Growing up I did not speak my father’s native language, Czech. Living in Sweden and with a Brazilian mother who spoke to me in Portuguese, he believed a third language for little me would be too confusing, so he stuck to the Swedish.
However, even if I did not speak Czech I would always hear it on a daily basis when he talked to our relatives or watched Czech films. Even if he had lived in Sweden since his mid-20s he never lost touch of his roots and would share with me stories from his life back in Czechoslovakia. We often visited our relatives but because they did not speak other languages he would always be our translator, and that is where I would feel a bit disconnected from my Czech side.
Even if my father cooked Czech meals and introduced me to films, the lack of the language was a barrier for me. When I was a teenager I decided to learn Czech by myself and I had bought books from our visits to use for my own studies. My father even started to speak a bit Czech with me and he would also write notes for when I got back from school and he wasn’t home. Unfortunately, this only lasted for a short period and my motivation vanished due to the difficulty and lack of pedagogical skills.
It wasn’t until 6 months after he passed that I decided to enrol to classes at the Czech Centre in London. It was a strange and emotional time for me, but yet it was amazing. I loved going to my weekly classes and I would go home afterwards with a sense of joy and enthusiasm. I would like to think that my father was happy and proud of me, and that I was building bridges with my Czech side.
When I moved back to Sweden I continued taking classes at Stockholm University, where I not only studied the language but also the Czech history and politics. I also have now a scholarship for a summer language course in the Czech Republic, which is perfect as I had researched courses there and learning a language where it is spoken helps tremendously.
Life can be full of surprises and not only has it been motivating for me to see my progress with the language when I speak with my relatives, but also how I better understand the culture, history and the Czech people.
One important thing that I have learned during these studies is that if you want to do something, do it. I never planned that I would be studying Czech, it was just something that I had in mind for years and I finally did. Dreams should be plans if you want to get them in action. If we just push our wishes and aspirations forward with the mentality of “one day I will do it” we are limiting ourselves of our own potential but also from opportunities and experiences that might come along.
I need to constantly remind myself of this and remember to enjoy the journey, because as a human I can at times get impatient. However, with small steps and working towards what we want, we will get there and even at times discover other unexpected roads. So take that class, read that book and go on that trip, because your future self will thank you for it.