Foreigners wanting to learn Slovak can quickly become overwhelmed by extensive charts of grammar. Slovak children spend hours learning grammar in school - if Slovaks themselves have so much trouble with their own language, how is a foreigner supposed to learn it? With the column Slovak Matters we will embark on a journey of discovering the language of this country, hopefully bringing humour to what can seem like a grind.
Perhaps the best place to begin is with greetings, dobré ráno ('good morning') being the earliest common formal salutation, followed by dobrý deň ('good day'), dobré popoludnie ('good afternoon') and dobrý večer ('good evening'). In Slovak as in English, good night (dobrú noc) is said in departure, sometimes as one staggers hiccuping home.
Of course, you're not always going to be greeted in such a formal way. Just as one may grunt mornin' to one's colleagues, so Slovaks may mutter dobrý to you and forget about the rest. Then too, if you're familiar with the greeter, you may be met with čau ('hi'), nazdar, servus, ahoj or čaves.