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Should I learn both Polish and German

12 Feb 2007 /  #1
if I am going to (possibly) be living in Poland for 1 to 2 years?

I am American. I don't know either language. I can read Latin (from 4 years of high school classes) and can read Spanish fairly well, (from 2 courses in college designed to help me translate poems and essays from Spanish to English), but have a lot of trouble speaking either one.

Foreign languages are NOT my forte and I am 40 years old. An old dog can't learn new tricks, right?!

Is there a language course or style, or instructional process, anyone recommends for either language? I would like to be somewhat conversational (not fluent, mind you, but easily understood by native speakers) prior to going. Our departure is not certain, but we possibly could be there by August 2007.

We will be in Krakow, but my husband will work in Skowina, mostly, and will travel back and forth to Germany.

I have heard it is rude to speak Russian there now, a moot point since I know only the alphabet in that language. I have heard English is widely understood and spoken in Krakow by most younger people, and German also.

But, I would like to be polite and learn the language. I do not want to learn lower class grammar forms or "servant speak".

My question is, should I try to learn both languages? Or concentrate only on Polish?
Zgubiony 15 | 1,553  
12 Feb 2007 /  #2
You should find a lot of basic learning fundamentals here in the grammar section that should get you rolling. Practice the alphabet and pronunciation to start. Good luck!
Huegel 1 | 296  
12 Feb 2007 /  #3
Obviously I don't know how widely spoken German is in Poland and as only a beginner in Polish myself, i'd suggest concentrating on one or the other. German, whilst a lot more difficult than English, is a lot easier than Polish.

However, as you say you'll be living in Poland, I think you should go for learning Polish, doing both would probably be distracting.

If you do decide German is the road you want to take Ich stehe gern zur Verf├╝gung. :)

Good luck whatever you decide to do.
Chris - | 13  
12 Feb 2007 /  #4
Mein deutsch ist nicht so gut :(

Erm... I can't really speak much German 'cause I was a fool in school - remember children, stick in at school! But sometimes I can sort of understand another workmate from Lithuania as he can speak a little German.

Sorry if this post is pointless but I thought it may help somehow. German is relatively easy having had a look online at Polish, I'm a tad reluctant and nervous but I think if I was to take it up then I'm sure it would come to me as I hear Polish conversations about 7 hours a day out of my 8 hour shift lol.
Marek 4 | 867  
17 Feb 2007 /  #5
I recommend both.

As I've recently found in this forum, many Poles seem eager to "practice" their English skills, often at the expense at using their often far more precise native tongue (perhaps to the detriment of clearer understanding!)

German is much more phonetically transparent than English, certainly in terms of its orthography, grammatically/morphologically, that's another story though.

Polish is the language used in everyday life in Poland. Unlike in Germany, most Poles are not able to (or even willing) to try to switch to relatively fluent English when meeting monolingual foreign visitors.

Again, learning both will only make things easier for all concerned.
English may seem the "world" language, but this is more myth than reality in may experience.

Duzo powodzenia!/Viel Glueck!


Hi, Chris!

Don't let Polish scare you. It might seem more challenging than German in the beginning, but it's even more phonetically regular and much more so than English.

Spoken Polish can be difficult to follow for many foreigners I've encountered learning it in the US. Like Americans, Poles use a lot of slang, even more than Germans. Written Polish though is usually quite formal and the grammar does take practice. Similar to German however, it also has cases (in Polish "przypadki"), but has less complicated verb conjugations.

Huegel 1 | 296  
17 Feb 2007 /  #6
phonetically regular.

That'll be all the fibre then. :)

Hope you're right Marek, I'm sure it'll click one day but as it is, i'm still struggling to pronounce the number 3 properly in Polish where as in contrast, I was forming conditionals in German after the same amount of study time.
Polish_chick14 1 | 13  
17 Feb 2007 /  #7
I can tell you from a personal expirence that learning Polish is extremly difficult, yet I think you should focus on it, because it is more widly spoken in Poland
Marek 4 | 867  
19 Feb 2007 /  #8
I agree.

Poles DON'T enjoy either hearing or necessarily speaking German any longer, particularly the youth.

Are you a Polish native speaker? Your English seems quite good, surprisingly. Many Poles now try to speak English abroad (understandable), but the results are normally less than satisfying!

Germans tend to speak English with mistakes too, often aggregious ones, but frequently do so with such self confidence that the listener is often unaware of the error until a short time later.


Polish has those awful consonant clusters! It sometimes takes native speakers years to master them, even when learned in childhood.

People used to joke that former Premier Lech Walesa spoke Polish much the way US-President Bush speaks English, repleat with grammar errors.

Oddly enough, it was a Pole by birth (later the great English author Joseph Conrad) who became one of the best writers in English, his style indistinguishable from a Brit. He leaned English, incidentally, only on his early twenties!!

When he spoke however, his Polish accent and phrase mangling became woefully apparent.

Wroclaw 44 | 5,369  
19 Feb 2007 /  #9
When he spoke however, his Polish accent and phrase mangling became woefully apparent.

You must be getting on in years, if you can remember that. :)
globetrotter 3 | 106  
19 Feb 2007 /  #10
No - everybody should learn English - see the article below:

Study or Starve

Unemployed immigrants in the UK will
be made to study English or face losing
social benefit payments under a government
initiative aimed at tackling the fact
that job centres spend around GBP 4.5 million
a year on translation fees while as
many as 40,000 immigrants claim they
cannot find work due to poor English.
Welfare minister Jim Murphy believes the
money would be better spent on language
tuition. From April those out of work with
poor English skills will have to prove that
they are enrolled on an English course.

Then yoo culd speke as gud as wot us natives cann
Marek 4 | 867  
19 Feb 2007 /  #11
Nearly everyone already does!

Problem is though, they will most likely never learn it as well as "we natives" do :)
Many however think the contrary and this is where difficulties arise.

Another stumbling block is that in every country where English is taught as a foreign language, only natives of that country teach young pupils, NOT Brits, Yanks or even Canadians. For the latter, the government waits until the learners are almost out of highschool!

By that time, it's nearly too late. The non-native's accent and speech pattern in English has already been imprinted in the student's brain since grade school!

Matyjasz 2 | 1,544  
19 Feb 2007 /  #12
By that time, it's nearly too late. The non-native's accent and speech pattern in English has already been imprinted in the student's brain since grade school!

I like the british accent very much, but by trying to emulate it I feel very artificial and silly so I try to sound more... erm neutral. :) More closer to General American than British I think. :)
Marek 4 | 867  
20 Feb 2007 /  #13
What's easier, Matyjasz, to write in English or in Polish?
Co jest latwiej dla ciebie, pisac po angielsku lub po polsku?

German's easier for me than either, but I'm just curious (Jestem ciekawy).



Once I sat in on an English lesson given here in my city, in Queens N.Y. not far from the second largest Polish immigration area outside Chicago, in Greenpoint Brooklyn. The teacher was a Polish-American (but from Poland!), her pupils were the monolingual sons and daughters of visiting diplomats, here on extended leave from the Polish government, and the first few minutes were as follows

Goot morrrnink, goot morrrnink my styoodents!
Todaj vee talkink about secont lasson in textbook....

I cringed to think how English language instruction in Poland must be if all the primary school instructors are not native English speakers. Do most speak as this lady did or does_

Perhaps though a few talented ones slip past. :)

28 Feb 2007 /  #14
deutsh grammatik ist nicht schwer
Marek 4 | 867  
28 Feb 2007 /  #15
Hallo, mido_int!

Polnisch ist doch schwerer:) Jezyk polski jest trudniej.

1 Mar 2007 /  #16
hallo marek vielen dank
Michal - | 1,865  
26 Mar 2007 /  #17
Jezyk polski jest trudniej

jezyk polski jest trudny or polski jest trudniejszy niz or jezyk polski jest trudniesjszy niz angielski albo niemiecki na przyklad.
Marek 4 | 867  
29 Mar 2007 /  #18
Bitte, bitte. Gern geschehen! Prosze bardzo, mido!
29 Mar 2007 /  #19
English may seem the "world" language, but this is more myth than reality in may experience.

how can you say that? english is definitely the number one world language - statistics back that up, whilst French is in second only have to investigate the huge demand for english teachers around the world....(especially native speakers)...I am staggered at the growth and adoption of english over the past 10 years's something one would not have predicted 30 years ago......
BubbaWoo 33 | 3,506  
29 Mar 2007 /  #20
English may seem the "world" language, but this is more myth than reality in may experience.

not sure what reality you are living in marek...
Marek 4 | 867  
30 Mar 2007 /  #21

English definitely IS the number one language today of miscommunication. :)
You're in Australia, I see. Well, when last in the UK, (hope that's pc, or d'you prefer Great Britain?), there was a sign hanging in front of a bookshop in Oxford Street which summed up completely the global stew we're living in: BROKEN ENGLISH, SPOKEN PERFECTLY. By the way, in New York, it's far worse.

That sign really says it all!

Likewise, Bubba :)

The case is not only of speaker percentage as much as of standard and anyone with ears can tell that standard(s) has/have declined immeasurably over the last decades.

Sure, purists rub people the wrong way. Sure, "standard" has become a dirty little word, misinterpreted by some and misused by faschistic types. Granted.

Nonetheless, it bugs me no end that North Europeans especially (including here Poles, by the way!) imagine their textbook English to be so good, that foreigners no longer need to learn their languages as they need to learn ours. On the whole, I will say, a large number of Europeans pride themselves on speaking fluent English.

However, fluency without accuracy is like icing without the cake (or vice-versa): It's an incomplete picture.

I readily admit my Polish is not accurate. I am though ALWAYS willing to be corrected.
Michal - | 1,865  
30 Mar 2007 /  #22
I think that Marek's remark was really about language difficulty and not really about number of native speakers. Obviously, English speakers outnumber Polish speakers but the question was about difficulty of grammar. Is French in second position? That might have been true a hundred years ago. In England we hear Polish everywhere and so a knowledge of Polish is more useful on the streets at least than French but in school of course it will be French and then Spanish as a second language for school examination purposes.
daffy 23 | 1,500  
30 Mar 2007 /  #23
yes, i agree with michal,

today, polsih lessons for english seems very practical!

and with poland in the EU, there is all the more incentive for it to be taught!

we even have a polish school in Ireland now!
Marek 4 | 867  
31 Mar 2007 /  #24
Thank you, Michal!!! :)
That was precisely what I'm saying.
daffy 23 | 1,500  
31 Mar 2007 /  #25
what i find truly interesting (and amazing) is the amount of diverse and unique language variations we have in such a small landmass! (if we look at the grand scheme of things - europe is not that big!)
1 Apr 2007 /  #26
English definitely IS the number one language today of miscommunication.
You're in Australia, I see.

Even so, my comment is still valid as I was referring to the fact that English is spoken in more countries than any other language, and French speaking countries are in second place (can't quote source, but was legitimate source) for the distortion of English, well, that happens in every language I'm sure, especially when so many people using it don't have a very good grounding in the first place.....but even in english speaking countries, the language is changing - often not for the better.....anyone who appreciates language knows that it evolves over time - read any Shakespeare.......

And, what is your point about being in Australia???? pray, do tell.......
Marek 4 | 867  
2 Apr 2007 /  #27
You've made a number of good points. As to the "spread" of English, my goodness, you make it sound like a species of fungus, at worst, a contagious disease. :)

Apropos of nothing other than my own recollection, a colleague made the funniest of Freudian slips when he referred in his talk to Polish, among others, as an "infected", rather than an "inflected" language. Thought I'd bust a gut laughing!

And precisely because English is often subject to distortion, Europeans in particular should more and more understand why Americans feel the need to learn, their languages. Remember, wanting to learn a foreign language and being forced to learn it in school, are two very differnt animals.

2 Apr 2007 /  #28
As to the "spread" of English, my goodness, you make it sound like a species of fungus, at worst, a contagious disease

very funny have a way with words that I find appealling.....
Marek 4 | 867  
2 Apr 2007 /  #29
......and others here might find appalling. :)

I often deplore how non-native English speakers merrily mangle our mother tongue, mutilating her beyond recognition, even to closest relations. Witness the following:

"I am avacado in my COWWentry, following electrocution lessons for to apporbat-UH my English..." Translation: I'm a lawyer in my country and I'm taking elocution classes in order to improve my English.

When I corrected this gentleman some time ago, I was arrogantly told that "his" sentence was correct and mine was wrong, i.e. not "British" enough.

I rest my case!!!
Fitfully yours,
2 Apr 2007 /  #30
I often deplore how non-native English speakers merrily mangle our mother tongue

are you a native english speaker? I though you were polish........the avocado story is it for real or are you pulling my leg??

Marek, you're a little hard on people who are learning english - it's a difficult language to master, particularly, verbally.....where I live, we have migrants from over 230 nations - can you imagine the variations of english that exist here?......It doesn't bother me at all...they have to start somewhere.....just as my parents did years ago.......:)

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