Czech Cops Can’t Help Foreigners, Test Showed

In Language, Travel on April 29, 2008 by Petr Bokuvka

The Denik chain of affiliate newspapers conducted a nationwide test of patrol cops and cops-on-duty on several precincts. The journalists pretended to be foreigners who were robbed or who had a similar problem.

And the result?

In most cases the reaction to Is there anyone who speaks English? or to a more complicated sentences was – big surprise – the cop’s Czech version of Ah, too bad, I don’t understand a word or You gotta call the 112 emergency number

In a subsequent poll, 82 percent of respondents said cops do need to speak a foreign language, while only 18 percent said they do not. The Chief Commissioner of the Police promises changes: the street patrols in Prague [or in tourist-favorite locations] should have multi-language brochures that shall describe in detail what a victim of petty crime should do.

I see two problems with this issue:

  • the “if you travel somewhere, learn something” principle: tourist guide books to many countries include pieces of advice like If you try at least some basic words, the locals will appreciate it and they will much nicer to you. I am sure when Americans go to Mexico, they say things like Gracias or Muy rapido, por favor. I am sure it would help if tourists tried at least some basic words. BUT THERE IS ALSO THE “PROBLEM B” 🙂
  • English or other foreign language has been mandatory at high schools for almost 15 years and street patrol cops should know some of it. The police say that the knowledge of a foreign language is not mandatory for applicants. — Hmm, so why don’t you make it mandatory, I have to ask.

Notwithstanding the above, a cop who responds to a foreign language inquiry in slow and over-articulated Czech, thinking he will make himself more understandable, is an idiot!

Photo: (C) Ministry of the Interior


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