If the Slovak language seems more like the Czech than the Czech seems like the Slovak, there is a good reason for this. Since Czech being further West, was standardised earlier and first utilised by the clergy as schools were established in Slovakia, it had a deep influence in the region.
And though both Czech and Slovak began to differentiate themselves from West Slavic in the 10th to 12th centuries, it took several centuries before Slovak dialects started to be used administratively.
The first records of a national Slovak literature on mainly religious topics or such of antiquity, based on ancient Greek and Roman tales, are to be found in the 16th century, primarily written in Latin. And though at the same time Vavrinec Benedikt of Nedožery helped to ignite the drive for Slovak standardisation, it would be more than 2 centuries before a unified Slovak language emerged.
The initial drive sought to utilise the Western Slovak dialect as the basis for standardisation and the first Slovak language adventure novel, written in the Western Slovak language, René mláďenca príhodi a skúsenosťi by Jozef Ignác Bajza, was published in 1783.
And by the 1840s, through the efforts of young Slovak Lutherans, notably Ľudovít Štúr, and, presumably, in a bid to further differentiate from Czech, the central Slovak dialect soon became accepted as standard Slovak.
It was only in 1918, with the establishment of Czechoslovakia, when the Slovak language was declared as an official language for the first time in history, along with the Czech.
During the first 18-year iteration of Czechoslovakia, from 1920-1938, the first attempts to advance the idea of Czech and Slovak being different dialects of the same language were made. Followed by the Constitutional Law of Federation in 1968 which confirmed equal rights for the Slovak and the Czech languages in the federation.
The last months of 1989 saw the Velvet Revolution, a term, which by the way, was coined by an English translator. And after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, on 1st January 1993, Slovakia became an independent state with the Slovak language – its official language.
Today, looking closer at the Slovak and Czech languages, we find what Leonard Bloomfield calls a ‘dialect continuum.’ This means that, looking at a map of the Czech and Slovak republics, the areas closer to the border speak a more mutually intelligible language, while the regions further from the border are less similar- sometimes to the point of not being intelligible.
Modern Slovak language has 4 major dialects, which are mainly divided by geography: Western, Central, Eastern, and a combination of Western and Central called Lowland, all of which are divided by the Tatra mountains.
Outside of the dialects, the Slovak language can be a very free language. For starters, there are no articles, and when one is needed, a demonstrative pronoun is used; moreover, there is a relatively free word order, so emphasis and order are often determined by inflection. Yet, indeed, it is exactly the flexibility of the language, which turns it into a real translation and localisation challenge.
And our in-house Slovak translators and localisation experts have been facing the challenge on a daily basis for the last 25 years, translating and localising a huge variety of documents from all industry sectors.
→ Click here to contact our Slovak translation department.