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Polish language problems (orthography)

2 Jul 2006 /  #1
I'm learning Polish and I thought I'd share this with you. I see absolutely NO SENSE why the Polish language contains these letters: "ó" and "u" vs "ż" vs "rz". They sound exactly the same, so the usage should be exactly the same.

Why in Polish this word: "żaden" is not correct when it sounds EXACTLY like "rzaden." It's not logical at all :). Or is it?

annab 6 | 23  
3 Jul 2006 /  #2
It is as much fun as your English: "where," "wear," "their," "there", etc. Don't they sound surprisingly the same?? Or cases, like “bear” = animal vs. “bear” = put up with….

You just have to put up with it. I guess it is to exercise your memory. Good for everyone... There are cases, however, when this little quirk makes a world of difference: “Bóg” vs. “buk” vs. “Bug” or “może” vs. “morze.”

Have fun learning Polish!
3 Jul 2006 /  #3
Sometimes it's things like this that don't make sense to me:

I don't understand: Nie rozumiem. me, thinking Dutch logic, it should've been:

Ja nie rozumie.

gosica 1 | 33  
3 Jul 2006 /  #4
Complicated ortography and grammar is part and parcel of our beautiful Polish language. As annab has shown to you, spelling can make a whole lot of a difference in Polish. Btw, some of the problematic graphemes (e.g. ch, h) used to be different also in pronouncation in the past so it was easier to differentiate between them. When it comes to the practice of skipping the personal pronoun in front of the verb, that's perfectly logical and correct in Polish. Polish is simply that kind of language that allows for that; the verb in personal form is able to convey the information about the person on its own (thanks to the fact that it is marked for number and person, in the past tense also for gender). When you look at it more closely it does make sense. And please, don't judge the logic of one language against some other totally unrelated language - Dutch is a germanic language, as opposed to slavic Polish, which makes a big difference.

Good luck to all those strugling to master Polish :)
3 Jul 2006 /  #5
yes, good luck and respect to those who try to learn our language.
As for the spelling differences, they are testimony to our Slavonic roots. For example, most words with the 'rz' correspond to Russian words with a soft 'r'" sound, e.g. "rzeka" - "r'eka" in Russian. That's useful if you know Russian, of coursew. Another hint is that 'rz' is often used after consonants such as 'b, p, t, d, k, g" and others, so in such cases you shouldn't write the 'ż'. Still, this leaves some questions unanswered, including 'żaden'

As for the 'u-ó' problem, Polish schoolchildren are taught as follows: if you find a word related to the problematic word that contains the letter 'o' where the /u/ sound is in the problematic word, you should use 'ó'. Otherwise, use 'u'..

For example the verb 'to speak' is mówić, because the word for sppech (mowa) contains an 'o' between the m and the w.
Similarly, główny (main) and głowa (head) - here the meanings are not similar at present, but you can see a link between what these two words mean, can't you?

Then, certain word forms have endings that are always spelt in the same way, such as the '-uje' ending of certain verbs: próbować - on próbuje (he is trying), ja próbuję (I am trying)

or the '-ów' ending of nouns in a certain grammatical case.
perhaps you might do with a book for schoolkids learning to write their native language?
OP Maggi  
3 Jul 2006 /  #6
Thank you for your answers. It's still confusing though :). English is more logical I think.

At least new Polish words are similar to English and easier to remember - for example "koncern" (concern), "komputer" (computer), "progres" (progres), "emancypacja" (emancypation), "kalkulować" (calculate) etc....
3 Jul 2006 /  #7
They look and sound similar, yes, but the meanings of some of these have evolved differently.
koncern is a holding, a business establishment. You cannot even use this word to describe a family concern, let alone concern for somebody
kalkulowac is more to do with estimating, planning ahead. For doing maths you should use the verb liczyc, which also means 'to count'
3 Jul 2006 /  #8
Thank you for your answers. It's still confusing though smile. English is more logical I think.

At least new Polish words are similar to English and easier to remember - for example "koncern" (concern), "komputer" (computer), "progres" (progres), "emancypacja" (emancypation), "kalkulować" (calculate) etc....

Well, I belive that it could be also interesting for you to know that the Polish word for "bicycle" is "rower" ...and it comes from the name of the former British bicycle manufactourer ...Rover :)

But in my opinion English is far less logical than Polish - especially when it comes to the construction of sentences.
3 Jul 2006 /  #9
This discussion on languages and their logic can last forever.... Everything is relative, most of us are monolingual so we look at the issue from the perspective of our native language.
11 Jul 2006 /  #10
I'm's seems that there are so many Polish people in England, I thought I'd take the time to learn ((only seems fare that I can listen in to their conversations too) (also just got back from Krakow and off again in Feb)...It's hard going, but maybe after I get past the 32 letters in the alpahabet and the sounds and anunciating it may get easier.....not ready to give up get, could do with a Polish friend to improve, but it seems using that term on some sites means you want to marry someone!! so I think I'll struggle on with my book, dvd and countless pages of how to....good point about there, their....most bloody english dont use the correct spellings half the time...
glowa 1 | 291  
11 Jul 2006 /  #11
my teacher once told me that far, far away and long, long time ago, in Polish language there was a difference in sound between ó an u i, ch and h and so on (not all the cases though). the differences degraded, but spelling prevailed. that's all. grammar attempts to explain it but all ends up with exceptions anyway. the origin of words also plays a role, of course.
Michal - | 1,865  
9 Mar 2007 /  #12
I do know that the Polish ending u for the genetive case must be used and that they never use the closed o plus accent. I do not know if there is a difference between rz or z in pronounciation but there is a difference between sz and si.
Big Rob - | 70  
10 Mar 2007 /  #13
I am clearly not as advanced as some, in all truth not advanced at all. All I can gather is the biggest difference in sentance structure is, that in Polish, the structure goes back to the Latin (hense the same alphabet system etc (not withstanding the huge russian influence) E.g. In English: Person - action - object, the rest of the world it seems including Poland: Person - object - action. In easy English, the question "What is this?" actually translates out from polish to be "What this is?". For myself this made some of the grammer a lot easier to get to grips with, but I am still lost like a blind man in a very dark wood.
Michal - | 1,865  
10 Mar 2007 /  #14
Polish grammar and sentence construction is easier than German. On the whiole, Polish sentences are similar in construction to their English counteroparts and should produce few problems.
ArturSzastak 3 | 593  
10 Mar 2007 /  #15
Yes its confusing, but thats why Polish is the so called "key" to all Slavic dialects. We are the only ones who can speak with Russians, Czechs, Slovaks, some Serbs/Croats, etc. The Czechs I know have trouble undertsanding Russian. This might be due to location, but I've found this quite a few times. :0
Michal - | 1,865  
11 Mar 2007 /  #16
Polish is not a key to any other language. Origunally, Russian was THE language but spread with the tribes many centuries ago. Polish too has changed a great deal over a historical time frame. Czech is closer to Serbian though it may be possible to understand a few words when they speak (one in every forty) though the written is a lit possible. If you look at Slovene written it is possible to understand a fair amount of the written text but that may be due to knowledge of Russian. Slovak is much closer to Polish.
4 Aug 2007 /  #17
Michal, "Origunally, Russian was THE language..."?! Russian was the language of Russians... that's it. Poland was originally much more influential in the Eastern European region than Russia.

Maggi, it's the heritage of the language from the years past. English only seems more logical when you learn it as your first language. On the other hand, Polish pronounciation is actually more logical. Partially based on Latin, many words are pronounced very much like in Spanish. Each letter in pronounced the same for the most part. Unlike English pronounciation -- not logical at all, you could say. An 'a' has many different ways of being pronounced: all, above, any, bad etc. or words like "taught", which in Polish would be written "tot" -- see simple! ;)
29 Apr 2008 /  #18
"żaden" is not correct

but "żaden" is actually correct :)
z_darius 14 | 3,968  
29 Apr 2008 /  #19
I'm learning Polish and I thought I'd share this with you. I see absolutely NO SENSE why the Polish language contains these letters: "ó" and "u" vs "ż" vs "rz". They sound exactly the same, so the usage should be exactly the same.

This is where historical grammar comes to play and help understand why in fact "ó" and "u" vs "ż" vs "rz" absolutely make sense.

These seemingly illogical rules od spelling and pronunciation are present in the English language for exactl the same (historic) reasons. For instance in english, how do you pronounce "oo", e, o, a. Why, in RP, you don't pronounce "r" (as in car) but still use it in writing. That makes "absolutely NO SENSE", does it? ;)

Origunally, Russian was THE language but spread with the tribes many centuries ago

Yet another example of Stalinist linguistics, huh?
In fact Russian was one of the languages in the East and its importance varied depending on the time. Polish, on the other hand, was THE language between the 16th and 18th century, a lingua franca of sorts in Central and Eastern Europe, due to the prominence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Marek 4 | 867  
30 Apr 2008 /  #20

Greg is correct about this "English is more logical" fallacy! English orthography is perhaps the most chaotic of any known tongue. Indeed, the fact that regrettably, most Americans (but not necessarily most English speakers, take bilingual Brits and many Canadians, even outside French-speaking areas) are monilingual only reinforces the thinking that their language is the one which makes the most sense. HOW CAN THEY COMPARE??

Frankly, it's a tiresome fallacy at this stage. It also supports the need for Americans to use English-speaking foreigners abroad, frequently as a crutch for their own linguistic laziness, even concerning their mother language of American English.

Many US-tourists report back how either "everybody in Europe speaks fluent English!", or, "I thought more people would speak better English." This forum is a perfect example; English-speaking Poles make dozens of errors in their English, yet English-speaking Polish learners don't speak up. Is it that rude to bring up politely someone's mistakes, although the other person is trying to help you to learn their language?
F15guy 1 | 160  
30 Apr 2008 /  #21
Michal:Origunally, Russian was THE language but spread with the tribes many centuries ago.

"All Slavic tongues are believed to have evolved from a single parent language, usually called Proto-Slavic, which, in turn, is thought to have split off much earlier (possibly c.2000 B.C.) from Proto-Indo-European, the original ancestor of the members of the Indo-European language family. Proto-Slavic was probably still common to all Slavs in the 1st cent. B.C., and possibly as late as the 8th or 9th cent. A.D., but by the 10th cent. A.D. the individual Slavic languages had begun to emerge." (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia)

I learned Polish at the Army Language School years ago. There were other students taking Czech, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, Russian, etc. I found that I could better under those other Slavic language, then they could understand Polish.

For example, friend in Czech is přítel, in Slovak it is priate, in Slovene it is prijatelj and in Polish it is przyjaciel, but pronounced as if it is pszyjaciel.

The other could not under przyjaciel as being přítel or priate or prijatelj. The Psz sound was lost to them because they expected pr.
Marek 4 | 867  
30 Apr 2008 /  #22
.......Furthermore, Polish is the only extant (surviving) Slavic language with the nasals 'ą' and 'ę'. Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Czech have all lost this peculiarity of modern Polish.

The problem with Slavic languages, is essentially the same as for any languages from related families, for instance Danish and Norwegian, German and Dutch; false friends, i.e. lexical senemes whose meaning appears similar to identical, but has another, even opposite, meaning e.g. 'ogród' (garden) in Polish whose root 'gród' is related to the proto-Slavic 'gorod', later 'grad' as in Russian place names 'StalinGRAD', 'LeninGRAD' etc., or 'pismo' in Polish vs. 'pismo' in Russian.

In terms of syntax however, knowing one Slavic language will certainly help in learning another. The numbering system is pretty close too.
F15guy 1 | 160  
30 Apr 2008 /  #23
Marek: The numbering system is pretty close too.

What a horror story for the non-native speaker. Trying to figure out the proper cases for numbers. Dzięki Bogu for 1,2,3, etc.
Saja - | 9  
1 May 2008 /  #24
Here is one of orthography issues explanation:

rower - rowerzysta ("r" letter stay, soo can`t be "ż")
bramkarz - rękawice bramkarskie (goalkeeper - goalkeeper gloves)
harcerz - harcerstwo
rycerz - rycerstwo
Marek 4 | 867  
1 May 2008 /  #25

We might say "Thank G_d for 1,2,3.!" but just think of the poor Polish native speaker learning English which appears so lacking in grammatical apparatus, compared with most other languages!! Poles probably are looking for where 'to put' the grammar, so to speak, whereas the English native speaker wonders, Geez, what next?"

All depends on your perspective.
F15guy 1 | 160  
1 May 2008 /  #26
Marek: All depends on your perspective.

I admire anyone who is willing to learn another language other than his own, and try to speak it. As adults, we fear being laughed at if you say something that sounds stupid.

You have spiked my curiosity, Marek. I wondered why you wrote, "Thank G_d..." rather than "Thank God." Typo or deliberate?
Marek 4 | 867  
1 May 2008 /  #27
"You've spiked my curiosity..."

...not with LSD, I hope! -:) LOL

No F15, it wasn't a typo. I simply abhor using the Lord's name in vain. In fact, I grew up bilingual here in the States with German and English. Polish was a much later acquitision, but scarcely an afterthought.

Good luck in your learning Polish! Powodzenia z uczenia języka polskiego!
tczesio - | 6  
2 May 2008 /  #28
Well...Polish people have the same problems. Ortography IS horrible, but after 22 years living in Poland I haven't got problems...
BUT if You want to see problems with ortoghaphy, just see any polish forum in Internet.
It's horrible, when polish people, who live in Poland writes "rzaden", "ktury", morze (not "sea", but "maybe"), "rzwir", "horoba" and others...

So, if You have any problems with ortography, don't worry.

BTW "Good luck in your learning Polish!" it's rather "Powodzenia w uczeniu się języka polskiego!"
Marek 4 | 867  
2 May 2008 /  #29

I mistakenly sent you by e-mail that 'people' isn't plural in English!!! Of course, I meant the opposite, since I was correcting one of numerous English errors in your post to me. -:)
tczesio - | 6  
2 May 2008 /  #30

I thought about this, what I read in Your mail. Later, I took the English Dictionary, and tried thing abut it again... :)
But now, I know, what do You meant.
Thank You for correction.
I have to polish my English :)

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