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Need advice on how to improve Polish language skills

ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #1

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.
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
26 May 2011 #2
I can understand your frustration. In one of the examples above, you have over-analyzed, I think:
-- To jest mój samochód. A to (jest) samochód mojej siostry.
-- To (jest) moja książka. Okładka mojej książki jest czarna.

The old primer of Polish by Falski begins with:
-- To Ala.
-- To As.
-- To As Ali.
-- A to Ola.
-- To kot.
-- To Oli kot.
As you may notice, the primer begins with possessives.

You say that misspelling of one letter in Polish is devastating. This is so in English, and these examples are authentic, I made those mistakes (and many more), in spoken English, causing puzzled looks of English speakers:

-- I was learning coast engineering. (It should have been "cost").
-- The name of our former president was Mr. Sore. (It should have been "Sour").
These mistakes were done by my German colleagues:
-- Teddy beer (bear); do you like bear (ale)?
-- There is no soup (soap) in my room!

After 4 years of learning English at liceum, the level of my English was still desperately low and I was not able to make a conversation with native English speaker. My knowledge of English has been developing for many years, mostly by practical use; still, I'm not satisfied with my English, 34 years since I started learning it. You have been learning Polish for one and half years only. Have you been living in Poland? If you had and just tried speaking with the Polish, they would automatically correct your mistakes, and you would stop thinking about the grammar problems soon. The matter is using the language, not to learn it passively.

OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #3
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 #4
"To jest samochód moja siostra"?

To jest samochód mojej siostry.

It's pretty simple really - grammatical cases apply to both possesive adjective "moja" and the noun "sister":

Mianownik: moja siostra (kto?)
Dopełniacz: mojej siostry (kogo nie ma?)
Celownik: mojej siostrze (komu?)
Biernik: moją siostrę (kogo widzę?)
Narzędnik: moją siostrą (kim?)
Miejscownik: mojej siostrze (o kim?)

"mam stary lekarza"

Mam starego lekarza - you can't leave the adjective "stary" undeclined!

Anyway - I read your post and it looks like all you need is a good grammar and usage book.
I don't know any such book for learners of your level. For C1/C2 level learners, I would strongly
recommend "Formy i normy czyli poprawna polszczyzna w praktyce"...,336981,ksiazka-p

PS The webpage gives the title as "Formy i Normy Czyli Poprawna Polszczyzna w Praktyce",
with words of the title starting with capital letters. That is another sign of the lamentable
influence of English on polszczyzna in recent years. We don't write book titles in Polish like that.
Koala 1 | 332
26 May 2011 #5
Your approach is your biggest mistake. You constantly look for analogies between languages you speak and Polish. Now you way of constructing sentences is:
abstract idea -> formulating it in Spanish(?) -> trying to translate it into Polish
Whereas it should be
abstract idea -> trying to formulate it in Polish

Because you focus on learning new grammar structures and try to look analogous structures in other languages, Polish grammar rules seem unnecessarily complicated and you don't see the benefits of it, ie. huge flexibility in its use. For example, order of various logical parts in a sentence can be totally random and the sentence has still the same meaning. Let's take a look at a simple English sentence:

A cook bakes cookies.
You can't really mess around with the order of words as the sentence would lost its sense. OTOH in Polish all the following sentences mean the same!

Kucharz piecze ciastka.
Ciastka piecze kucharz.
Ciastka kucharz piecze.
Kucharz ciastka piecze.
Piecze kucharz ciastka.
Piecze ciastka kucharz.
The last two are quite awkward and the first one is the most common, but they are still all understandable and might appear in daily conversations - while for you the noun declension requires a lot of effort, for a native Polish speaker it's his/her second nature and even if he/she makes a mistake, he/she instantly realizes it and corrects it (it just sounds off). For you Polish declension is only a huge complication, for a Polish speaker rigid sentence structures in other languages can be seen as such.

Germans simplified the orthography a little bit (which is by far the worst in English), however they didn't change much else. A language is a process, not something that you can change at hand by law. A child has no prior experience with other languages and speaks and hears a couple of thousands of sentences a day - naturally the language is learnt quickly and does not interfere with creativity etc.

The next issue comes up in English also but I think *a lot* more frequently in Polish.

In fact, quite the opposite. Misspellings are mostly of aesthetical nature, you can be still perfectly understood.
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #6
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.
Koala 1 | 332
26 May 2011 #7
Thanks! I have more books and references on Polish grammar than I can count.

This is quite simple to explain. The expression "to jest/to są" always goes with mianownik, otherwise it always goes with narzędnik.

To jest mój nowy samochód.
Alfa Romeo jest moim nowym samochodem.

To jest górnik.
On jest górnikiem.
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #8
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 #9
abstract idea -> trying to formulate it in Polish

And how would it be possible do you think ? An abstract idea must be formulated in some language always a native language or maybe you can do it in sign language , lol
mafketis 37 | 10,930
26 May 2011 #10
So for example a child in an English-speaking country learns 100 words. That child can use those words in a sentence and communicate.

You're making a mistake by equating 'using words to communicate' and 'using a language'. I've heard lots of people communicate with English words in a way that I would forcefully say is not 'speaking English'.

The fewer number of endings in English makes it possible to have a conversation like the following:

B: How much this cost?

A: That's cost forty Euro.

B: That too much. You make cheaper.

A: No is too much. Is very cheap. You buy, yes?

A; I not sure. Maybe later I come back and buy.

But I would argue that the conversation is a good example of effective communication but it's not in English, it's not in any language. It's just words thrown together.

I've heard similar convesations in Polish (though usually just from the buyer or seller, not both at the same time).

First advice: STOP TRANSLATING, you need to absorb lots of Polish sentences (and then learn how to modify them). Concentrate on absorbing patterns and only then try to express your own thoughts.

The old (first) version of Teach Yourself Polish by M. Corbridge-Patkaniowska was good for that (though a lot of the language was dated). Avoid the new version, which isn't anything special.
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #11
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.
mafketis 37 | 10,930
26 May 2011 #12
??? = Vocative?

wołacz, don't worry about the vocative, learn to recognize it but don't worry much about learning it until you're better at other things.

To jest górnik.
On jest górnikiem."

Yeah. Though 'To górnik' is more idiomatic.
26 May 2011 #13
Polish children don't have to learn how to use a declination, they just know it intuitively. It's easier in Poland for kids because reading is a piece of cake, you just need to learn the alphabet, while an English speaking child has to memorize the spelling of each word!

To that Polish child the rules of the world are un-understandable and random.

I think that Poles are understanding language intuitively. It has some inner logic but we are just not aware of it. Proof? Give me a non Polish word and I will declinate it. Intuitively. :)
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #14
Thanks marfketis,

I think you're right. I gotta do lots of repetition! Take my conscious brain out of the equation.
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #15
you nearly never say 'To jest samochodem' (it is a plausible sentence and has a certain nuance meaning to it but it is never used in every day speech)

simply in 'To jest ....' use nominative - period

the story is different with personal pronouns (which in many cases get omitted), names/titles - jest then requires instrumental

(ja) jestem studentem - (ty) jesteś Anglikiem?
ona jest nauczycielką języka angielskiego
Jacek jest informatykiem
Profesor Kowalski jest wykładowcą bilogii molekularnej.
wszyscy jesteśmy mieszkańcami Ziemi
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #16
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.
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #17
How about "Ten jest"? "Te są"? "Tam jest"? etc?

Ten, ta jest .. - instrumental

Tam jest ... - nominative in singular (but a bit complicated in plural - with extensive use of genitive)

however Tam jest ... - is a completely different matter to To jest .. - To jest.. is a descriptive sentence (you describe a person/object) Tam jest ... is not such a sentence
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #18
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.
boletus 30 | 1,361
26 May 2011 #19
I think you're right. I gotta do lots of repetition! Take my conscious brain out of the equation.

I was thinking about improvements in machine translators over the past 20 years or so. Why is Google's translator so popular nowadays? The obvious answer seems to be - a huge database of patterns. To confirm it, I typed the following phrase in Google's search field: How does Google translator work? And the answer was given by this page:

Few quotes:

...Once the computer finds a pattern, it can use this pattern to translate similar texts in the future.

Children learn by association of patterns. So can you. Grammar rules come later, in "grammar school", to help you organize all those patterns.
mafketis 37 | 10,930
26 May 2011 #20
Poles don't mess up sz and ś or ż and ź. Those are different sounds (you'll never hear the difference but Poles do). They do frequently make mistakes with ż and rz and u and ó and ch and h (and a few others) but generally Polish spelling is far easier than English spelling.

Spanish spelling does have ambiguities:
- h does not represent any sound in the language) so that there is no phonetic difference between a and ha.
- both b and v represent the same sound (linguists have not found any speakers who can consistently distinguish them in spontaneous speech)
- in Latin America (and parts of Spain) s/c and z are not distinguished so that the spelling casa and caza has to be memorized.

- the difference between ll and y has disappeared for most speakers even in Spain (and is losing ground in the few places that still distinguish them).

Spanish spelling is still a lot easier than English spelling though.
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #21
The problem is with: sz = ś, cz = ć, ł = u = ó, ż = ź = rz, si = szi = śi, ci = czi = ći.

most of these are not ambiguities - if someone makes a mistake involving ć - ci - s/he is just anaware of the rule which is actually quite simple

and as for sz = ś - hardly any Poles can have problems distinguishing the two sounds and so most of them will spell it correctly consequently

the real ambiguity is in case of rz-ż, u-ó, ch-h and also ł-u to some extent - but even here pretty consistent rules apply

and some problems with ortography arise from the phonetics of the language - like devoicing of final consonants (próg is spoken as pruk ) (devoicing also appears in a couple of other situations and often leads to mistakes in writing (chlep instead of chleb) - still you can't change the ortography of such words as 'chleb' to the actual way of speaking because it will create even more confusion: in most declination forms the 'b' is pronounced as it is written (chleba spoken chleba, chleby spoken chleby, chlebom- spoken chlebom)

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

trochę will always trump - becuse it forms a phrase? (a block) on its own - for example 'trochę cukierków' - u can use this block i many contexts: Potrzebuję trochę pieniędzy. - simply the verb comes last to the sentence (historically 'trochę' is a noun in accusative actually (the nominative was 'trocha' but it is not used anymore - that can explain a thing or two
26 May 2011 #22
??? = Vocative?

That would be "wołacz". I forgot about it in my last post.

If your theory was true, we would have millions and millions of "underdeveloped" kids in Poland.
The reality seems to be somewhat different: our students do quite well in all internationally conducted
tests, which check their reading comprehension, mathematical skills etc.

However, if you could find a proof that a correlation exists between the "difficulty" of a given language
and the level of mental and intellectual development of its speakers, that would be very interesting.
Of course, you would have to prove it scientifically, and I'm afraid your frustration with learning Polish
may not be enough of a proof ;-)
Antek_Stalich 5 | 997
26 May 2011 #23
ranrod, just to show you English can be complex to a foreigner.

Just recently, I translated the chorus of our new song to English, and not thinking English I made a grave mistake:

"Najlepsza baba to własna graba" <-- correct Polish sentence
"The best maid is your own hand" <-- What are you getting out of it?
"Your own hand is the best maid" <-- this is the correct meaning.

I just made a mistake in the position, making the sentence completely wrong.
And you complain on Polish? ;-)
P.S. You are asking for Polish language reform. That won't happen (soon) since the Polish identity is preserved in the language.
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #24
After a year and a half of Polish, I could tell you what the date is in Polish :\

you don't have to use perfect Polish grammar to communicate in Polish - if someone serves you or can spare a moment to talk to you to help you s/he will be most often able to understand what you need even if you don't use the right cases - Poles most often will even understand the kind of 'infinitive talk' when you use verbs in their infintives - sure such communication is not perfect being pretty much restricted - (you still need to learn pronouns and knowing their declination cases helps a lot - knowing aspects of Polish verbs also helps though mafketis stated once that it is not that important
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #25
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.
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #26
First advice: STOP TRANSLATING, you need to absorb lots of Polish sentences (and then learn how to modify them). Concentrate on absorbing patterns and only then try to express your own thoughts.

and the best way to do it is talking a lot, reading a lot - there is a videoblog of this American guy who learned Polish (quite well)

well - the blog is in Polish :)
OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #27
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.

Spanish spelling does have ambiguities:

The part of Spain where my family is from, which follows proper castillian, doesn't have those ambiguities except the first one. We do know where the 'h' goes, but it's an intuitive thing. Patterns picked up by the subconscious brain.

You're right though about those though. The 'x' is sometimes pronounced as a 'j'. This didn't used to be the case, but a few years ago the Royal Spanish Academy decided to make it so for old historic reasons. Quixote is pronounced "Quijote", Mexico, "Mejico", etc.
cinek 2 | 346
26 May 2011 #28
sz = ś, cz = ć, ł = u = ó, ż = ź = rz, si = szi = śi, ci = czi = ći

Out ot these only ż=rz and ó=u ar ambiguous for a native speaker (also h=ch). The other can be always (but maybe a few exceptions) easily distinguished. Especially the ś-sz, ć-cz, etc, are only difficult for foreigners. Polish ear doesn't have any problem with that (btw. the English sh, ch sound also completely different for Poles).

OP ranrod 6 | 35
26 May 2011 #29
However, if you could find a proof that a correlation exists between the "difficulty" of a given language.

No I can't :\ I'm simply speculating. In my time in China, I concluded the same thing due to the huge amount of pictograph memorization.

It seems to make sense that the less memorization needed for effective communication, the more brain-power would be available for higher function. No?
gumishu 14 | 6,295
26 May 2011 #30
well - the blog is in Polish :)

the guy also writes a blog in English -

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