Czech-Language Requirement for Permanent Residency

How good does your Czech need to be to pass the government's new aptitude test? Ryan Scott finds out

From January 1st, 2009, a new Czech law requires that foreigners applying for permanent residency (trvalý pobyt) demonstrate a basic aptitude in the Czech language.


WHO IS AFFECTED?

At the moment the requirement doesn't apply to citizens of European Union nations or of Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

The ruling also doesn't apply to foreigners who have a family member who is a Czech citizen.

Though it isn't not stated explicitly in the text of the law, my understanding, from correspondence with the foreigners' police, is that the term "family member" includes spouses.


WHAT LEVEL OF CZECH IS REQUIRED?

The level required is A1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

According the website Czech for Foreigners (Čeština pro cizince), the A1 level is defined as:
The student participates in a conversation in the most common everyday situations in a very simple way, i.e. asks and answers questions concerning himself/herself, his/her place of residence, property, relatives and acquaintances

• when visiting public institutions, post offices, when ordering services or food and when shopping;

• when in contact with officials (forms, public notices);

• when visiting health care facilities;

• in social contact (written and oral invitations, posters);

• during accommodation, localizing a place and when traveling by public transport.
Vilma Zelinková, the director of the foreign language department at the Univerzita Jana Amose Komenského Praha (Jan Amos Komensky University Prague) shares this interpretation:

"Someone at this level should be able to order a meal, give and receive directions, and make an emergency call.

"They should be able to express simple concrete ideas in a simple way, a very simple way."

She feels that grammatical accuracy, such as how well the applicant know their cases and genders, would be overlooked at this level.

And how good should pronunciation be for someone at A1?

“The person can put his or her idea across somehow," says Zelinková. "He or she can make himself or herself understood."

In other words, even the most ardent monolinguist has a good chance of passing.

WHAT'S IN THE TEST?
An interactive sample of the reading comprehension and listening sections of the test are available online on the Czech for Foreigners site.

On the Czech for Foreigners site's For Download page there's also a link to a PDF of a complete sample test ("A Model Version of the Examination"), including the written component.

Below is a quick overview of the test's contents.

The test is in two parts: written and oral.

Written (Písemné části)
The written part lasts for 70 minutes and is further divided into three categories: reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and writing.

Reading Comprehension (Čtení s poruzuměním)
For the reading comprehension, applicants will be required to answer questions based on reading short texts and to fill in missing words in order to complete simple questions and answers.

This part will take 35 minutes and be worth points 70 points.

Listening Comprehension (Porozumění vyslechnutému textu)
Listening comprehension requires applicants to listen to a recording twice, take notes, and then complete tasks as in the sample test.

This section takes 20 minutes and is worth 20 points.

The listening test should play on Windows Media Player. Be warned there is a considerable gap between the first and second recordings.

Writing (Psaní)
In this section, the applicant will be required to write a letter or email of around 30 words (two or three sentences) in length, covering a range of points set out in the question.

The applicant will have 15 minutes to complete this task, which is worth 10 points.

Applicants need to score at least 60 percent in each section, not only overall, to pass the written section.

Oral (Ústní částí)
The oral examination lasts 10 minutes. During this time the applicant is required to complete the following tasks:

• Introduce themselves (name, age, birthplace, birthplace, Czech address, languages spoken, work, hobbies, family)

• Choose a situation from 15 possible options and discuss that topic with the examiner, if necessary using pictures as an aid


HOW TO REGISTER

Registration for the examination opened on September 1st, 2008.

The Czech for Foreigners website has a full list of places where the examination can be taken in Prague and throughout the Czech Republic.


HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

Thankfully, the first attempt is free.

Applicants can obtain a voucher that covers the cost of the exam from the Interior Ministry.

Vouchers are available from the following locations:

Ministerstvo vnitra (Ministry of Interior)
Nad Štolou 3
170 34 Prague 7-Letná

Odbor azylové a migrační politiky (Department of Asylum and Migration Policy)
Kopečná 3
602 00 Brno

Odbor azylové a migrační politiky (Department of Asylum and Migration Policy)
Poděbradova 16
702 00 Ostrava

If you fail to pass the exam first time around, an unlimited number of retakes is available but each subsequent attempt costs 1,500 CZK.

Hodně štěstí!

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