ranrod 6 | 35 26 May 2011 #1Hi,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.