The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered  |  Archives 
User: Guest

Posts by ranrod  

Joined: 28 Aug 2010 / Male ♂
Last Post: 20 Apr 2014
Threads: 6
Posts: 35

Speaks Polish?: A little, learning

Displayed posts: 41 / page 2 of 2
sort: Latest first   Oldest first   |
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Google translate is just awful at Polish. About as good as my first guess, which is pretty bad to begin with. The fact google translate is so bad actually makes me feel better about my inadequacies in the language. If the google supercomputers can't figure it out, it's not just me!

I get your point though. Go through tons of phrases and sentences until the patterns are picked up by my subconscious. That's what I'm going to try to do.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Thanks gumishu, that makes sense. That explanation does fit all the cases I've seen of 'jest' and instrumental nouns. They should phrase it like that in the grammar books.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Maaarysia, if I knew you were going to try to declinate a word I give you without looking at a dictionary, I'd give you a few good examples I'm sure you'd miss ;)

The spelling too. I've met Poles that say they can spell words without checking them in a dictionary and when I give them examples, they end up messing up a lot. The problem is with: sz = ś, cz = ć, ł = u = ó, ż = ź = rz, si = szi = śi, ci = czi = ći. Spanish has zero ambiguities. Things can only be written one way.

You're right, memorizing how a word is pronounced in English happens a lot, but it IS an exception. Meaning, the rules of spelling (in American English at least) happen more often that the exceptions. Mostly with foreign words anyway: rendezvous (pronounced rondevu). Even with rules of pronunciation, in ALL languages children learn by memorizing the sounds. At least in English it is 1/7th the amount of sounds for nouns, adjectives and adverbs.

Polish children don't know the declensions magically. They learn them. It takes a lot of brain power to do that, even if it is subconscious. Even if it's not visible, doesn't mean that it isn't a burden on the developing mind. If all that energy went to expressing thoughts, ideas, and imagination, instead of declension memorization and the relationship and rules that go along with them, that child would have better development.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Thanks for your response,

First off, does someone know the declension names in English and Polish?

Mianownik = Nominative?
Dopełniacz = Genitive?
Celownik = Dative?
Biernik = Accusative?
Narzędnik = Instrumental?
Miejscownik = Locative?
??? = Vocative?

When you say:
"The expression "to jest/to są" always goes with mianownik, otherwise it always goes with narzędnik."
To jest górnik.
On jest górnikiem."

Do you mean the exact words "To jest", "To są"?

How about "Ten jest"? "Te są"? "Tam jest"? etc?

In one of my grammar references "Polish Grammar in a Nutshell" (I also check PWN sometimes but the English ref is quicker), it lists 8 different ways a noun becomes instrumental. One of which is "Predicate nouns (nouns after linking verbs like być, zostać)", such as "Ona jest kobietą". a) I wish it listed ALL the verbs that make something instrumental (has to be a finite list, right?). b) "To jest" and "On jest" can both connect to predicate nouns (as I interpret it). According to this, not only should it be "To jest widelcem" but "To jest samochodem" as well, right? (back to "to jest samochodem mojej siostrą"). "this" (thing) is (linking verb) "predicate noun".

You are right though. It is "To jest górnik". My point is that reading through the rules is confusing, sometimes I see many interpretations, and at the end you say it how it feels right to the native speakers; without caring about logic.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Hi Koala,

I knew the sentence order is more flexible in Polish, though I am very often told that my sentence order sounds awkward :\

So for example a child in an English-speaking country learns 100 words. That child can use those words in a sentence and communicate. A child in Poland learns 100 words, and those words are useless without the declensions. That child needs to learn 700 words to be at the same level the English-speaking child is vocabulary-wise, and even then, he would be waaay behind because he still needs to learn when to use which declension; a non-existent complication in English. The English child should have a tremendous advantage in life as the first years of your life are the most important. I would bet no one in the world can have all the rules about how to construct a sentence in Polish in their conscious head. So it has to be subconscious. To that Polish child the rules of the world are un-understandable and random. That HAS to have an effect on development, and your outlook on life. I'm very curious about this topic.

In Poland, I asked almost every I met, "Why is it 'on prowadzi samochód', but 'on nie prowadzi samochodu'?", and "Why is it 'trzy kubki' but 'pięć kubków'?" and I didn't meet a single person who knew why. They'd all look puzzled and say, "oh wow, they are different! ...I don't know why!" Like they have multiple personality disorder and the 2nd personality knows what to say and says it without the host body knowing. Them not know why or how those words were coming out of their mouths was kind of a scary thing. How can people live like that? As I find answers, I let some of the people I met in Poland know, and they seem surprised that the rules CAN be figured out.

Many countries have been very successful in modifying their language. China, Korea, Germany (1901 and 1996). Spain and France do it on an on-going basis, with the Royal Spanish Academy and the Royal French Academy respectively. Spanish and French are prescriptive language (the language institutions dictate to people how to use the language), as opposed to English and Polish which are descriptive languages (the language institutions document how people are using the language). English used to be rich with declensions, and they were mostly removed as they were deemed too complicated and inhibited communication (By the Normands, after the Normand invasion of 1066). The main fault in English is that the spelling of a word often has nothing to do with the pronunciation. That's why spelling bees are such a big deal in America. In Spanish it would a an all-out tie for 1st place, as it is almost completely unambiguous. In Polish spelling is difficult too because there are so many equivalent letters: sz = ś, cz = ć, ł = u = ó, ż = ź = rz (more or less - or to my ears at least). Sometimes it takes me a while to enter the correct spelling of a word in the Polish dictionary, knowing exactly how to pronounce it.

To your point about sentence construction, I use Spanish or English to construct the sentence as sometimes one or the other is more analogous for a specific thought. Then I put it into words. I can't construct a sentence in Polish yet. I don't have the intuition to do so at this point. Not enough things 'feel' right. I also don't have enough vocabulary to do so. I need to learn 7 times the vocabulary in that language with all the declensions, so it's a slow process. Some of the declension are tricky to deduce, other than looking it up in a dictionary. I don't think I could ever figure out on my own how "brać" becomes "biorę" or "bierze"; or how "pies" becomes "psa".

It seems from the responses that I have to burn into my subconscious how to spew out sentences. Lots of sentence repetition! I need more conversations too.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Thanks! I have more books and references on Polish grammar than I can count. I can correct a sentence. It just takes a really long time. About the first example you listed I wrote: "To jest samochód moja siostra" is wrong...Then I said: The probable right answer is "To jest samochód mojej siostry". The point was that following the rules on paper can be confusing, not lead to the correct answer, or send you in circles. "to jest samochodem" is correct in context. Why not "to jest samochodem mojej siostry"? I argue that if you follow the rules to the letter, it would appear as correct, as "to jest samochód mojej siostry".

On the second example you listed, I was talking about matching genders. I left it 'wrong' to show the gender of the word.

I've been reading and reading and reading, and writing some. I don't think doing more of that will help. I agree with Antek. Perhaps talking to more people regularly will do the trick. It's about burning what sounds right into your brain, not about knowledge.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]

Thanks for your reply!

I started learning conversation English when I was 18 (I was good at reading/writing). I'd say it took me about 6 months to be able to communicate with anyone freely (though still with a strong accent at the time). Chinese was the quickest. 5 months from scratch to basic communication. I'd say by the rate I was learning it in China it wouldn't have taken much longer to be pretty functional with it. So from that point of view, Polish seems chaotic and unreasonably hard after trying to learn it every single day more than an hour a day for a year and a half.

My over-analyzing with those sentences where in purpose. The point being that even using the rules of the language it is hard or not possible to come to the right answer. At the end people tell you to do what 'sounds' right. People should be able to understand their language - to know why they say things the way they do with ease.

Misspelling a word is bad in any language. I think it is worse in Polish because it's more difficult to tell from context if it is misspelled or not. It's harder to get an obviously-misspelled word example, such as 'impruve' without being too contrived.

I did spend time in Poland. They might as well have been speaking Klingon. I couldn't make heads or tails of anything being said. I'm going again soon, so I want to do better this time.
26 May 2011
Language / Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills [134]


I got a little discouraged the last couple of days about learning Polish. There are just too many exceptions. I think the exceptions happen more often than the rules in normal conversation. The amount of memorization is really large. Just to say, "Hello, how are you?" you need a good amount of knowledge or a lot of memorization. I think after a year and a half, it would still take me a while to say "Hello" depending on who is standing in front of me: formal vs informal, plural, gender, context, etc.

I take about 2 minutes to write a paragraph in Polish, but then it can take me up to an hour to correct it. I have to check it word-by-word to make sure I'm catching all the exceptions. Yet, I still miss a couple almost every time.

I don't think I could even write anything without my Polish online dictionary (the one that includes all the declensions and conjugations for every word - the pittsburg university one, which is the only one I've found that does this; even including the offical sites in Poland!). And the dictionary is not enough, because sometimes I'm not sure how to phrase something. I use google translate to help with that, but google translate is awful at Polish (which actually makes me feel better - if supercomputers can't figure out Polish, then I don't feel as bad when I can't). I also do a regular google search to see how people phrase certain expressions, but that's very tricky as well because I have to take a guess on how it would be said.

After a year and a half, I still have problems with possessiveness. I have to think about an expression for a while before writing it. For example, "Biurko Lekarza" = "The doctor's desk", is one way of doing it, but it's tricky, and grammatically the opposite of what we do in English. If I want to say, "the child's mom is smiling", I have to think, "the mom of-the-child is smiling", and use genitive for "of-the-child".

Any added layer of complexity makes it more confusing. Even saying, "this is my sister's car" would take me a minute to say. "To jest samochód moja siostra"? It's awkward to think that way from an English perspective. I have to think about it for a while in order to use possession in a sentence. I don't think I could use it in an in-person conversation. Specially if there are multiple levels: "My mother's right hand is hurt", or "My mother's right hand index finger is hurt". In English, we just put a 's at the end of the 'owner', and that takes care of ALL possessive cases.

In the previous example, "To jest samochód moja siostra" is wrong. First of all, 'jest' often makes the object instrumental but not always and the rules seem vague. Is it "To jest samochodem..."? Doesn't 'sound' right. When I ask Polish people grammar questions the answer is always "It's like this because it sounds right" 90% of the time. Even when I ask Polish teachers (who teach in Poland), they don't know why things are said the way the are. In this respect it is much like the use of 'in', 'at' or 'on' in English: you use the one that 'sounds' right. eg, "I am on my chair", "I am in the couch". Except in Polish this happens with almost evertything! The "moja siostra" is showing possession so it's probably "mojej siostry". On the other hand, "to jest moja książka" sounds right and it possession is not making "książka" genitive ("to jest mojej książki"?), so what's the difference? One is mine, and one is my sisters - doesn't seem like much of a difference in terms of possession. The probable right answer is "To jest samochód mojej siostry", but I'm not sure why. Maybe if you state the object and immediately after you state the possession, it becomes genitive? Would "to jest książka mojej" work?

The part that makes it sound impossible to speak Polish in a verbal conversation is the retroactive nature of it (unless tons of subconscious-burnt memorizations are spewed out mindlessly). As you're talking, words in the future affect words in the past, so how can you say anything before running it through your head first? On a super simple example, "To jest (adjective X) (noun Y)". The gender of Y affects X, but Y hasn't been said yet, may be a declension, but you have to say X first, making it very difficult; specially since it happens with more than just gender. You have to run the sentence through your head to figure such things out, then on the second pass, say it right. Which brings me to my next point.

Gender gets me constantly. Normally, if a noun ends in an 'a' it's feminine, ends in an 'o' or 'e' is neutral, and ends in a consonant it's masculine, but the gender can be hidden or misdirected by a declension. For example, "Mam stary lekarza", the 'stary' part has to match genders with the word 'lekarza', but the declension 'lekarza' hides the gender and makes me think it's femenine (since it ends in an 'a'). It takes me time and often a dictionary to determine the gender of a word.

With the vast amount of rules, some of it is just gobbledygook, that people have memorized to mean something. In English you can say "What's up?" to say hello, which can be puzzling, but "What is up?" is a proper sentence. "nie ma za co" = "not have after what" = "no problem" is nonsense. A fairly common used one is "Jak się masz?" is also nonsense. You just memorize tons of these verbatim, rules out the window.

I'm not sure if "Mam trochę dużych ryb" is correct or not. 'To have' = "mieć" normally makes the object accusative: "mam stary lekarza". However, quantifiers such as "tochę" make the object genitive. So there are 2 things acting on the word 'fish', and I'm not sure what trumps what. So I search the internet to see how people say it, using similar expressions. But even then, it's difficult to tell because people misspell things on the internet all the time; (and google translate is about as good as I am at this). Sometimes even after all that, I get it wrong because the verb is an exception, such as "Portrzebować"; which always makes the object genitive. I'm not sure I used "trochę" correctly either. I'm assuming "Mam" acts on 'trocha' as 'trocha' acts on "duży" and "ryba". But maybe once the noun is supposed to be genitive, all adjectives and quantifiers also become genitive? Is it, "Mam trochy dużych ryb"? I'm not even sure if it's supposed to have the singular or plural form of 'trocha'. I can't think what the plural of "a little bit" would be. Is it, "Mam troch dużych ryb"?

The use of "się" makes verbal communication slow. Though I know the rules on how to use it, I have to think about it for a little bit. The "się" part of the complimentary word has to go in the right place, so you have form your sentence before placing it. I can only imagine that the people who use it fluidly do so subconsciously. For example, "Podobasz mu się", "Dziecki się bawi", have the "się" in different parts of the sentence.

The next issue comes up in English also but I think *a lot* more frequently in Polish. If you mispronounce or misspell a word by 1 letter, the listener is left completely lost. With all the different declension it is difficult to tell what word you're trying to say when you make a minor mistake - the declesion of what word is being said? The listener has to think long and hard about it. For example, I thought "dużo" was a different declension of "duży". A lot of words in Polish work exactly like that: ends in an 'o' for neutral, ends in a 'y' for male, ends in an 'a' for female: dużo, duży, duża, right? As it turns out I was wrong. In English I said, "I got to make sure this passes mustard" for years before I found out it's actually, "I got to make sure this passes muster" (military term). The thing is, everyone understood exactly what I was trying to say, and didn't even bother to correct me. "Need advice on how to impruve" - did anyone not know what I was talking about? Same thing goes for pronunciation. If you're not pronouncing it exactly right, the listener becomes lost, even on small discrepancies. In English, I listen to people that have a thick accent, and have little problem making out what they say. As a matter of fact, you often seem cooler in English if you mis-pronounce things...aight?

Numbers seem overwhelmingly hard to say in normal verbal conversation. You have the normal cardinal numbers, then all the different versions for the living that are very different per number! trzy, troje, trzech, trzem, trzema, trojga, trojgu, pięciu, pięcioro, pięć, etc. On top of that all the ordinal numbers with all the declensions! And on top of that the rules of declension of the nouns being quantified! "trzy kubki", "pięć kubków", "jeden kubek", "zero kubków". 0 and 5-9 have their own rules, 2,3,4 have their own rules, and 1 have their own rules. Then 20, 21, 22-24, 25-29 have those same rules respectively, and so on. The amount of memorization to use numbers is staggering! It seems absolutely impossible to make a quantitative statement without thinking about it for a couple of minutes (again, unless you're letting your subconscious spew out memorized expressions mindlessly).

It would help to have a concise list for each case of all the possible reasons a word can end up in that case. I haven't found such a list anywhere. Books and references explain the rules for the case (which come into play the minority of the time), and a couple of exceptions. I want no explanation, just the case with a list of rules and exceptions for each one.

The mere fact that some of these are still puzzling questions for me after a year and a half of studying is very disheartening :\

A Pole told me, "Polish is a language that can only be learned with your mother's breast milk". At this point it sounds like he might be right.

I tried watching Polish TV, but seeing how little of it I can understand is even more depressing.

I know two languages fluently: Spanish and English. I also took five months of Chinese, which was enough for me to go to China and on my own, order food, handle my hotel, ask for directions, etc. Difficult to memorize the writing but one of the easiest to learn how to speak (at least once you get used to the tones). After a year and a half of Polish, I could tell you what the date is in Polish :\

Any suggestions about how to speed up my learning? Am I taking too much of an analytical approach? Should I be reciting things mindlessly until they get burnt into my subconscious?

PS: does Poland have any plans to clean up the language? Germany did it in '96, why not Poland? I can't image the massive amounts of memorization is the best thing for the developing mind of a child. I can see that interfering with the child's creativity, imagination and unstructured thinking. And people should be able to figure out their language.
28 Aug 2010
Language / Question about podoba sie [23]

Thanks for the response. The "Podobasz" part is the part confusing me. Since it's in 2nd person, it says the action is being taken by the second person, in this case "liking", yet the sentence, "Podobasz mu sie" still claims that the action is being taken by the object instead (He/Him), which makes no grammatical sense to me. Any further explanation would be greatly appreciated.
28 Aug 2010
Language / Question about podoba sie [23]

I thought I was doing great in my learning of the Polish language until I saw this expression. It makes no sense to me, can anyone help me understand the logic behind it?

"Podobasz sie mu" -> He likes you (as in, he thinks you're cute ...sidenote: using "Lubic" would imply he likes you as a friend)

"You yourself like, him"??? <- is the way I read it

It seems to violate the 2nd person rule. In this Podobasz, the ending sz doesn't seem to correlate to an action by the subject (2nd person rule). "Ty Podobasz" -> "YOU like". The reflexive "sie" doesn't seem do much to change the meaning of it.

If it's supposed to be, "you are liked...", that would be "Jestes lubiany...", which makes sense.
I could write: "Jemu sie ty podoba" (He likes you) I'm probably inserting 'ty' incorrectly here, but the sentence structure writing it like this makes sense to me.

If it's an expression (figure of speech), those often don't make sense (as in, "sup foo" in English). Is "Podobasz sie mu" like that?