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Is fluency in Polish for an English speaker possible?!


Rain33 14 | 19
5 Jul 2011 #1
Is it possible for an English speaker to be fluent, or even functional, in this language? I need help with my pronunciation and grammar, but I don't see where I can get much help. I don't want to completely give up everything I learned, but it seems as if this language is too daunting for English speakers. On top of these problems, I cannot roll my "r"s the way Polish speakers can. When I hear a someone trill an "r," I instantly become jealous--because I can't do it.

I seriously think that the Poles designed this language so that I can't learn it. I want to talk to my Polish neighbors, tell them how kind and caring they are, but I cannot speak their language. My Polish pronunciation is very, very miserable, and I don't know where to hide my head from these kind souls all around me. I am afraid that my Polish neighbors will think I am making fun of them if I use their language incorrectly. I don't know.
grubas 12 | 1,390
5 Jul 2011 #2
On top of these problems, I cannot roll my "r"s the way Polish speakers can. When I hear a someone trill an "r," I instantly become jealous--because I can't do it.

I am Polish and I can't do it either but I am not jelous,it must sound strange to some Polish when I say rower.BTW out of topic but interesting thing is that the bicycle is called rower in Poland because at first majority of bicycles imprted to Poland was Rover brand.
Polonius3 1,000 | 12,446
5 Jul 2011 #3
A little trick I learnt while teaching Polish is to recall the way many Americans pronounce such words as pity, buddy, Betty and daddy. In Polish the pronunciaton could be approximated not as pyti, badi, beti or syti but rather as pyri, bari, beri and syri. If you can pronounce those and similar words the American way, you'll be well on the way to mastering the trilled Polish 'r'.
vndunne 43 | 279
5 Jul 2011 #4
Rain33, I fully appreciate your frustration in trying to learn polish. It is not easy. But remember, it is all about the ability to communicate and it you dont get the pronounciation perfect, it will not be the end of the world. I am sure you attempts to communicate will be appreciated.

how many non english speakig people do you know, who dont have perfect pronounciation, but can communicate effectively in english??
I dont speak very much polish but have been told my polish is good even though i can speak only a little bit. (I know they were probably just being nice).
alexw68
5 Jul 2011 #5
I am sure you attempts to communicate will be appreciated.

This is the key. Don't exaggerate your own or your neighbours' expectations; they'll be thrilled (especially as they're not in Poland, this always adds an extra dimension) with a simple greeting - cześć/witam/dzień dobry - and you can take it from there. In fact, it's your neighbours who'll give you the best exposure to the language on an everyday level.

Polonius would probably tell you you should go to some classes to sort out the grammar and so on - and in my view he'd be 100% right.

It took me 3 years of living in Poland to get anything like fluency, and this long (16 years, 10 of which were spent back in England) to get proficient on a wider range of topics of the kind you'll talk about with educated native speakers.

But you know what? I still can't get that bloody Polish /r/ right half the time :)
Wroclaw Boy
5 Jul 2011 #6
I cannot roll my "r"s the way Polish speakers can.

I think for English men its easier as we used to run around immitating machine gun noises as little boys. If you can do the machine gun you can roll an R.

My Polish pronunciation is very, very miserable,

I think in order to speak many foreign languages fluently and without accent you need to be a good actor, the average essex lad will speak French with an abismal accent, you need to copy the way they talk and try to mimmic it. My pronounciation is good becuase i follow these rules, try to sound like a French person or in this case a Polish person. Even if you think you sound like a an idiot chances are they will be impressed.
delphiandomine 88 | 18,455
5 Jul 2011 #7
I dont speak very much polish but have been told my polish is good even though i can speak only a little bit.

Lies, you managed to achieve the "gold standard" - having a conversation with a taxi driver!
pip 10 | 1,659
5 Jul 2011 #8
don't worry about it. just speak. I can't roll my r's either but in my experience after living here for 7 years, when you speak Polish- no matter how bad it is, the average person will be flattered and tell you that your Polish is very good. The thing is- the placement of the tongue when speaking is different- this is something that is learned when you are a child- as an adult teaching yourself to use your tongue differently when speaking is difficult.

it is the same thing when Poles try and say "th" they can't do it.
alexw68
5 Jul 2011 #9
He ain't whistling Dixie. Poznań cabbies are all on crystal meth, judging by their words-per-minute count.
discoverpolska 2 | 5
5 Jul 2011 #10
Could anybody tell me what is so diffcult in Polish 'R'? I know Polish language is difficult especially due to the fact of having several cases (it is not easy to speak correctly since you have to first think in which case particular word should be to add correct suffix) but did not know there is a problem with "R" :-)
alexw68
5 Jul 2011 #11
It's just not British!

:)

My problem is that due to German roots and previous fluency in French I've always rolled the 'r' in the throat; this one is tongue plus teeth. Different sound entirely.
isthatu2 4 | 2,703
5 Jul 2011 #12
RRrrrrrow RRrrround the Rrrrrugged Rrrrrock................say that a few times and you are on your way :)
Any cat owners, do that purr sound ;)
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
5 Jul 2011 #13
Could anybody tell me what is so diffcult in Polish 'R'?

I depends on where you are from. People from Germany and Scandinavia usually manage the Polish R-sound well.
RobertLee 4 | 73
5 Jul 2011 #14
Incorrect R pronounciation is probably the most common speech impediment among Poles :D
PennBoy 76 | 2,436
5 Jul 2011 #15
Is it possible for an English speaker to be fluent, or even functional, in this language? I need help with my pronunciation and grammar, but I don't see where I can get much help.

The problem is you're thinking like an English speaker and maybe trying to hard let it come to you. Relax and just listen how they talk, did you ever try to imitate someone's talk? try that but keep it fun.

what is so diffcult in Polish 'R'?

I never even thought about it till now but Polish is my first language so I can't answer this one.
alexw68
5 Jul 2011 #16
Incorrect R pronounciation is probably the most common speech impediment among Poles :D

And senior members of the British Tory Party. Wonderful.
zinc 1 | 8
5 Jul 2011 #17
I remember there's a video on youtube I saw about how to roll your 'r's with a couple of interesting words to practice ... ah found it:

youtube.com/watch?v=cPIpTERosZY

I can kind of do it, though I think I'm doing it the 'Lennin' way. Anyway, the way I found that worked for me what to do an 'unvoiced' version first, I think he suggests this in the video. It's a muscle training thing though, so it's never going to happen over-night and will come and go for months before you really hit consistency.

The hardest thing for me is really forcing myself to use Polish when with almost everyone I know English is the easiest/quickest/least-painful option :/
OP Rain33 14 | 19
5 Jul 2011 #18
I also have difficulty with some of the vowels in Polish. The "ę," for instance, always throws me for a loop. I will probably always stumble over that vowel. For example, when I try to say "Piękny," it always comes out like I'm saying "pinknay" or something like that. The ł sound is hard for me, too. I could go on and on.

This is the key. Don't exaggerate your own or your neighbours' expectations; they'll be thrilled (especially as they're not in Poland, this always adds an extra dimension) with a simple greeting - cześć/witam/dzień dobry - and you can take it from there. In fact, it's your neighbours who'll give you the best exposure to the language on an everyday level.

Yeah, they seem like nice people. I am just afraid that they might not understand it when I try to talk to them in their own language or, even worse, think I'm crazy. Oh well, I just need to get confidence.
grubas 12 | 1,390
5 Jul 2011 #19
You better write them a note or something.I am assuming you are in Atlanta,why don't you speak English with them?
RobertLee 4 | 73
5 Jul 2011 #20
Yeah, they seem like nice people. I am just afraid that they might not understand it when I try to talk to them in their own language or, even worse, think I'm crazy. Oh well, I just need to get confidence.

They might think you are crazy - in a positive way - after communism Poles fell into some sort of inferiority complex and they couldn't understand why anyone from the "rich West" would want to learn their language. Foreigners who learned Polish became celebrity figures in Poland. This has been changing pretty rapidly though. Still, it's funny when foreigners try to speak Polish. I once asked people to repeat "w Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie" just to make fun of them (one Italian girl managed to do it very well though).
isthatu2 4 | 2,703
6 Jul 2011 #21
Relax and just listen how they talk, did you ever try to imitate someone's talk? try that but keep it fun.

It works,I forgot almost all the French I learnt at school but Im a big fan of French movies and in France people are surprised when I run out of vocab as they assume Im native as I seem to copy a Parisien accent apparently :)
z_darius 14 | 3,968
6 Jul 2011 #23
I cannot roll my "r"s the way Polish speakers can

If you can do the "r" that is used by the Royal Shakespeare Company you'll be close enough.
rsc.org.uk
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
6 Jul 2011 #24
Remember: If you want to speak a foreign language fluently, surrounding yourself-in this case-a Polish language environment and deliberately restricting your use of English if possible is a must. You have to keep in mind that a part of using a foreign language means that embarrassment is part of the process, you just have to accept it and move on-don't get frustrated because most people appreciate your effort, so just stick at it no matter how hard the going.
zinc 1 | 8
6 Jul 2011 #25
to make the 'ę' sound, first thing about 3 sounds in English, an 'e' followed by a 'w' followed by an 'n' . Say them a few times together quickly, now focus on that last 'n' sound which is made by touching the top of your mouth with your tongue. Try to hold your tongue slightly back from touching the top of your mouth, while still making a similar sound. Now the 'n' should be nasal (using the back of your tongue).

The good thing about the 'ę' sound is that it's actually commonly just pronounced as either 'en' (e.g. before t) or 'e' (at the end of most words or before ł). 'piękny' is a good example, it's pronunciation is closest to 'piengkny'.

For 'ł' just do the english 'w' sound, it may not be exactly the same (?), but it's very close.

Probably you're having difficulties because you're finding it hard to switch out of English pronunciation mode when reading a new word, this is because the roman alphabet is a kind of false friend. Mentally it's good to tell yourself 'I'm in Polish mode' and then go through a word slowly sound by sound. A good test is when you go to say the word 'pub', if you mispronounce it as 'poob' and not 'pub' as in English, then it's a sign that your brain is doing things right (even if you're getting that one word wrong as it should retain the English pronunciation)

Anyway, hope that all helps :)
alexw68
6 Jul 2011 #26
(even if you're getting that one word wrong as it should retain the English pronunciation)

Hehe, the exception that proves the rule ;)

A more mainstream example is 'but' - boot. The /u/ here is like the short /oo/ sound in cook.
Lyzko
6 Jul 2011 #27
Listening and then (in private, of course!) later mimicking the pronunciation along with other errors most Polish speakers make in English, can often be a useful guide as to how they pronounce and speak their own language-:)
PennBoy 76 | 2,436
6 Jul 2011 #28
I am just afraid that they might not understand it when I try to talk to them in their own language or, even worse, think I'm crazy. Oh well, I just need to get confidence.

Nah you'll be fine just practice a little more so that it's more or less correct if you're slightly off people will understand it. I was in Greenpoint yesterday in New York which is a Polish neighborhood, the Arabs or Latinos that own stores there speak Polish. My friend wanted to be witty and after buying something said Gracias Seniorita to her she answered back Dziekuje kolega now in this case the kolega should have been kolego but we understood her well so it was OK. So you see people make mistakes sometimes but other will still understand them (unless you're way off lol) and appreciate the effort.
OP Rain33 14 | 19
7 Jul 2011 #29
Listening and then (in private, of course!) later mimicking the pronunciation along with other errors most Polish speakers make in English, can often be a useful guide as to how they pronounce and speak their own language-:)

Some friends of mine e-mailed me a couple of Polish songs with Polish lyrics. Do you think listening to Polish music and following along would help?

Speaking of Polish music, I saw this video on youtube. Does anyone where I can get the Polish lyrics for this song?:


gregloby - | 6
7 Jul 2011 #30
Is fluency in Polish for an English speaker possible? Absolutely YES!
David reached the level. See him speaking Polish.

youtube.com/user/dsnopek#p/u/6/nhExD342KAA
youtube.com/user/dsnopek#p/u/13/0rI9XJzt7Ns


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