 million people worldwide. Slovak is closely related to Czech, slightly less so to Polish and the Sorbian languages and even less so to the other Slavonic languages such as Belorussian, Bulgarian and Russian. It is the official language of Slovakia
It is also spoken by ethnic Slovaks in the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, and Croatia. Some descendents of Slovak immigrants in Australia and the Americas also speak the language natively.
The usefulness of Slovak is in practice limited to Slovakia and Czech Republic. As in many countries in Central Europe, ESL teaching is widespread and many young adults and teenagers speak at least some English. Slovakia is somewhat less urbanized than Czech Republic, and it is slightly more difficult to find English speakers outside the larger Slovak cities. As such, a prospective visitor to smaller Slovak towns and villages should expect to encounter more people who speak only Slovak. Those who came of age during the communist period also learned Russian as part of the mandatory imposition of Soviet culture during the Cold War. However, many of them Slovaks refuse to speak Russian because of the association with the oppressive days of communism and Soviet-led crushing of the uprising against communism in August 1968 when Slovakia formed part of the federated Czechoslovak state. Some Slovaks also speak Hungarian because of having Hungarian ancestry or ties to the Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia.
Standard Slovak is taught in schools and used for official purposes. Slovak dialects are usually divided into three groups: western, central and eastern. The central dialects form the basis of the standard language. In general, the dialects form a continuum with the western dialects merging gradually into the Moravian dialects as one crosses the border into the Czech Republic. As one travels east through Slovakia, the eastern dialects gradually show more similarity to Polish and to a lesser extent Rusyn and Ukrainian.
Learning with a background in other languages
According to FSI, it takes approximately 1100 class hours to achieve professional speaking and reading proficiency in Slovak for motivated learner who knows only English.
As suggested in the subsequent section on intelligibility, learners with a background in other Slavonic languages will find learning Slovak less onerous to various degrees depending on how similar their respective native languages are to Slovak.
For English speakers, the greatest difficulties in my opinion when learning Slovak are:
1) verbal aspect
2) verbs of motion
4) nominal and adjectival declension
Like Czech, stress in Slovak is fixed on the first syllable of words. Vowels can be long or short. Therefore, ‘a’, ‘e’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘u’ each have a lengthened counterpart. There is a distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ consonants. In turn, this distinction is important not only in pronunciation but grammar as well.
Mám cudziu knihu “I have a foreign book” (cudzí is ‘soft’, and the accusative feminine form of cudzí is different from the comparable form of ‘hard’ adjectives)
Mám zelenú knihu “I have a green book” (zelený is ‘hard’ and the accusative feminine singular form of zelená is zelenú)
In spite of this, Slovak pronunciation is rather simple despite the intimidating appearance to those unaccustomed to acute accents, hooks, umlauts and a few consonants that act like vowels (e.g. prst = finger – pronounced something like English ‘perst’ but the ‘er’ sound is quite short. Think of the English word ‘bird’, it’s pronounced like ‘brd’ rather than ‘beerd’)
Slovak has what is called the ‘rhythmic law’ meaning that long syllables cannot be adjacent to each other (there are some exceptions to the law). This law applies to conjugations of verbs and adjectival declension as well.
Like other Slavonic languages, Slovak has elaborate inflections for its nouns and adjectives.
There are six cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, and instrumental. Vocative has practically disappeared with only a few nouns and names have forms in the vocative. These are treated or taught as exceptions or relics rather than part of a functional case.
There are three numbers: singular, dual and plural. However, the dual is present only in a few instances of declension. In other words, there is neither a complete nominal and adjectival declension in the dual nor dual personal pronouns (e.g. ‘we two’, ‘you two’) as in Slovenian.
There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter with the masculine divided further into animate and inanimate categories in the declensions of the nominative and accusative.
There are three moods: indicative, conditional and imperative.
There are two voices: active and passive.
Because of Slovak’s inflecting nature, personal pronouns are usually omitted unless the speaker wishes to emphasize the subject of a sentence. In addition, syntax can be rather free compared to English as much of the relevant grammatical information of a sentence is revealed in the inflections, suffixes and prefixes of the words. Syntax usually depends on the focus or nuance that a speaker wishes to convey. There are a few rules regarding syntax however.
i) the reflexive pronoun goes in the second position except when used in the past tense
Češem sa doma. “I comb myself at home.” (in general, as part of a routine at home)
Ja sa doma češem. “I comb myself at home.” (emphasizing the fact that it is *I* who combs himself regularly at home)
ii) the personal marker of the past tense always goes in the second position
Češal som sa doma “I was combing myself at home” (in general, as part of a routine at home)
Ja som sa češal doma “I was combing myself at home” (emphasizing the fact that it was *I* who was regularly combing himself at home)
iii) adjectives precede the nouns that they describe. In addition, adjectives must agree with the nouns that they describe.
slovenský muž “Slovak man” (masculine animate nominative singular)
veľký zošit “big notebook” (masculine inanimate nominative singular)
slovenská žena “Slovak woman” (feminine nominative singular)
červené auto “red car” (neuter nominative singular)
slovenskí muži “Slovak men” (masculine animate nominative plural)
veľké zošity “big notebooks” (masculine inanimate nominative plural)
slovenské ženy “Slovak women” (feminine nominative plural)
čeverné autá “red cars” (neuter nominative plural)
Slovak nowadays uses a two-way T-V distinction like most other Slavonic languages. To address one person politely or formally, one uses the 2nd person plural instead of the 2nd person singular. For addressing more than person, the 2nd person plural forms are used regardless of the level of formality or politeness. This usually also entails using formal titles and less casual ways to greet or draw attention.
Dobrý deň! Ako sa máte, pani Horváthová? “Good afternoon! How are you, Mrs. Horváth?” (máte sa – 2nd person plural, present tense of mať sa)
Ahoj! Ako sa máš, Silvia? “Hi! How are you, Silvia?” (máš sa – 2nd person singular, present tense of mať sa)
Mutual intelligibility with other languages
Most English-speaking learners will find little in Slovak that is instantly familiar at the outset apart from most of the Slovak alphabet and the occasional internationalism (e.g. hotel, mobilný telefón, polícia).
Slovak is intelligible in varying degrees to native speakers of other Slavonic languages without courses or special training with this “untrained” intelligibility highest when one knows Czech. This intelligibility was reinforced during the days of a federated and later communist Czechoslovak state through much of the 20th century when Czech and Slovak were designated as the official languages. Official communications, literature and broadcasts were accessible to Czechs and Slovaks in both of these languages. It was quite easy for citizens to develop a strong passive knowledge of the other language. In addition, Slovak dialects were strongly influenced by Czech as Czech was the literary language of the Slovaks for a few centuries until the 18th or 19th century. With the breakup of Czechoslovakia into the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, the degree of mutual intelligibility is fading however. Many Czech teenagers and children now have more difficulty understanding Slovak than people who had grown up during Czechoslovakia’s existence. Much the same is occurring in Slovakia with Slovak teenagers and children having increasing difficulty in understanding Czech.
Here are some hints that may help with making sense of Slovak for people who can speak at least one Slavonic language other than Slovak.
1) ô usually corresponds to Czech ů
Môžeš prísť zajtra? (Slovak); Můžeš přijít zítra? (Czech) “Are you able to come tomorrow?”
Vôbec neviem (Slovak); Vůbec nevím (Czech) “I don’t know at all”
2) Final -v tends to be pronounced like English ‘w’ as in Belorussian, Slovenian, Sorbian and Ukrainian.
bez štuedentov (Slovak – pronounced like “bez shtoodentow”); без студэнтаў (Belorussian – pronounced like “bez stoodentaw”); brez študentov (Slovenian – pronounced like “brez shtoodentow”); без студентpів (Ukrainian – pronounced like “bez stoodentiw”) “without the students” (Cf. bez studentów (Polish – pronounced like “bez stoodentoof”); без студентов (Russian – pronounced like “bez stoodentoff)
3) The second palatalization of velars (i.e. changes involving g, h, ch and k) of Slavonic has been partially reversed in Slovak as in Russian and Slovenian. A manifestation of this reversal applies to the dative or locative singular endings of -e or -i (j) occurring after a velar. Here the velar often doesn’t change as it would in other Slavonic languages.
na nohe (Slovak – from noha); на ноге (Russian – from ногa) “on the leg”; na noge (Slovenian – from noga) (Cf. на назе (Belorussian – from нага); na noze (Czech – from noha); na nozi (BCMS/SC – from noga); na nodze (Polish – from noga); на нозi (Ukrainian – from ногa))
4) The ending -m is the only ending for 1st person singular for all verbs in present tense as in Macedonian and Slovenian.
“I go / want / buy / carry / write / know”
idem / chcem / kupujem / nesiem / píšem / znám (Slovak)
идам / сакам / купувам / донесам / пишувам / знам (Macedonian)
grem / hočem / kupujem / nesem / pišem / znam (Slovenian)
іду / хачу / купляю / нясу / пішу / знаю (Belorussian)
idem / hoću / kupujem / donesem / pišem / znam (BCMS / Serbo-Croatian)
ида / искам / купувам / донеса / пиша / зная (Bulgarian)
jdu / chci (chcu) / kupuji (kupuju) / nesu / píšu / znám (Czech)
idę / chcę / kupuję / niosę / piszę / znam (Polish)
иду / хочу / покупаю / несу / пишу / знаю (Russian)
іду / хочу / купую / несу / пишу / знаю (Ukrainian)
5) The Late-Common Slavonic cluster of *-tj- evolved into -c- as in Czech and Polish.
*světja > svíce (Czech); świeca (Polish); svieca (Slovak) “candle” (cf. sv(ij)eća (BCMS/SC); свеча (Russian))
6) Stress falls regularly on the first syllable as in Czech and Sorbian.
7) Slovak vowels can be long or short as in Czech, Slovenian and BCMS/SC.
8) Like Polish, Slovak uses “virile numbers” for 2 to 4 in nominative. Other Slavonic languages use regular cardinal numbers or collective ones instead.
Two/Three/Four men are in the bank.
Dvaja/Traja/Štyria muži sú v banke. (Slovak)
Dwaj/Trzej/Czterej mężczyźni są w banku. (Polish)
(Cf. Dvojica/Trojica/Četvorica muškaraca su u banci. (BCMS / Serbo-Croatian); Двамата/Трима/Четирима мъже са в банката. (Bulgarian); Dva/Tři/Čtyři muži jsou v bance. (Czech); Двое/Трое/Четверо мужчин в банке. (Russian))
9) As in Belorussian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, the Slovak accusative plural endings for adjectives and nouns denoting masculine humans are the same as those for the genitive plural.
“I see new [male] students”
Ja vidím nových študentov (Slovak)
Ja widzę nowych studentów (Polish)
Я бачу новых студэнтаў (Belorussian)
Я вижу новых студентов (Russian)
Я бачу нових студентів (Ukrainian)
Ja vidim nove studente (BCMS/SC)
Aз виждам нови студенти (Bulgarian)
Ja vidím nové studenty (Czech)
Jac гледам нови студенти (Macedonian)
Jaz vidim nove študente (Slovenian)
10) Today’s standard Slovak is the result of a codification based on dialects spoken around Martin and Banská Bystrica (center of modern-day Slovakia). These central dialects are striking for their degree of similarity to Southern Slavonic languages (especially BCMS/Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian) and this has meant that standard Slovak is often easier for people of the former Yugoslavia to understand at first glance than Slovak’s otherwise closer relations in Czech, Polish or Sorbian. In addition to the similarities in 2), 4) and 7) above, the following features (sometimes called “Yugoslavisms”) in Slovak may be familiar to speakers of Southern Slavonic languages
a) The locative singular ending in masculine or neuter is -om as in BCMS/Serbo-Croatian.
“We were talking about the new/old apartment.”
Hovorili sme o novom/starom byte. (Slovak)
Govorili smo o novom/starom stanu. (BCMS/SC)
b) The sequence of initial *ôl- or *ôr- as reconstructed for Proto-Slavonic evolved regularly to la- or ra- in Southern Slavonic and very frequently so in Slovak.
*ôlkъtь (Proto-Slavonic); lakat (BCMS/SC); лакът (Bulgarian); лакoт (Macedonian); lakeť (Slovak); laket (Slovenian) “elbow” (Cf. loket (Czech); локоть (Russian))
c) Slovak verbs of motion on their own rarely indicate explicitly whether the motion is with a vehicle or not like in Southern Slavonic languages but unlike in Eastern Slavonic languages and closely kindred Western Slavonic languages.
idem (BCMS/SC, Slovak); grem (Slovenian); ида (Bulgarian); идам (Macedonian) “I go [on foot]” (Cf. idę (Polish); іду (Belorussian, Ukrainian); jdu (Czech); иду (Russian))
idem autobusom (BCMS/SC, Slovak); grem z avtobusom (Slovenian); ида с автобус (Bulgarian); идам со автобус (Macedonian) “I go via/by bus” (jadę autobusem (Polish); еду аўтобусам (Belorussian); jedu autobusem (Czech); еду на автобусе (Russian); ïду автобусом (Ukrainian))
Literature / Media / Film / Music
In literature, two of the better-known figures are the poets Pavol (Országh) Hviezdoslav and Ján Kollár. Literary Slovak was not standardized until the 18th century. Prior to this, it was common for Slovaks to use a form of Czech in their literary works. The first attempt at standardization was made by Anton Bernolák in the 18th century. Bernolák’s version of Slovak was based on its dialects from what is now western Slovakia. Two more major attempts at standardization were made in the 19th century. The second attempt was led by Ján Kollár and historian Pavol Šafárik whose version of literary Slovak combined elements of Czech dialects with these Western Slovak dialects. However it was the third attempt by the scholar and politician Ľudovít Štúr which had a lasting effect. Štúr’s version of literary Slovak was based on the Central Slovak dialects and drew negligibly on Czech dialects (or even other Slovak dialects for that matter). This standard gained favour amongst many of the more nationalist Slovak writers and poets and gradually supplanted the other versions of literary Slovak. Consequently modern standard Slovak is not a derivative or dialect of Czech despite the high mutual intelligibility between standard Czech and Slovak.
Literary expression began primarily as texts on religious themes from the Dark Ages and were often written in Latin, Old Czech or presumably Old Czech with debatable Slovak influence. By the 18th century Slovak literature began to be more distinguishable by being an expression of Slovak national consciousness or Pan-Slavism even though it still relied heavily on Czech or the ultimately failed standardized language by Bernolák (see above). It was not until the establishment of Czechoslovakia did Slovak literature begin establishing itself as a vigorous movement exploring themes with a more restricted Slovak view and using the distinctly Slovak standard devised by Štúr (see above). Some writers of modern Slovak literature include Milo Urban, Jozef Cíger-Hronský, Margita Figuli, Ľubomír Feldek and Milan Rúfus.
Slovakia’s best-known musician is arguably the classical composer, Jan Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837), who was born in Bratislava (known as Pozsony to the Hungarians or Pressburg to the Austrians) and a student of Haydn and Mozart. More modern representatives of Slovak musical life include the rock bands Elán and Desmod, the metal band Majster Kat, the pop singer Marika Gombitová and the now-inactive pop band “Banket”. In very recent times the Slovak version of “American Idol” (“Slovensko hľadá SuperStar” – Slovakia is looking for a superstar) has given a start to some Slovak pop singers such as Katarína Koščová, Zdenka Predná and Martina Šindlerová.
Slovak cinema is not very well-known and is sometimes overshadowed in external perception by the cinema of the neighbouring Czech Republic. This overshadowing is partially explicable that Czech and Slovak cooperation was routine during the era of Czechoslovakia and many Slovak actors and directors did their work with Czech directors or put on films in Czech. In other aspects cinematic output from Slovaks or on Slovak settings has been rather limited partially because of political interference from first the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia and later the Slovak nationalist government of Vladimír Mečiar and partially because of a lack of funds available for film-making. Nevertheless Slovak films can offer a useful and entertaining diversion for students of Slovak with notable examples being “Jánošík” by Jaroslav Siakeľ, “Obchod na korze” jointly directed by the Slovak Jew Ján Kadár and Moravian Elmar Klos, “Ružové sny” by Dušan Hanák and “Všetko čo mám rád” by Martin Šulík.
Comenius University released in 2012 a list of books recommended for those preparing to take language proficiency exams graded to A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. I have used a few of the books in its list and offer my reviews of them below.
Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania Univerzity Komeského – Testovanie jazykových kompetencií – Spoločný európsky referenčný rámec » testovanie – Odporúčaná literatúra wrote:
Odporúčaná literatúraZákladný stupeň ovládania jazyka:● Úroveň A2 – začiatočník
1. ZEBEGNEYOVÁ, A. – PUZDEROVÁ, A. – BAKOVÁ B.: Hovorme spolu po slovensky “A” Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – učebnica. Bratislava, Univerzita Komenského Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania ÚJOP 2007.
2. ZEBEGNEYOVÁ, A. – PUZDEROVÁ, A. – BAKOVÁ B.: Hovorme spolu po slovensky “A” Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – cvičebnica. Bratislava Univerzita Komenského Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania ÚJOP 2007.
3. GABRÍKOVÁ, A. – ULIČNÁ, M.: Pracovné listy k učebnici A . Hovorme spolu po
slovensky. Univerzita Komenského Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania ÚJOP, Bratislava 2009
4. DRATVA, T. – BUZNOVÁ,V.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov. Bratislava, SPN 2007
5. BARKOVÁ, V. – BUZNOVÁ,V. – DRATVA,T.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov – cvičebnica, Bratislava, SPN 2007.
6. BÖHMEROVÁ, A.: Slovak for you. Bratislava, Perfekt 1999. (lekcie 1-8)
7. HOLÍKOVÁ, K.: Dobrý deň, slovenčina. Bratislava, KON-PRESS 1991.
8. HOLÍKOVÁ, K. – WEISSOVÁ,M.: Základy slovenčiny. Bratislava, Danubiapress 1995.
9. NAUGHTON, J.: Colloquial Slovak. London, ROUTLEDGE 1997.
Stredný stupeň – samostatné ovládanie jazyka:
● Úroveň B1 – mierne pokročilý
● Úroveň B2 – stredne pokročilý
1. BORTLÍKOVÁ, A. – MAIEROVÁ, E. – NAVRÁTILOVÁ, J.: Hovorme spolu po slovensky „B” Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – učebnica 1., 2 časť. Bratislava, Univerzita Komenského Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania ÚJOP 2008.
2. BORTLÍKOVÁ, A. – MAIEROVÁ, E. – NAVRÁTILOVÁ, J.: Hovorme spolu po slovensky „B” Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – cvičebnica 1., 2.časť. Bratislava, Univerzita Komenského Centrum ďalšieho vzdelávania ÚJOP 2008.
3. DRATVA, T.- BUZNOVÁ,V.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov. Bratislava, SPN 2005. (lekcie 8- 15)
4. BARKOVÁ, V. – BUZNOVÁ, V. – DRATVA,T.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov – cvičebnica, Bratislava, SPN 1999.
5. IGAZOVÁ, T. – GHEORGHIOVÁ, E. – KOVÁČIKOVÁ, D.: Cvičebnica slovenčiny ako cudzieho jazyka. Bratislava, HEVI 1996.
6. STEINEROVÁ, H.: Konverzačná príručka slovenčiny. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo UK 2000.
7. BÖHMEROVÁ, A.: Slovak for you. Bratislava, Perfekt 1999. (lekcie 9-14)
8. Kolektív autorov, zostavil MOLNÁR J.- Slovenské reálie I., II. diel, vybrané kapitoly zo slovenských reálií pre zahraničných študentov, Bratislava YORK PRESS 1996.
Vyšší stupeň – kompetentné ovládanie jazyka:
● Úroveň C1 – pokročilý
● Úroveň C2 – vysoko pokročilý
1. KOLEKTÍV AUTOROV – Naše dedičstvo – slovenčina pre pokročilých – texty, Univerzita komenského. Bratislava 2010.
2. KOLEKTÍV AUTOROV – Naše dedičstvo – slovenčina pre pokročilých – gramatika, Univerzita komenského. Bratislava 2010.
3. MOLNÁR, J. a kol.: Slovenské reálie, I. diel. Bratislava, YORK PRESS 1996.
4. STEINEROVÁ, H.: Konverzačná príručka slovenčiny. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo Panorama 2004.
5. VAJÍČKOVÁ, M.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov – gramatické cvičenia. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo UK 2009.
6. ŽIGOVÁ, Ľ.: Komunikácia v slovenčine. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo UK 2007.
7. ŽIGOVÁ, Ľ.: Slovenčina pre cudzincov – gramatická a pravopisná cvičebnica. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo UK 2009.
8. Pravopis (praktická príručka slovenského pravopisu) – 2. doplnené vydanie Ladislav Navrátil, Jozef Šimurka • Vydavateľstvo: Enigma, 2005.
9. DOLNÍK, J.: Princípy jazyka a textu. Bratislava, UK 2000.
10. DOLNÍK, J.: Súčasný slovenský jazyk – lexikológia. Bratislava, UK 2007.
11. KOLEKTÍV AUTOROV – Ottova encyklopédia Slovensko A – Ž. Ottovo nakladateľstvo, 2006.
12. HORECKÝ, J. – BUZÁSSYOVÁ, K. – BOSÁK, J. a kol: Dynamika slovnej zásoby súčasnej slovenčiny. 1. vyd. Bratislava, Veda 1989.
13. HORECKÝ, J.: Slovenčina v našom živote. Bratislava, SPN 1988.
14. KRÁĽ, Á.: Pravidlá slovenskej výslovnosti. Bratislava, Matica slovenská 2009.
15. KRÁĽ, Á. – RÝZKOVÁ, A.: Základy jazykovej kultúry. Bratislava, SPN 1990.
16. Krátky slovník slovenského jazyka. 4. vyd. Bratislava, Veda 2003.
17. MISTRÍK, J.: Moderná slovenčina. 3. vyd. Bratislava, SPN 1997.
18. MISTRÍK, J. – ŠKVARENINOVÁ, O. – HEGEROVÁ, K. – Praktická príručka slovenčiny. 1. vyd. Bratislava, SPN, 1997.
19. MISTRÍK, J.: Štylistika. 3. vyd. Bratislava, SPN 1997.
20. PAULINY, E.: Slovenská gramatika. (Opis jazykového systému). 1. vyd. Bratislava, SPN 1981.
21. FINDRA, J.: Štylistika slovenčiny. Martin, Osveta, 2004.
22. MLACEK, J.: Slovenská frazeológia, 2 vyd.. Bratislava, SPN 1984.
23. Morfológia slovenského jazyka. Bratislava, Vydavateľstvo SAV 1966.
24. ORAVEC, J. – BAJZÍKOVÁ, E.: Súčasný spisovný jazyk. Syntax. Bratislava, SPN 1984.
25. Pravidlá slovenského pravopisu. Bratislava, VEDA 2000.
26. SLANČOVÁ, D.: Praktická štylistika. Prešov, SLOVACONTACT 1995.
27. SOKOLOVÁ, M.: Kapitolky zo slovenskej morfológie. Prešov, SLOVACONTACT 1995.
28. Synonymický slovník slovenčiny. 1. vyd. Bratislava, VEDA 2000.
29. Krátky slovník slovenského jazyka (http://slovnik.juls.savba.sk.)
1) Colloquial Slovak (James Naughton)
– It comes with two CDs and a textbook. The audio for the second edition issued in 2011 can also be obtained as a free download from the publisher, Routledge
– What I enjoyed about this course was that it had accessible dialogues and useful grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter with answers at the back of the book.
– It would have been desirable if the textbook had included more exercises. You won’t retain a lot of information after doing the exercises since the quantity of exercises is inadequate. This kit is better suited for someone who needs to either brush up on his/her Slovak or someone who wishes to get a start in learning Slovak. He/she should continue with his/her study using at least one of the courses listed below.
– It costs roughly $50 US on Amazon.
2) Slovak for You (4th ed.) (Ada Böhmerová)
– This course for beginners comes with a textbook, workbook and 2 CDs.
– What I enjoyed most about this course was that it has quite a few exercises and that it builds your knowledge gradually. In addition, it’s full of useful notes on grammar.
– Like many modern textbooks, it uses the communicative approach and is full of colourful pictures and illustrations. More importantly for someone learning on his or her own, the textbook has no answer key. It’s better to use it in a classroom setting since some of the exercises are oral and you will need a teacher or fellow student to help you with exercises where you create your own dialogues.
– It may be difficult to find on Amazon at a reasonable price (including Amazon Marketplace) but the entire set can be bought in Slovakia for about 40 Euros.
3) Slovenčina pre cudzincov (Slovak Language for Foreigners) (Tomáš Dratva et al.)
– This course for beginners comes with three cassettes/CDs, a textbook and a workbook.
– It is similar to “Slovak for You” but has more exercises.
– Like many modern textbooks, it uses the communicative approach and is full of colourful pictures and illustrations. More importantly for someone learning on his or her own, the textbook has no answer key. It’s better to use it in a classroom setting since some of the exercises are oral and you will need a teacher or fellow student to help you with exercises where you create your own dialogues.
– It may be difficult to find on Amazon at a reasonable price (including Amazon Marketplace) but the entire set can be bought in Slovakia for about 50 Euros.
4) Beginning Slovak (Sylvia Gálová-Lorinc and Oscar Swan)
– It comes with 8 cassettes and a textbook/workbook. It is also possible to order the tapes or CDs separately from an organization called ‘Lektorek’ which is affiliated with Professor Swan.
– What I enjoyed about this course was that it had practical and sometimes humourous dialogues accompanied with succinct notes on grammar. The textbook also comes with exercises for each chapter. Some of the exercises are oral and consist of repeating what the speaker says. Other exercises have the learner create sentences after hearing an example and hints.
– Compared to Naughton’s and Böhmerová’s respective books, “Beginning Slovak” covers similar grammatical material but provides many more exercises. If you want a course with a lot of audio and exercises this is the best that I have been able to find. Unfortunately, the book does not come with an answer key. It may be helpful for the learner to ask a Slovak friend or teacher to correct answers to the exercises.
– The domain holding Prof. Swan’s Polish learning material also has the audio for the textbook in .aiff (i.e. Apple’s counterpart to the .wav format). See the following subsection of online learning material for the URL.
5) Slovenčina pre cudzincov – Gramatická a pravopisná cvičebnica (Slovak Language for Foreigners – Workbook for Grammar and Orthography) (Ľudmilla Žigová)
– It is a small textbook with fill-in-the blank exercises. It’s very inexpensive (3 Euros or approximately $3.50 US.) but obtainable only in Slovakia. I was lucky enough to find it during a trip to Slovakia.
– The exercises give drills in the use of proper case endings and conjugations. It also includes an answer key and is very appropriate for those who are learning Slovak on their own and wish to have an inexpensive source of additional exercises.
– This guide is best used once you have gained some knowledge of Slovak grammar. It is entirely in Slovak and is of little use to absolute beginners.
6) Prehľad gramatiky a pravopisu slovenského jazyka (Overview of the Grammar and Orthography of the Slovak Language) (Milada Caltíková and Ján Tarábek)
– It is a small textbook with fill-in-the blank exercises and dictation exercises. It’s quite inexpensive (4 Euros or approximately $4.75 US.) but obtainable only in Slovakia. I was lucky enough to find it during a trip to Slovakia.
– The exercises give drills in the use of proper case endings and conjugations and opportunities for dictation (i.e. you need someone to read the assigned text while you write down what is being read). It also includes an answer key and is very appropriate for those who are learning Slovak on their own and wish to have an inexpensive source of additional exercises. It also includes notes on grammar and tables of verbal conjugations and nominal and adjectival declensions.
– This guide is best used once you understand at least some Slovak and need a very concise reference guide for Slovak grammar. It is entirely in Slovak and is of little use to absolute beginners..
7a) Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – A – Hovorme spolu po slovensky! (Angela Zebegneyová, Anna Puzderová, Beáta Baková)
7b) Slovenčina ako cudzí jazyk – B – Hovorme spolu po slovensky! (Alica Bortlíková, Eva Maierová, Jana Navrátilová)
– These kits are part of the Slovak courses for foreigners given at Comenius University in Bratislava.
– Set “A” consists of a textbook, workbook and 3 CDs and is meant for beginners (corresponding to A1 and A2 on CEFR scale).
– Set “B” consists of a textbook, workbook, reference manual of grammar and 2 CDs and is meant for more advanced students (corresponding to B1 and B2 on CEFR scale).
– Set “C” is not available but is presumably under development and would be for students at an even higher level (corresponding to C1 and C2 on CEFR scale).
– In general these kits are designed similarly to the aforementioned “Slovak for You” by Böhmerová and “Slovenčina pre cudzincov” by Drátva et al. Namely these courses use the communicative approach and are full of colourful pictures and illustrations. More importantly for someone learning on his or her own, the books do not have an answer key. It’s better to use them in a classroom setting since some of the exercises are oral and you will need a teacher or fellow student to help you with exercises where you create your own dialogues.
– The biggest advantage of these offerings over comparable courses is that they come in versions for beginners and non-beginners alike and the more advanced set (“B” and potentially “C”) could be a godsend for more advanced students who have become frustrated by the scarcity of substantial structured learning materials of Slovak for anyone other than beginners.
– These courses are currently unknown on Amazon but can be bought in Slovakia or from Slovak mail-order firms such as panorama.sk. Each kit costs roughly 55 Euros.
8) A Learner’s Dictionary of English (Aliberto Caforio)
– This is a rather small English-Slovak-English dictionary. Most entries contain a few commonly-used translations of phrasal verbs between English and Slovak. It also indicates a noun’s gender and whether a verb is perfective or imperfective. This dictionary would be more useful if it would indicate the perfective-imperfective pairs for the verbal entries. For example it’s useful that the dictionary indicates ‘napisať’ as a perfective verb meaning ‘to write’. However, the dictionary does not mention that its imperfective counterpart is ‘pisať’. As such, a learner will have a problem in finding the correct verb to use in a sentence.
– Avoid foreign booksellers or Amazon if possible as they usually charge a substantial premium on this dictionary (in North America, this dictionary costs about $30 US). Try instead to buy the dictionary in Czech Republic or Slovakia. In Slovakia, this dictionary costs approximately 10 Euros roughly $11 US).
9) English-Slovak Dictionary (Ján Šimko) (4th printing of 3rd edition. published by SPN or Bolchazy-Carducci)
– This is often regarded as the best English-Slovak dictionary available in spite of its age. The last edition is from 1971 and the latest reprint is from 1991. It is relatively comprehensive and most entries have several examples of its use in Slovak contexts. It also shows the perfective and imperfective counterparts in most of its translation of verbs. For example, under the entry “to read”, its first translation of this verb is ‘(pre)čítať’. As most Slovak learners will know, the form ‘prečítať’ is perfective while the form ‘čítať’. Most imperfective-perfective pairs are shown in this somewhat cryptic way with the use of parantheses. However, after a little practice in using this dictionary, you will have a good idea of which verb is perfective and which one isn’t when you consult an entry. While it is far from an ideal way of showing the aspectual pairs of verbs, it is the only English-Slovak dictionary that I know of which even indicates this piece of information in the first place.
– Avoid foreign booksellers or Amazon if possible as they usually charge a substantial premium on this dictionary (in North America, this dictionary costs roughly $60 US). Try instead to buy the dictionary in Czech Republic or Slovakia. However, given its age, it can be found only in old bookshops that sell antiques or rare books.
10) Anglicko-slovenský slovník (s najnovšími výrazmi) (Josef Fronek and Pavel Mokráň) (English-Slovak Dictionary with the Newest Expressions)
– This is a more modern counterpart to Šímko’s dictionary. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make an explicit indication of which verbs are perfective and which are imperfective. On the other hand, this dictionary is more up-to-date than Šímko’s work and its comprehensiveness is very useful.
– Avoid foreign booksellers or Amazon if possible as they usually charge a substantial premium on this dictionary (in North America, this dictionary costs roughly $60 US). Try instead to buy the dictionary in Czech Republic or Slovakia. In Slovakia, this dictionary costs approximately 25 Euros (roughly $30 US)
11) Anglicko-slovenský / Slovensko-anglický veľký slovník (Lingea)
– This is the large English-Slovak/Slovak-English dictionary from of a series of dictionaries by the Czech publisher Lingea.
– It contains 102,000 headwords with about 400,000 translations and 80,000 examples and idioms among the headwords spread out on 1,520 pages.
– The biggest drawback of this dictionary is that it does not give hints about the inflectional endings for the entries.
– Nevertheless I strongly recommended this large dictionary for a serious student of Slovak and there are also editions of this large dictionary using French or German as the second language (a Spanish version is in preparation). This dictionary also comes on CD-ROM if the hardcover version would not be to students’ taste.
– This dictionary costs about 45 Euros.
12a) Anglicko-slovenský/Slovensko-anglický praktický slovník (Lingea)
12b) Anglicko-slovenský/Slovensko-anglický šikovný slovník (Lingea)
12c) Anglicko-slovenský/Slovensko-anglický vreckový slovník (Lingea)
– These are progressively smaller versions of Lingea’s large English-Slovak/Slovak-English dictionary in 11).
– “Praktický slovník” (“Practical dictionary”) has about 70,000 headwords and 220,000 translations and costs about 20 Euros.
– “Šikovný slovník” (“Handy dictionary”) has about 34,000 headwords and 66,000 translations and costs about 9 Euros.
– “Vreckový slovník” (“Pocket dictionary”) has about 35,000 headwords, 42,000 translations and costs about 9 Euros.
– If one doesn’t want to spend on the large dictionary, then the practical dictionary (12a)) would be the second-best choice as it doesn’t excessively sacrifice coverage for better portability and lower price. The other dictionaries (i.e. 12b) and 12c)) give only the barest coverage and are probably not worth consideration for a serious student as they’re only marginally better than free online English-Slovak/Slovak-English dictionaries).
13) Wazzup? Slovník slangu a hovorovej angličtiny (Lingea)
– This is a handy and at times entertaining dictionary of English colloquialisms and vulgarities for Slovak users. Unfortunately I have not seen a comparable dictionary that translates Slovak slang or vulgarities into English but it should still be useful for English-speakers if for example they’d like to know how to call someone a “douchebag” in Slovak.
– It contains idiomatic translations for roughly 10,000 colloquial or vulgar expressions from most varieties of English (including Australian and South African) but is dominated by such expressions or words from American or British English.
– It costs about 10 Euros.
14) Slovník slovenského jazyka (edited by Stefan Pečiar et al.)
– This is a large monolingual explanatory dictionary of Slovak that should be useful for more advanced students who would like to get hints about the inflection for Slovak words.
– It comes in 6 volumes and despite its age (published from 1959 to 1968) is an excellent resource for students of Slovak as it gives hints about inflection and often plenty of example sentences for every entry. In addition it is the only Slovak dictionary that I know of that gives explicit indication of the aspectual counterpart for every verb.
– It is out of print and is now most often found in research libraries at universities. However it sometimes appears in the inventory of shops that deal in used books. The prevailing price is unknown but it can add up to several hundred dollars.
– However this dictionary under the abbreviation “SSJ” is available for free in an online database at slovniky.juls.savba.sk
N.B. This old explanatory dictionary is currently being superseded by “Slovník súčasného slovenského jazyka” (Dictionary of the Contemporary Slovak Language). This new dictionary will also consist of several volumes but the last volume is estimated to be released by around 2020. So far only the first two volumes (for words starting with A to L) have been released. These volumes are also accessible online without charge at slovniky.juls.savba.sk under “SSSJ-AG” and “SSSJ-HL”.
15) Krátky slovník slovenského jazyka (4th ed.)
– This is a monolingual explanatory dictionary of Slovak that should be useful for more advanced students who would like to get hints about the inflection for Slovak words.
– It is a condensed version of the large explanatory dictionary in 14).
– Each entry is presented with hints about its inflection and example sentences. However unlike that large dictionary, verbs listed in this condensed dictionary are not often shown with their aspectual counterpart.
– It costs about 35 Euros and is obtainable in Slovakia or from Slovak mail-order firms.
– This dictionary also goes by the abbreviation “KSSJ” and is usable online for free at slovnik.juls.savba.sk.
ii) Online material and links to information of interest
Discussions, posts or logs on how-to-learn-any-language.com involving Slovak:
– Chung at work / Chung pri práci
– Czech and Slovak
– Help learning Slovak
– Slavic Language Family Learning Sequence
– Slovak: Finally I’m sticking to it
– Slovak or Esperanto?
– Ungrateful natives
– Verbal aspect as applied to Slovak
Comparison of Czech and Slovak using dialogues in “Colloquial Czech” and “Colloquial Slovak” as presented in the log “Chung at work / Chung pri práci” (notable points of differentiation are in parentheses with lexical differences including false friends being too numerous to list below)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 1/1 (declension of 1st person singular)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 4/3 (conjugation in present tense 1, “soft” declension for feminine nouns)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 5/4 (declension of certain neuter nouns)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 1/1 (conjugation in present tense 2, declension of feminine nouns in dative/locative singular)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 2/2 (declension of rok “year”)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 3/3 (Slovak rhythmic law)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 4/4 (declension of feminine possessive adjective for 3rd person singular)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 5/5 (declension of possessive adjective for 1st person singular and feminine personal pronoun for 3rd person singular )
— Unit 4, Dialogues 6/6 (Slovak pre corresponding to Czech pře- or pro-)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 1/1 (asymmetric correspondence between Czech ů and Slovak ô)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 2/2 (l-participle from verbs ending in -st/-zt / –sť/–zť, instrumental singular for “soft” feminine nouns)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 3/3
— Unit 7, Dialogues 4/4 (Czech přes and Slovak cez forming a mutually exclusive pair, conjugation of “to go” and “to take”)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 5/5 (declension of “this”)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 6/6
— Unit 10, Dialogues 3/3 (formation of imperative, declension of “these, those”, declension of numerals 2, 3, 4, plural of masculine animate nouns, declension of nouns ending in -ctvo/-stvo)
— Unit 10, Dialogues 4/4 (nominative/accusative plural of neuter nouns, declension of “soft” adjectives, conjugation of verbs with infinitive -nout / -núť)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 1/1 (conditional mood, 2nd person singular in past tense of reflexive verbs)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 2/2 (declension of 1st person singular possessive adjective with masculine animate object, declension of “all; everybody; everything”)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 3/3 (possessor suffixes, accusative of 3rd person singular personal pronoun in masculine and neuter, kinship terms)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 4/4 (comparative and superlative)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 5/5 and concluding remarks (dates, ordinal numerals, personal age)
– Unilang’s discussion forum for Slovak
General collections of links
– A wide-ranging site on many aspects of the language (e.g. online course, education, professional organizations, media)
– A very accessible site for anything about Slovakia
General treatment and descriptions of Slovak’s learning difficulty
– Wikipedia’s article on the Slovak language.
– A basic profile of Slovak
– A website on language difficulty for native speakers of English
Dictionaries and other databases
– Comprehensive database of Slovak dictionaries (monolingual)
– Lingea’s online dictionaries from 24 languages into Slovak with entries showing meanings, idiomatic translations and example sentences
Online courses/instructional videos, downloadable textbooks or lists of available course titles
– Audio for “Beginning Slovak” as .aiff files.
– Online course for beginners (A1 & A2) and somewhat advanced (B1 & B2) students with audio, videos, notes on basic grammar and exercises
– Online course for beginners supported by Comenius University that requires free registration
– Online course for Finnish-speakers supported by the University of Jyväskylä
– Slovak in Slovakia from Langmedia at the Five Colleges Center for the Study of World Languages
– Online publications from the Linguistic Institute of Ľudoviť Štúr including an old but comprehensive manual in Slovak about Slovak morphology.
– A list of learning and reference materials for those who wish to learn Slovak
– Useful site with links to learning materials, schools and a forum for learners of Slovak
Literature and authentic texts
– James Naughton’s links to Czech and Slovak literature
– Online collection of Slovak literary texts sorted by author.
– Online anthology of texts in Slovak by authors from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia
Information on dialects
– A map of Slovak dialects:
– An article from the Slovak Spectator about Slovak dialects in general:
– An article from the Slovak Spectator about the Spiš dialect:
– Yet another article from the Slovak Spectator about dialectal variation with the word for ‘potato’.
Bookstores/publishers dealing in Slovak or have material of interest to learners of Slovak. Bay Foreign Language Books Ltd.
Czech Books.com (It carries Slovak inventory too)
Lingea (publisher of dictionaries)
Martinus.sk (Similar to Amazon.com but in Slovak)
Schoenhof’s Foreign Books
Slovak Import Company
Slovakia Document Store
Slovenské pedagogické nakladateľstvo (Slovak Pedagogical Publishing House)
This profile was written by Polyglot forum member Chung who’s languages include: SPEAKS: English*, French
STUDIES: Finnish, Korean, Tatar
MAINTAINING: Polish, Slovak
RESURRECTING: German, Hungarian
STUDIED: Azeri, BCMS/SC, Czech, Estonian, Latin, Russian, Northern Saami, Slovenian, Turkish, Ukrainian
DABBLED: Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Latvian, Lithuanian, Romanian, Inari Saami, Turkmen, Tuvan, Uzbek
This is a somewhat modified version of my Slovak profile in the “Collaborative Writing” subforum last edited on Dec. 30, 2014 at how-to-learn-any-language.com.