Waiters in tourist spots do, at the hotel desk they do, people under 25 do, police officers don't, grandmothers don't.
Some travelers feel the need to learn a few words before they go on vacation. They want to be able to say hello, please and thank you in the local language. The Czech Republic has its own national language aptly called Czech.
Besides being Slavic language, with its inherent difficulties for most English speakers, Czech has an added twist of having R's that are really hard to pronounce. The R with a little accent over it is a distinct sound unique to the Czech language. It is made by touching the tip of the tongue to the roof of the mouth and then by blowing air you let the tongue slap against the palate a few times. Children need to practice this sound as part of their language lessons. Veteran non-native Czech speakers give themselves away instantly by the way they pronounce their slapping ř.
To say ‘hi’ to the bell boy and ‘thank you’ to the waiter are easy enough - Ahoj and dekuji (no R’s). The struggle starts when you try to string a few words together - there is a reason Czech is considered the Rolls Royce of languages. It has many intricacies and rules that can make your head spin even before you have your first half litre mug of beer (pivo).
Ordering a beer is not as simple as it might seem. In English if you want one beer you say ‘one beer please’. If you have more than one beer you add an ‘s’ to the end, ‘Five beers please’. Simple - add an S. But in Czech it is a little more complicated than that. Here is a quick guide depending how much you enjoy the world famous Czech beer.
The word beer changes depending on how many you want. And that just beer.
Fortunately the Czech people realize their language is difficult and are not disappointed when you try and fail to sputter out a few words. They will smile and correct you. You will say it wrong again.
Before the Velvet Revolution in 1989 in which the Czechs peacefully kicked out the Communists Czechs had to learn Russian in school. But now, with the Russians gone, English is the secondary language of choice. Everybody under the age of 25 knows at least a little English - enough to give you directions or point to the nearest McDonald's. With older people you will have better luck if you speak Russian.
In Prague all the tourist spot attendants and waiters speak English. All the little gift shops, trinket stores, Starbucks and cab drivers speak English. Everybody in the tourist areas know enough English to help you buy whatever they are selling. The only people who do not speak English are the police officers, so if you are in trouble make sure you have your translation book ready.
If you are planning to leave the tourist spots and go for a day trip to one of the beautiful little towns outside of Prague (and I recommend that you do) be prepared to do plenty of pointing and hand gestures. Most places do not have English menus and if you cannot find somebody under 25 you are #$%^ out of luck. But don't worry - town people are kind. They rarely get tourists so you are a treat. Walk into a restaurant, sit down, point to the beer taps, indicate with your fingers how many you want, have a look around at what the people are eating, point to one of the plates and there you go - living like a local.
So, to answer the original question, Do people speak English in Prague? Waiters in tourist spots do, at the hotel desk they do, people under 25 do, police officers don't, grandmothers don't.
The Local Explore Kit includes a Czech language cheat sheet with common Czech words you might want to know as you walk around Prague.
I hope you find this website helpful. I created the website because I love Prague, I enjoy writing about it, and I get a weird kick out of helping you make your trip to Prague more enjoyable.
I wrote a book about local travel in Prague. The book is my pride, my joy, my unbiological offspring. It was written with a passionate heart. If you find this website helpful consider getting my book. You will receive an entertaining book full of useful tips that will instil in you the confidence to wander the local streets of Prague. The book is also included in the popular Prague Local Explore Kit Bag.
Roman : Prague 2015