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International View: Can living abroad make you a stranger at home?

Posted on 01 July 2012 by Lenka Silhanova

Even though my English isn’t perfect, I’ve always thought of it as my other first language. It’s of an equal importance to me as my native language, Czech. From my own experience, when I try to speak with any other language that isn’t on such a level as my English, I’m simply thinking in Czech or English and translating the words in that language. But it’s not like that with English.

I find that I’ve gotten to the point where if I’m speaking English, I think in English. When I speak in Czech, I think in Czech. It’s completely separate for me and I can swap between the two during a conversation. However, the longer I was abroad, the more dominant English has become in my head. Sometimes I struggled to find the word in Czech and the word kept popping up in English instead.

Some people even told me that I have an accent now, that I don’t quite sound Czech and I’ve even been asked to confirm if I am Czech. Even though others say I don’t sound any different and we laugh about it, it did leave me worrying. Do I really have to focus on getting rid of a ‘foreign’ accent in Czech after I spent so long learning an American accent and attempting British RP? Wouldn’t that be ironic?

Just being home and using Czech on a daily basis helps, and I can only hope it won’t affect my casting options. Speaking English suddenly counts as a special skill, that may hopefully be a great advantage as it puts me in a smaller pool of actors here in the Czech Republic and I intend to make the most of it.

I’ve spent the past few weeks researching casting agencies in Czech, figuring out the differences between the USA and UK markets that I’m familiar with compared with the Czech one. They have so far been a mystery to me, but I’m getting there. It seems more difficult here to get information about the industry until you are in it, but how are you supposed to break in if you don’t have information on how to break in in the first place? It’s a funny little circle.

What about all my acting training from USA and UK – is this an advantage or disadvantage? Having some training had finally gotten me into some casting agencies’ databases, listing me as a professional actress. It has certainly opened some doors that were shut before, yet I’ve still been asked about some Czech training – and that is not as easy to acquire considering the number of places at which to train.

Yet in the end, does it really matter that much? You can’t possibly please everyone. Being a little different may not be so bad after all as long as you do a good job and enjoy what you do. Will it ever stand in the way of getting a role? Possibly, although I like to bear in mind this enlightening quote by Bonnie Gillespie: “If the role is yours, there is nothing you can do that will keep you from getting it. If the role is not yours, there is nothing you can do that will help you get it.”

Image credit: Bentley Smith.

Lenka Silhanova

Lenka Silhanova

Lenka is an actor and blogger currently working in the Czech Republic and UK, who has also experienced the US market. She's sharing what she's learned and experienced with AYT readers. Lenka also has a personal blog called Acting Abroad and is helping potential drama school students on the IDSA blog.

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