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A Native American or a Native Pole: Who is better into which language?


Admin 32 | 1,530   Administrator
19 Nov 2005 /  #1
Unless you are lucky enough to be truly bilingual, then you're going to be stronger in your so-called "mother tongue" than any other language. Does this mean that a native speaker of English will do a better translation from Polish into English than a native speaker of Polish and vice-versa?

Well, this depends on the native speaker of English's knowledge of Polish and the native speaker of Polish's knowledge of English. He/she may write beautifully in their native tongue but if they don't know source language and culture well enough, they risk making a mistake.

I remember one time when I was on my interpreting course in Poland and we were interpreting a speech by a Polish politician in Parliament who was angrily bemoaning the state of the country. "Children are going to school without shoes, without breakfast and are fainting in the corridors" he ranted. The word for "to faint" is kind of similar to the word for "to feel nauseous, and I didn't pick up on which word was being used. You can imagine the other people in the language lab laughing their heads off when I interpreted the sentence as "Children are going to school without shoes, without breakfast and are throwing up in the corridors."

The same applies to the native speaker of Polish. They may speak perfect Polish but if they are not sufficiently well attuned to the nuances of the source language, they can run into difficulties. It annoys me when I read subtitles which are badly translated into Polish on the BBC Prime station in Poland when the translator has clearly misunderstood. For example, once, the phrase "I'm not pissed at all" was translated as "I'm not at all angry." This would have been OK if the program had been an American one. But "pissed" in British English means "drunk" and not "angry." I've seen plenty of mistakes like this. If I had done the subtitles, there may have been a few grammar mistakes, but the viewer would have had a guarantee of the translator's full understanding of what was being said.

In a way, I feel more comfortable translating or interpreting into Polish because I know that I will fully understand the speaker. And coming from Britain, I am used to hearing a whole range of different accents. I remember once when I was living in Kraków there was an Indian gentleman who was part of an investment project in the local steelworks. None of the Polish interpreters could understand him! I, on the other hand, had spent my whole life listening to people from India speaking English so I could interpret into Polish for the gentleman.

And I know that often Polish interpreters prefer interpreting into English. English grammar is simpler than Polish grammar; often when you are interpreting into Polish you can only interpret after the whole sentence has been uttered to make sure you get all the declinations right. And a native Pole has valuable cultural knowledge that an native speaker of English may lack thus resulting in an erroneous translation.

Language and culture are inextricably entwined and so any interpreter has got to be familiar with the history and culture of the country where their source language is spoken. Only now, after years of living in Poland do I see how a knowledge of Polish history and an understanding of what the Polish nation has been though is invaluable when translating. Similarly any Pole wishing to translate well into English must be familiar with British history. Then, when there is a famous quote or saying, the interpreter knows how to render it properly.

Generally speaking though, a translator translates best into their native language. And this is what most translators do. If you want to work for EU institutions as a translator/interpreter, you interpret/translate into your native language. However, this only holds true on the condition that you have an excellent knowledge of source language and the culture of the people who speak it.

---

Contributed by: Matt Hammo, a British-Polish translator based in Poland
Mark2  
24 Jan 2006 /  #2
Yes, English grammar is MUCH simplier than the Polish one... I would estimate it take a "normal" man or woman more than a year to learn the Polish grammar.
Guest  
12 Jun 2006 /  #3
On the other hand there are more tense-s in English, which makes English a difficoult language as well.
Guest  
12 Jun 2006 /  #4
Only two tenses in English. Present and Past. Future is formed from present tenses.
Guest  
12 Jun 2006 /  #5
Dosn`t English have 16 (something) tenses ?:)

...

Present Continues

...

Past Present

...

(blahblahblah)

btw. I`ve learned English mainly from Tv - I`d didn`t get into the gramatics part so much - that`s why I`m asking.
Guest  
12 Jun 2006 /  #6
Present Tense: I do do, I do
Present Continuous Tense: I am doing, I am doing tomorrow
Present Perfect Tense: I have done
Present Perfect Continuous Tense: I have been doing

Past Tense: I did do, I did
Past Continuous Tense: I was doing
Past Perfect Tense: I had done
Past Perfect Continuous Tense: I had been doing

Future Tense: I will do
Future Continuous Tense: I will be doing
Future Perfect Tense: I will have done
Future Perfect Continuous Tense: I will have been doing
Guest  
12 Jun 2006 /  #7
Yes - I`m always not sure which one should I use. For instance, I don`t see any big difference between: "I will have done" and "I will have been doing".

We`ve got only 3 tenses where in each tense you`ll only change the form of the verb (which is very easy and logical) to achieve the same result as it is the case in English by adding all those "have, been, had, will ect. + various verb forms". At least for me it`s a littlebit confusing.
Guest  
21 Jun 2006 /  #8
Well, maybe we have 3 tenses in Polish but try to conjugate "to do" in Polish and English then you'll see 3 tenses dont make the whole thing easier :)
glowa 1 | 291  
21 Jun 2006 /  #9
do you people know anything about Polish grammar?

first of all the meaning of "tense" is different in Polish and English - we would call these tenses: past, present, future and that's all

but for example: action complete/incomplete - which in english is expressed as a tense (i will do, i will have done and so on) in Polish we do not consider as a tense-something construction but as a form.

now there are no prepositions in Polish which make it really complicated when it comes to forms (it's also a reason why the Poles can't quite get a grasp on it in English)

the form of the verb in Polish has nothing to do with the English thing. for an English speaking person you might basicaly explain that almost every conjugation is an exception.

declination is a hell to learn correctly - even for the Poles themselvesl. well, English doesn't have it at all.

whoever says that Polish is simple is a damn heretic or very naive:)

ok, one correction, I'm not saying English is simple, but comparing to Polish it still remains a fart.... as most western languages anyway. they are very schematic complaring to ours.
Guest  
3 Jul 2006 /  #10
Yes, English grammar is MUCH simplier than the Polish one... I would estimate it take a "normal" man or woman more than a year to learn the Polish grammar.

English pronounciation must be crazy for the non-native. Words like 'laughter' and 'slaughter' or 'dough' and 'doe' have got to be so fustrating for them. There is no consistancy to English sometimes. Once one masters the consonant cluster (I'm still working on it) Polish is very consistant.
bossie 1 | 123  
9 Jul 2006 /  #11
About tenses in Polish - at school children are taught that there are three of them, however if you consider that each tense has also the continuous form, that make it six.

About tenses in English - true, there are just two, modals and auxiliaries are to blame for the 16-tense mess.

Pronunciation in Polish is easy, as long as you manage to learn some sounds; many of them are present in other languages, e.g. Italian or French. Once you do, reading is a piece of cake.

English, on the other hand, has many sounds that do not appear in any other language, and also trying to pronounce an unfamiliar word can easily become a disaster.
Qosmiooooo  
5 Jun 2007 /  #12
There is in fact 24 tenses in English language. Strictly speaking you must realise the 12 tenses come in ACTIVE and PASSIVE forms.
Amathyst 19 | 2,702  
5 Jun 2007 /  #13
The one thing that confuses me in Polish is the way that you can use double negatives in a sentense
Michal - | 1,865  
6 Jun 2007 /  #14
Yes, English grammar is MUCH simplier than the Polish one... I would estimate it take a "normal" man or woman more than a year to learn the Polish grammar

No rubbish; Polish grammar is easier than French grammar even.

The one thing that confuses me in Polish is the way that you can use double negatives in a sentense

Why, Africaans does it all the time.

but comparing to Polish it still remains a fart.... as most western languages anyway. they are very schematic complaring to ours.

Since when has Polish been considered a difficult language?

declination is a hell to learn correctly - even for the Poles themselvesl. well, English doesn't have it at all.

Polish is much easier than German.
blindside70 - | 13  
6 Jun 2007 /  #15
All languages have there nuiances.

I think its easier to be understood in English but harder to perfect....

Learning Polish involves a lot of doing exercises ad nauseum ....

The truth is any language should have you doing a lot of exercises (even if they're boring)
but the noun casing in Polish really can only be learned by drilling drilling.....

A lot of foreigners who are understood easily think that they are fluent (and they are maybe depending on how you look at it) but they make a lot mistakes with word order and don't sound intelligent at all to the typical British or American person.

Anyway that's my take. Btw no language is inferior you can express every idea in one major language into another

Chris Sarda
Dedicated (beginning) Polish Learner
English Teacher (in Poland)
HAL9009 2 | 304  
6 Jun 2007 /  #16
As a native english speaker and a learner of Polish I think that Polish would be quite easy if it wasn't for the case system!

But it does have it's case system (as opposed to the "easier to learn for a foreigner" case systems in some other languages), so it's not so easy. All those different endings all mixed up together, which need to be learnt and then put to use, correctly....

Lots of exercises needed for me here I think. I shall eat my grammar book!

Spelling & pronounciation in Polish is a dream! - so easy once you learn how. The only letter I often don't hear is "j"

Took me ages to get the hang of "tak" in Polish, as it means "thank you" in Swedish....

One of the easiest languages to learn a working knowledge of, for a native English speaker is Romanian - very satisfying to study. Like German and Polish it has cases and gender and it uses prepositions. Unlike them all the case endings in Romanianare nearly the same for every case, so you have so much less to learn off.
TheKruk 3 | 308  
7 Jun 2007 /  #17
Yeah and Sanskrit is far more difficult than Polish I even learnt a litle Atlantian talk about a difficult language oh man but of the 45 languages I know Polish ranks 13th or 14th depending on the day in difficulty.
freebird 3 | 532  
8 Jun 2007 /  #18
Languages are equally tough to learn. It depends on a person's ability and motivation
Michal - | 1,865  
13 Jun 2007 /  #19
of the 45 languages I know Polish ranks 13th or 14th depending on the day in difficulty.

Mind you, the Americans have a reputation of being crap at learning languages. I remember them in both Moscow and in Krakow and they never really shone.
FISZ 24 | 2,116  
13 Jun 2007 /  #20
the Americans have a reputation of being crap at learning languages

Your mouth is crapping again :)

Being American has nothing to do with ones learning ability. Being slavic may help a bit though.

Where do you get these things? LOL
ukinpoland 5 | 338  
13 Jun 2007 /  #21
Why, Africaans does it all the time.

Michal Youre not English are you?
Wroclaw 44 | 5,386  
13 Jun 2007 /  #22
Is it Michal G......h
Michal - | 1,865  
14 Jun 2007 /  #23
Why, Africaans does it all the time.

All I was talking about was the double negative and Africans has the double negative, for example, nie rook nie-no smoking.
ukinpoland 5 | 338  
14 Jun 2007 /  #24
Why, Africaans does it all the time.

Africans do it all the time

Africans has the double negative

africans have the double negative

Thats why i thought you are not English, because of these mistakes.
Michal - | 1,865  
14 Jun 2007 /  #25
No, it is not a mistake, they have a double negative as I have said, for example, nie rook nie. Read what I have said.

Anyway, what would you know about double negatives, you still have to learn Polish!
ukinpoland 5 | 338  
14 Jun 2007 /  #26
you still have to learn Polish

Oh I have to!! Sorry boss I will get onto that right away. Geez what a fruitcake. Go sit on a Fred Astaire, bargain hunt.

and i think the double negative is one of the first things you learn when you learn Polish Nic nie rozumiesz, nic nie masz etc
Nic - | 9  
14 Jun 2007 /  #27
Hello Admin! I wish to clarify a point. You used the term 'Native American' in your Topic title. It is true that English is America's mother tongue. However, the only true 'Native American' is a member of one of a few hundred different Indian Tribes. You can check it with search engines on the Net under 'Tribes of the American Indians'. I'm not here to criticize just clarify. Your Posting was excellent.
Michal - | 1,865  
15 Jun 2007 /  #28
Geez what a fruitcake. Go sit on a Fred Astaire, bargain hunt

Well, I am sorry but was it not you who was asking about the meaning of the Polish word 'murzyn'? If you do not even know such a basic simple word, you obviously do not speak Polish. I assume from what you have been saying that you are learning Polish. Why am I a fruitcke? In fact, I bet you do not know what a fruitcke in Polish is either!
FISZ 24 | 2,116  
15 Jun 2007 /  #29
However, the only true 'Native American' is a member of one of a few hundred different Indian Tribes.

That's right. This thread caught my attention, but had nothing to do with Native Americans :)

I would think that Native Americans would be able to learn Polish just as easily as anyone. We (NA) actually have a good report with Poland. Native Am's were even sent to Poland not too long ago to teach the polish tracking skills.

Just look at Stanisław Supłatowicz AKA Sat Okh (long feather) He was a Polish soldier who lived in Gdansk...I think :)

Wanishi :)
Marek 4 | 867  
15 Jun 2007 /  #30
Greetings, Matt "Administrator"!

As a basically bilingual US-born German-English speaker who learned Polish at the ripe age of about early 30-something, I would say that even the best of us can really only possess at most TWO so-called mother tongues (lit. "father tongues" in Polish = jezyk ojczyny). I would NEVER consider myself bilingual on Polish, probably I never will be and the enlightened native Polish members of this forum would obviously agree! -:)

There are examples however of that notable exception: the true language genius or polyglot who not only masters their second language, but has moved beyond mere mimicry into the wonderworld of stylistically composing to the delight of native speakers in that second language and who then becomes a national standard.

The only human with whom I'm familiar (and have enjoyed reading) was, happily for us
all, a native Pole who never saw his adopted country until in his twenties and never studied his adopted language formally until early adulthood: His name is Joseph ('scuse me "Józef") Conrad (originaly family names escapes me). Curiously, though he wrote like the most masterful of mother-tongue stylists, when he spoke English, his accent and even grammar were said to be embarrassingly "Polish"!

Marek

Michal,
Afrikaans is the only language I know with a "defective" first person of the verb "to be": Ek is..., lit. "I is". Certainly, it's the ony Germanic tongue with this feature with which I'm familiar!

Comments?
Marek

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