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Not sure if I will be able to speak Polish


Polskiej_Dumy 18 | 66  
27 Nov 2009 /  #1
I have been taking Polish lessons for months now. But I don't think what I am learning is sticking with me. I have no Polish people to talk to but I really want to be fluent in Polish. What do I do? How do I remember what I learn. Should I stop the lessons for now. And just study study study what I have been taught so far, until I am confident to move on, or is this bad and will I become lost.

Please help!!!
Wroclaw 44 | 5,386  
27 Nov 2009 /  #2
Not sure if I will be able to speak Polish

I'm sure if you show how willing you are to learn you will find someone to help.

Speaking is important. And stopping or slowing down would be a waste.
frd 7 | 1,399  
27 Nov 2009 /  #3
Please help!!!

Try to find somebody who could talk to you in polish through skype or some other voice chat software. There are posts springing here and there from time to time offering language exchange.
sonya - | 5  
28 Nov 2009 /  #4
Hi, if you'd like we can talk a bit. Do you just want to practise speaking or check grammar things etc. too?
Derevon 12 | 172  
28 Nov 2009 /  #5
The key to remembering is repetition. I would recommend that you get a vocabulary training program with spaced repetition, e.g. Anki or Mnemosyne, and add the words, phrases and expressions etc that you encounter there. Such a program will help you to remember everything and keep track of when words etc need to be repeated. If you use such a program regularly you will make sure you never forget much.

Also you must realise that Polish is an extremely difficult language. A few months of lessons is nothing. You could live in Poland for years and still not be able to order a pizza on the phone unless you really study actively. Polish is not the kind of language you simply pick up by just listening to it (unless you're a kid perhaps). It's simply too alien (for non-Slavs).

I've lived in Poland for over 15 months and spent perhaps 3 hours per day on average learning Polish (actively), and although I can read quite well, I'm usually at loss when people are speaking. Polish takes that much longer to learn than other easier languages like English, Swedish or German. I wouldn't be surprised if it would take 12 months to reach the same degree of conversational skills in Polish as it would take 1 month to get in for example English. Honestly, Polish is at least 30 times harder than English (no exaggeration).
delphiandomine 86 | 18,271  
28 Nov 2009 /  #6
It's simply too alien (for non-Slavs).

Not really - a lot of Polish is quite similar, and only the weird grammar is a problem - but if you don't care about talking grammatically in the beginning, it's really not that different.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
28 Nov 2009 /  #7
Polish is at least 30 times harder than English (no exaggeration).

It's not that simple.

Polish grammar is much harder than English grammar. But pronunciation is much more irregular in English than in Polish. I'm sure an adult native Polish speaker needs more time to master English pronunciation, than a native English speaker needs to master Polish pronunciation.

A Polish letter (or 2-letter combination) is always pronounced the same (with only very few exceptions). An English letter can be pronounced very differently depending on where in the word it is located, and what other letter are around it. Much more complicated.
Foreigner4 12 | 1,769  
28 Nov 2009 /  #8
you may be right in terms of which language is more irregular with its pronunciation but I tend to agree with Derevon in that Polish pronunciation is much much much much more difficult for a non-slav due to complexity (not irregularity).
Derevon 12 | 172  
28 Nov 2009 /  #9
The thing with English is that it's spoken with a zillion different accents and pronunciations, and people make themselves understood anyway, because people are used to it.

Polish on the other hand... Poles are not really used to hearing foreigners speak Polish, and they easily get confused if you make some minor error. For example, when I was a beginner, I didn't know that trz and cz were pronounced differently, so when I asked for my room key at some hotel and said "proszę sto trzy" but "trzy" pronounced "czy" the receptionist just looked at me in a funny way.

Granted that Polish ortography is infinitely more in sync with the pronunciation than English (the one thing that is actually easier in Polish than English), but in return it's much harder to pronounce in practice since it requires more tongue acrobatics. I don't have much problems pronouncing any single word in Polish when I focus, but when I have to say something like "chcielibyśmy coś zrobić", that's when it gets tricky. When I talk I normally have to focus intensely on the grammar which means my pronunciation is suffering badly as opposed to when I read some text. As for English it's enough to learn just once that a certain word is spelt in a certain way, and then you never have to worry about it again.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
28 Nov 2009 /  #10
Polish pronunciation is much much much much more difficult for a non-slav due to complexity

In English you need experience to know how words are pronounced, in Polish you don't need this experience, you just need to know how all letters (and 2-letter combinations) in the alphabet are pronounced. It's a big difference.

I learned both English and Polish from scratch. I was younger when I learned English, it's easier then. My native language (Swedish) is more similar to English than Polish. But I'm still 100% convinced that an adult native Slavic speaker needs more time to master English pronunciation, than a native non-Slavic speaker needs to master Polish pronunciation.

Polish have some very difficult sounds for non-Slavic speakers. But when you know them fairly well you always know how to pronounce a new word. In English you can know all sounds properly but still you don't know exactly how to pronounce it. You need to have a "feeling" how it's pronounced.

The thing with English is that it's spoken with a zillion different accents and pronunciations, and people make themselves understood anyway, because people are used to it.
Polish on the other hand... Poles are not really used to hearing foreigners speak Polish, and they easily get confused if you make some minor error

This is true of course.
scottie1113 7 | 898  
28 Nov 2009 /  #11
In English you need experience to know how words are pronounced, in Polish you don't need this experience, you just need to know how all letters (and 2-letter combinations) in the alphabet are pronounced.

This is true. There are nine ways to pronounce -ough in English. And how do you pronounce live unless you read it in context. I could go on ad infinitum. I speak French, and Polish is much more difficult. As a Polish friend said, Polish is easy. The only hard part si the first 20 years.
Derevon 12 | 172  
28 Nov 2009 /  #12
SzwedwPolsce

If you by "mastering English pronunciation" mean to be able to pronounce most words, for sure it will take more time. To get started with English conversations is much easier, though.

Take for example the verb "to go" in English. You need dozens of different words with hundreds of different conjugations between them to be able to express even the most basic things. In English it's enough to know the pronouns and "go/went/gone", and you can express things that will take many months to learn properly in Polish.

Correct grammar is so much more important in Polish than in English. Especially since the pronouns are omitted. Just learning to attach semantic significance to all these different verb conjugations and case declensions... We're talking years...

Take the verb "to cut" in English used along with various very logical prepositions. In Polish you have scores of different versions, prefixed, imperfective and perfective. ciąć, pociąc, ścinać, ściąć, obcinać, obciąć... and their conjugations that don't even remotely resemble the infinitive versions, like tnę, obetniesz... In English it's as easy as "cut/cut/cut". I cut the rope, I will cut off the string, I'm cutting through the... I've spent over a thousand hours studying Polish, and I still would have to think quite hard, or perhaps even look up some conjugation in some table even to express something as simple as "I will cut off the rope." Polish conjugations and declensions really constitute an enormous obstacle to foreign learners of Polish.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
28 Nov 2009 /  #13
But I never said that the differences between sounds like rz, sz, ż, ź, ś, s, z, dz, dzi and ci, c, ć, cz are easy to master.

For example, as Deveron said, the difference between czy and trzy is very diffuse in the beginning. But they are spelled completely different.
beckski 12 | 1,617  
28 Nov 2009 /  #14
Not sure if I will be able to speak Polish

The same goes for me too. I think I need to take a Polish crasher course before August.
That's when I'll be going to Warsaw, to attend my cousin Kasia's wedding.
escapee3 8 | 63  
28 Nov 2009 /  #15
I had a kind of 'zing' moment last night. Two Polish girls were talking in a Harry Enfield comedy sketch, and the zing for me came when without thinking I realised I'd understood them. Given I'm only six weeks or so into my language studies, it felt good, particularly as it was the first Polish I'd been exposed to outside my audio course.

I mention this, Polskiej_Dumy, because it might be that you retain more than you think, and you're merely being hard on yourself.

Keep going. I reckon it'll come together at some point.

steve
Foreigner4 12 | 1,769  
28 Nov 2009 /  #16
In English you need experience to know how words are pronounced, in Polish you don't need this experience, you just need to know how all letters (and 2-letter combinations) in the alphabet are pronounced. It's a big difference.

i'm not disagreeing with you in the slightest, i must highlight i'm talking about complexity here not consistency or anything else, just what i wrote nothing more.

Polish pronunciation is much much much much more difficult for a non-slav due to complexity (not irregularity).

But I'm still 100% convinced that an adult native Slavic speaker needs more time to master English pronunciation, than a native non-Slavic speaker needs to master Polish pronunciation.

I'd be interested in knowing the outcome in a related experiment one way or the other. I have my doubts but at the same time you may be right. What's got you convinced. *leaves for vodka infested parte*
stevew 2 | 29  
28 Nov 2009 /  #17
Two Polish girls were talking in a Harry Enfield comedy sketch

I am not sure that they are speaking Polish. Or, if they are speaking Polish, if they are Poles. I suspect that they are Russian or Brits imitating a Russian accent.

Something about the r's and the sounds at the back of the mouth.

These scenes are on Youtube, just search for harry enfield polish cafe
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
29 Nov 2009 /  #18
If you by "mastering English pronunciation" mean to be able to pronounce most words, for sure it will take more time. To get started with English conversations is much easier, though.

I agree.

I'd be interested in knowing the outcome in a related experiment one way or the other.

Neutral experiments are always good. It's very hard to determine how difficult your own native language is to learn. I am not a native English nor Polish speaker, so maybe it's easier for me to see it clearly.
tcooper913 2 | 22  
29 Nov 2009 /  #19
Are any of you aware of Polish conversational groups that meet regularly for beginners?
Ogien 6 | 245  
29 Nov 2009 /  #20
From my personal experience, English is definitely easier to pick up than Polish. I started learning English and Polish at the same time when I was a little kid. I spoke Polish with my family and I spoke English with my friends from school. Polish grammar is what really throws me off a lot. I always end up screwing up the verbal conjugations even though I've been speaking Polish since the day I could talk. There is also the fact that a lot of vocabulary is alien-like. Someone earlier in this thread said that's not true but it actually is. Sure, there are some words that are similar to English but most words are MUCH different.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595  
29 Nov 2009 /  #21
There is also the fact that a lot of vocabulary is alien-like. Someone earlier in this thread said that's not true but it actually is.

It depends on what your native language is. For some people there are many more alien-like words in the English than Polish language.
sonya - | 5  
29 Nov 2009 /  #22
For example, when I was a beginner, I didn't know that trz and cz were pronounced differently, so when I asked for my room key at some hotel and said "proszę sto trzy" but "trzy" pronounced "czy" the receptionist just looked at me in a funny way.

Lots of Poles pronounce "trz" at the beginning of the word as "cz", so it shouldn't be anything surprising for that person. For example "trzeba"- "czeba" (speaking in a fast and slapdash manner: czea, even cza). But of course those people don't talk in a proper way, so it's possible you seemed to be a peasant to the receptionist;)
Ogien 6 | 245  
29 Nov 2009 /  #23
It depends on what your native language is. For some people there are many more alien-like words in the English than Polish language.

Yes, I know this. I was talking about the perspective of a native English speaker since that is what I believe the original poster was implying to be.
sandrah  
30 Nov 2009 /  #24
I am new to Polish--only 2 months in and I am a native speaker of English. I feel completely foolish when I attempt to speak to Polish natives through Skype, at my children's Polish school, on Sharedtalk, or at the local Polish grocery. I do my best, they smile (I think they do online, anyway!) and they correct me, and I go on with my day. Even if I stick to the nomative case, I will be understood. And, the only way to become a speaker of it is to speak it however silly I may sound. I just avoid words that have close, profane relatives such as the Polish word for "chicken." ;)

If you want to speak with an American fumbling through po polsku send me a message.

Pozdrawiam
Eurola 4 | 1,906  
30 Nov 2009 /  #25
I am new to Polish--only 2 months in and I am a native speaker of English.

Just curious, why are the kids going to polish school? I assume it's the father's idea...
My friend's children go to the polish school in Schaumburg and they 'hate' it, as they declare it openly. :) The younger one has a really hard time learning polish grammar and pronunciation even though both parent talk to him mostly in polish.

H's got no problem with English.
Lodz_The_Boat 32 | 1,535  
30 Nov 2009 /  #26
they 'hate' it,

No reason to hate if they are facing problems to overcome the difficulties in educating themselves Polish. If they feel that they are not competent enough...they either should try hard, or give up.
emmajo 3 | 19  
30 Nov 2009 /  #27
SzwedwPolsce:

In English you need experience to know how words are pronounced, in Polish you don't need this experience, you just need to know how all letters (and 2-letter combinations) in the alphabet are pronounced. It's a big difference.

As a native English speaker learning Polish I have to agree. However knowing how the letters should be said, and actually managing to say them is something completely different!!

I don't have much opportunity to speak Polish, but I suggest that you keep at it Polskiej_Dumy because you will be retaining more than you realise. I took notes in a meeting where there was a polish translator and I was surprised at how many words/phrases I could actually understand - to the point where I was writing down some answers before they had been translated to English!!!
Lorenc 4 | 28  
30 Nov 2009 /  #28
I am too a beginner in Polish (one year of non-intense study) and I've too wondered if it is at all possible to learn it without living in Poland for years and years. My conclusion is that it is indeed possible, but it'll take maybe some ~1000 hours of study to be reasonably competent.

There are several features that make Polish difficult for speakers of non-slavic languages.

1) The big, big hurdle is the grammar, and more specifically the noun and adjective declensions with all it's soft/hard, virile/non-virile sub-cases and exceptions. In theory it should just be a matter of learning a big table of endings, but in practice it'll takes a lot of a hell of practice before correctly declining words, adjectives and numbers becomes natural. Verbs are overall a little easier but still a big problem. Conjugation is a bit easier than the labyrinth of noun cases, but correctly choosing between perfective and imperfective aspects is also be a hard nut to crack.

2) The vocabulary is very different from the one of Germanic or Romance languages and takes time to learn. This difficulty is greatly amplified by the case system which forces one to deal with all the declined forms of a word as well it's gender. True, there are regularities, the gender can be usually inferred from the ending etc., but I think the highly-inflected nature of Polish renders learning the vocabulary more difficult.

These are **by far** the reasons why Polish is difficult, IMHO. Many other people seems to focus on spelling/pronunciation aspects, but these seem insignificant to me when compared with the enormous problem of the grammar. Polish spelling is very regular, especially as far as reading a word is concerned (as opposed to writing it down). English is of course much more difficult in this respect.

And for pronunciation and sounds... Polish may sound very difficult and exotic to English speakers, but to me (Italian) all in all Polish sounds very clear and pretty easy to reproduce. This is because its vowel system is very similar to the one of Romance languages, with five cardinal vowels and no vowel reduction in unstressed syllables. Consonant clusters can be difficult at the very beginning but consonants are not so difficult to pick up.

Believe me, understanding spoken English is for me much much much more difficult than Polish (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this).
Derevon 12 | 172  
30 Nov 2009 /  #29
emmajo wrote:
As a native English speaker learning Polish I have to agree. However knowing how the letters should be said, and actually managing to say them is something completely different!!

Truer words were never spoken.

Lorenc wrote:
but it'll take maybe some ~1000 hours of study to be reasonably competent.

Probably more like 5000.

The problem with the high degree of inflection in Polish is three-fold. First of all you need to learn to understand all words no matter how they're inflected. Moreover you need to understand the grammatical implications of all the inflections, and finally you have to learn to use all the inflections appropriately yourself.

but to me (Italian) all in all Polish sounds very clear and pretty easy to reproduce.

Even "cieszę się, że się cieszysz"? ;) It's not the vowels that make Polish hard to discern (but possibly the lack thereof), it's the consonant clusters (especially when one word ends in something like ć/ś/sz and the next word starts in something similar). Also the stresses are often confusing with nouns sometimes being unstressed (e.g. Każdego dnia).

Believe me, understanding spoken English is for me much much much more difficult than Polish (and I'm sure I'm not alone in this).

I wouldn't be so sure. ;) I'm sure learning to understand spoken English compared to Polish would be infinitely easier for just about any non-Slavic speaker since words aren't declined, there are no stem changes to speak of and no complicated consonant clusters. The vowels are straightforward enough too. Of course there are different dialects, accents etc that may complicate things, but that's another matter.
k98_man  
30 Nov 2009 /  #30
I haven't actively started learning yet (I just pick up a bit here and there and I'm interested when I see some). I take a year of classes in Krakow, though so I'm pretty excited to begin with that.

I feel like it is a hard language, but if you have the drive to learn a language you can do anything. Just keep trying...keep working at it. Good luck

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