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Why is the Polish language so difficult?


Rain33 14 | 19
8 Jul 2011 #1
I often wonder why the Polish language is so difficult, as I sit here listening to my Polish neighbors argue in Polish for the fifteenth time. Is it because they do not realize that their language is so difficult to the native English speaker? Maybe it's because the Poles are so expressive in their own language; I often notice that the word order is less stringent. (I am going to try to this one of these days: make up a sentence and put the words in a haphazard order and see if they, my neighbors, comprehend it. I am wondering whether or not I can construct sentences like an English speaker does, only the words are in Polish? Why, oh, why can't I just say "Will you go to the movies with me tomorrow?," "I hear you like the Rolling Stones," "Where are you going?" I sometimes think Russian might be easier, although I don't know anyone who speaks it. Do the Poles want us to learn their language or no? I do not know.

Anyway, I am driving myself crazy with this Polish language. It is going to be the death of me.
skysoulmate 14 | 1,297
8 Jul 2011 #2
I'm sorry but what is your point? You think Polish is hard? Go downtown Shanghai and tell me what you think. ...or Osaka, or Incheon for that matter. (you'll hear Mandarin/mainland Chinese, Japanese and Korean respectively). Trust me, you'll be blown away when it comes to people "being expressive" in their own languages.

Sounds like you have rude (loud) neighbors and the fact you don't know what they're saying aggravates you even more. I don't blame you a bit.

However, you must remember that Polish is a totally different language and thus sounds much different. English is a Germanic language and therefore intonation, accentuation, etc. in other Germanic languages such as Swedish, Dutch, German, etc. will feel more similar to you than in Slavic (Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, etc.) or Romantic (Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, etc.) languages.
EchoTheCat - | 137
8 Jul 2011 #3
Romantic (Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian, etc.) languages.

Buuuhahahaha Romantic :))) You made my day at work more cheerful :)
cinek 2 | 339
8 Jul 2011 #4
I am wondering whether or not I can construct sentences like an English speaker does, only the words are in Polish?

No, it won't work no most cases (unless in some simple expressions).

Cinek
alexw68
8 Jul 2011 #5
Cinek's right. That way madness lies. Don't try and import English ways of thinking into your Polish too much - you'll end up with a bad case of analysis-paralysis.

Re: word order - Polish word order is not random, but constructed according to emphasis, topicality, etc. Because English word order is fixed, we have to resort to other tricks.

Example:

Listonosza ugryzł pies (object, verb, subject) - 'the dog bit the postman' in normal English; 'the postman bit the dog' according to the Polish word order. But the sense is now all wrong.

So, how does English allow you to put an object up the front of a sentence (and so emphasise the subject by placing it at the end of the sentence)? - By using the passive:

The postman was bitten by the dog.

Obviously Polish has passive, too, but it's not used in exactly the same way as the English passive in all cases.
southern 75 | 7,096
8 Jul 2011 #6
I often wonder why the Polish language is so difficult

The higher the IQ the more difficult the language.
mafketis 23 | 7,782
8 Jul 2011 #7
So, how does English allow you to put an object up the front of a sentence (and so emphasise the subject by placing it at the end of the sentence)? - By using the passive:

This is true as far as it goes. But in spoken English contrastive stress is also used. Unfortunately there's no convenient way to write this incredibly important feature of speech.

The _dog_ bit the _postman_.

Theoretically Polish has contrastive stress too but it's not nearly as important as in spoken English.

In some kinds of very colloquial American, there's also something like "The postman, the dog bit him."
alexw68
8 Jul 2011 #8
But in spoken English contrastive stress is also used.

Correct. But it preserves word order, and the point here is about preservation of the order in which predicate, subject and verb appear in the sentence from Polish to English.
FUZZYWICKETS 8 | 1,884
8 Jul 2011 #9
why is polish so hard?

-cases. most languages don't have them and for an english speaker for example, it's the most ridiculous concept ever.

-uni-dimensional. nearly every verb ending in "ch" as well as most other words having some sort of "sh", "ch", "rz", etc. it makes seperating one word/sound from the next very difficult. for most people first being introduced to Polish, it sounds to them as if people are loudly "shooshing" each other.

-outdated, which can probably be grouped together with "lack of immigration". immigration makes languages more simplified generally and it also gives natives more experience speaking their language with foreigners. when you say things over and over and nobody understands you, you figure out that you gotta slow down and use simpler words.
Magdalena 3 | 1,837
8 Jul 2011 #10
it's the most ridiculous concept ever.

All grammar is ridiculous. Or none is.

nearly every verb ending in "ch"

???

-outdated

WTF?

How can a living, thriving language be "outdated"?
Lyzko
8 Jul 2011 #11
As usual, I must disagree with Rain's premise that Polish, for that matter, ANY language is more "difficult" than another-:) I defy anyone to point to a language, living or dead, without its due share of tricky aspects, troublesome grammar, puzzling structures, irregularities etc... Why, right on this very Forum, when once a poster complained profusely how hard Polish is, several responses included, "Check out Lithuanian, dude!", "You ain't seen nothin' 'till you tackle Finnish!", last but not least, "I thought Polish was a bleedin' bitch, before I looked at Icelandic!" and so forth.

Language difficulty/ease is relative to the language from which one is learning it, which I've reiterated here on PF.
Ziemowit 13 | 3,785
8 Jul 2011 #12
The Polish language isn't difficult or is as difficult as other languages. You cannot demand that another language be formed and structured exactly in the same way as your own. If cases is the most ridiculous concept for an English speaker, then definite and indefinite articles is the most bizzare concept for Polish speakers who don't know them in their language and despite not knowing them, they go on very well working the concept of the definite or the indefinite out of context. In the same way, the English speaker works out the relation of objects to one another without using the cases; he does that out of context and with the help of word order.
skysoulmate 14 | 1,297
8 Jul 2011 #13
Buuuhahahaha Romantic :))) You made my day at work more cheerful :)

Well, ok Romance languages but being a romantic at heart I wanted to make your day more cheerful, and as you can tell I succeeded! :) Next time I'll bring a bottle of red wine too. ;)

PS. Well, my iPhone's auto-spell feature often saves me from awful and embarrassing spelling errors. Sometimes it also awakes the romantic in me. :)
Lyzko
8 Jul 2011 #14
Własnie, Ziemowicie!

Trudność nie jest absolut. N.pr. po angielsku są tenses tak "trudne" jak aspekty po polsku LOL

keep to the rules, please.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
8 Jul 2011 #15
If cases is the most ridiculous concept for an English speaker, then definite and indefinite articles is the most bizzare concept for Polish speakers who don't know them in their language and despite not knowing them, they go on very well working the concept of the definite or the indefinite out of context.

Good point. It all depends on what you are used to.

Anyway, I am driving myself crazy with this Polish language. It is going to be the death of me.

So maybe you should not push yourself too hard, and enjoy the summer a little?
1jola 14 | 1,879
8 Jul 2011 #16
Oh, my. Can't wait till someone asks why Poles say woda or mleko when there is already the word water and milk.

Wish the rest of you a fruitful discussion without me.
catsoldier 62 | 596
8 Jul 2011 #17
Anyway, I am driving myself crazy with this Polish language. It is going to be the death of me.

Don't worry, many people have problems with the Polish language: see video, even Polish people, I feel sorry for some of the people in this programme, it is cruel to be on TV/you tube not being able to speak your own language correctly. I am allowed make mistakes and it is expected.


Seanus 15 | 19,706
8 Jul 2011 #18
Oh, excellent post. This is a worthwhile program to watch. Even I fared better than some of the Poles and I'm not Polish. Then again, Poland has a lot of smart people who would do better than them but the point is to show that Poles sometimes have trouble in their own language.
teflcat 5 | 1,032
8 Jul 2011 #19
Anyway, I am driving myself crazy with this Polish language. It is going to be the death of me.

Polish drove me crazy years ago. Why do you think they did so well at Bletchly Park? Seriously though, try not to fight it. I'm a long way from being fluent or accurate in Polish but when I made the decision to stop banging my head against the wall about it I seemed to feel an inner peace radiating through me. Polish + zen is how to approach it.
urszula 1 | 253
8 Jul 2011 #20
Why is the Polish language so difficult?

Poles say the same about english. Actually polish is easier than English because how you see it, that's how it's read. in English you have words that read differently, like:

"Read". You can say "reed" or you can say "red".
Or words that sound alike but have differenty meaning and spelling:
"too" or "to"
"their" or "there"
Poles find that very confusing.
teflcat 5 | 1,032
8 Jul 2011 #21
Actually polish is easier than English

Yeah, right.
JonnyM 11 | 2,621
8 Jul 2011 #22
Actually polish is easier than English

Most people would disagree. And do. Much of the richness and subtlety of English comes from its huge vocabulary. Much of the complexity and subtlety of Polish comes from its grammatical structure. Yet it is possible to speak English well with only a small fraction of the words. It is not Possible to speak Polish well without some grammatical accuracy.
urszula 1 | 253
8 Jul 2011 #23
Most people would disagree

I teach english to Polish people and they find it a very hard language to learn. They cannot understand why the word "is" isn't pronounced "eez". It depends on the person, some learn faster than others. I learned Polish very quickly and thought it was very easy and simple.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
8 Jul 2011 #24
High-end Polish is really hard to use. It can really put you to the sword. For any non-Pole to say it is easy is having a laugh. Most who know me say I have a flair for languages but modesty is important and I can humbly say that I'd feel awkward if at a well-to-do dinner table with Professor Miodek and co.
teflcat 5 | 1,032
8 Jul 2011 #25
I learned Polish very quickly and thought it was very easy and simple.

You are obviously a genius. No need to brag!
JonnyM 11 | 2,621
8 Jul 2011 #26
I teach english to Polish people and they find it a very hard language to learn

I did that for ten years and have taught English in various countries for most of my career - I don't rcall any of my students finding it a 'very hard language'.

They cannot understand why the word "is" isn't pronounced "eez".

I never had a problem with them learning that. Letters represent different sounds in different languages - not much to learn there.

It depends on the person, some learn faster than others. I learned Polish very quickly and thought it was very easy and simple.

Same here, though the grammar is much more complicated than English.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
8 Jul 2011 #27
Urszula, there are Polish language threads here where Poles, or even good non-Poles like some here, can see just how good you are. How about it?
PennBoy 76 | 2,437
8 Jul 2011 #28
High-end Polish is really hard to use. It can really put you to the sword. For any non-Pole to say it is easy is having a laugh.

Yes I think even more so than it's English counterpart. Although as previously stated in a separate discussion English altogether has far more words than Polish. *ducks and runs**
skysoulmate 14 | 1,297
8 Jul 2011 #29
Actually polish is easier than English because how you see it, that's how it's read.

Really? If you say that you read it the way you see it "using the polish alphabet and the polish pronounciation of those letters" then I'll say, maybe, but even then, I don't think so..

Also, the grammar is more complicated.

Ja jestem -> I am
Ty jest -> You are
On jest -> He is
Ona jest -> She is
My jesteśmy -> We are
Wy jesteście -> You are
Oni jestą -> They are

Sprytny mężczyzna -> Smart man
Sprytna kobieta -> Smart woman
Sprytne dziecko -> Smart child
Sprytne dzieci -> Smart children

...and there's more. :)

Much of the richness and subtlety of English comes from its huge vocabulary. Much of the complexity and subtlety of Polish comes from its grammatical structure. Yet it is possible to speak English well with only a small fraction of the words. It is not Possible to speak Polish well without some grammatical accuracy.

A great summary of the differences between the two languages.
Seanus 15 | 19,706
8 Jul 2011 #30
It's not so much about words in this context as English is an agglomeration of words strung together through its evolutionary nature and excessive borrowing.

PennBoy, I guarantee you that even you would have problems with high-end Polish given your natural inclination to think in English. For example, z Tobą and u Ciebie. Without a double take, I'd've said z Tobą also. Pgtx agreed with you, which just goes to show that you have been out of regular contact with flowing Polish for a while. I say this in a very nice way as I know how it might come across.

I suggest that we all haul a*s to the Polish-language threads to separate the wheat from the chaff. I'm the chaff :)


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