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What has been the hardest language for you to learn?


NevJordano 3 | 5
8 Oct 2012 #1
Cześć,

I just finished up some homework my tutor gave me. The assignment was short and primarily focused on how to say things you like to do. I have three exams tomorrow and one of them is in my Spanish class, which is the easiest language I've ever taken. For those wondering what other languages I've studied, they are as follows: German, French, Hebrew, Japanese, and now, Polish. A random thought passed my mind while going over verb tenses: What languages seem to be the easiest for Poles to master? The question stems from a comment my tutor made about two weeks ago. She said, "I admire your desire to learn Polish. It is one of the hardest languages for Americans to learn."
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
8 Oct 2012 #2
What languages seem to be the easiest for Poles to master?

Easiest for Poles would be Slovakian, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Silesian and Kashubian.
Richfilth 6 | 415
8 Oct 2012 #3
Back at university I had to do a comparative grammar study; choosing two languages and seeing how they differ. Based on those results, there was an introduction to glotto-chronology and lexicostatistics; all the joys of being an undergraduate linguist.

I arrogantly chose to examine the North Germanics; Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish. I'm not professing any level of skill in these languages, but reading them alongside Old English (Beowulf etc) was surprisingly easy.

I then did a stint in Finland, which in language terms was like being hit in the face with a frying pan.
Ziemowit 13 | 4,262
8 Oct 2012 #4
My guess is that Spanish would be easy for a Pole to learn. I wouldn't say that about Russian (I learned it at school for 8 years altogether); it's similar to Polish so it may often be very tricky for a Pole, on the other hand people tend to think that once it's so similar it must be very easy which is not true as it differs from Polish in many respects.

Easiest for Poles would be Slovakian, Upper and Lower Sorbian, Silesian and Kashubian.

I've never attempted Czech or Slovakian, but yes, that might be true. As to Silesian and Kashubian, I agree that the latter is a different language, but the former is certainly a dialect of Polish, quite difficult to grasp for a speaker of standard Polish when it is spoken quickly (apart from that, there are many sub-dialects within the Silesian dialect). But when I recently read a text advertising a computer game in Silesian, I had no problems whatsoever to comprehend it fully with the exception of one or two dialect words. I am certainly not able to have this full comprehension of a text in Kashubian. Some would like to declare Silesian a separate language for purely political reasons which is quite imaginable. The difference between Polish and Silesian may perhaps be compared to the difference between Czech and Slovak; one is easily understood by the members of the other language's community group.
Lyzko
8 Oct 2012 #5
I don't think such a question can be answered objectively, only a subjective response would be useful, since difficulty is relative anyhow (as I and others have stated numerous times on this Forum!). Many Americans who've never even tackled a foreign language have said Spanish is "easy", and yet for a German, say, of similar foreign-language challenged background, Spanish would be a nightmare of irregular tenses, whereby Dutch or even Danish would be much simpler for them. on the other hand, a Pole might well find English the "hardest" language to learn, as would conversely an Anglo find Polish, Welsh or Hungarian next to impossible:-)
auril - | 3
9 Oct 2012 #6
I really learned English by necessity, when I moved to US. I tried to learn German, bu it just didn't stick with me. My cousin, though, is fluent in German, and I don't think she had any problem learning it. I also learned (still am learning) Spanish, I caught up on it really quickly. After two semesters in my University and a two-week trip to Mexico, I can have a good conversation in Spanish. I'm definitely not fluent yet though.

I think, that the level of difficulty in learning a language depends on how much contact you have with it. I easily learned English, because I was surrounded by it everyday in school. I caught up on Spanish, because I live in Florida now, and I have a lot of contact with Spanish-speakers. I really had no contact with actual German language outside of classroom so I did not retain it. I would love to try my strength in learning Russian, but I'll probably have to wait till I graduate with that :)

I think another cause of whether the language seems easy is the similarity of the sounds it has. As you develop your throat adjusts to the sounds from the languages you learn as a child. That's why it's easier for a Polish person to correctly pronounce Spanish words, than it is for an American. Spanish sound extremely similar to the simple polish sounds. That's why even though I had my first contact with Spanish after I was 18, I'm often told by native Spanish-speakers, that I have no accent in Spanish. On the other hand my Mexican friend cannot pronounce "dź" or "dż" to save her life.
Lyzko
9 Oct 2012 #7
English is an especially difficult language for Polish native speakers because our language has such myriad subtle exceptions to every rule (examples of which are few and far between!) that they are next to impossible to learn unless one has grown up with the language, practically from birth!

Polish by comparison is actually easier for an Anglo-Saxon to learn than vice versa, by virtue of the fact that Polish spelling is inifinitely more transparent than English orthography, once the fundamentals have been mastered, of course:-)

German for an English speaker is harder than for a Pole, if only because of the similar case system, all but morphologically absent from modern English.
Wulkan - | 3,251
9 Oct 2012 #8
Polish by comparison is actually easier for an Anglo-Saxon to learn than vice versa

You are joking, right?
Ziemowit 13 | 4,262
9 Oct 2012 #9
That's right. I also think he's joking this time.
brzmibrzmi - | 18
9 Oct 2012 #10
Polish! Was formally 'Chrzaszcz' here.

I have studied a few languages - Japanese, Chinese, Russian, French and German. Not at any depth, just enough to get by as a tourist...
Woon
10 Oct 2012 #11
Second after those mentioned in the second post must be Ukrainian, no doubt. I tell you that because I am Ukrainian and it feels like that. Subscribe to [porteuropa.eu/ucz-si-ukraiskiego] to learn that yourself.

Take around 40% of Polish words, change most of them into more Russian-sounding; add to them around 60% of SLIGHTLY changed Russian words. Make more consonant-vowel sequences in what you get. Write it all in Cyrillic layout. Here is what Ukrainian might look like to a Pole.

In sounding, remove three halves of sibilants in the Polish words, change o, e, ó into i; remove three halves of palatalizations (softening) in the Polish words - this is what Ukrainian might sound like to a Pole.

It doesn't mean, however, that it is that easy to know, understand, speak Ukrainian - we are just speaking of the ability to get into what's been said or written. I do not mean to say there is no Ukrainian - I just say, it is easy to communicate between us.
Wulkan - | 3,251
10 Oct 2012 #12
I do not mean to say there is no Ukrainian - I just say, it is easy to communicate between us.

There are many Ukrainian girls with Polish guys in Poland. A friend of mine has got one, he says that Ukrainian girls make a good wifes, but because all Ukrainian people speak Russian, this is the language they comunicate with as he has learned it in school before.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
10 Oct 2012 #13
but because all Ukrainian people speak Russian, this is the language they comunicate with as he has learned it in school before.

They don't, though. I know quite a few who live in Lwów that don't use Russian - they know it (from TV), but they don't communicate in it unless there's no other option - their first and working language is Ukrainian.
Wulkan - | 3,251
10 Oct 2012 #14
That's what I mean, not all of them use it in everyday life but all of them know it.
Lyzko
10 Oct 2012 #15
I'm not joking, Ziemowit and Wulkan(o):-)

The spelling and pronunciation of Polish was what is more transparent than English, scarcely the grammar/structure!
My reference was simply not clear, that's all. Other than that, I stand by the content of every message I've ever posted at PF.
TommyG 1 | 361
10 Oct 2012 #16
Polish by comparison is actually easier for an Anglo-Saxon to learn than vice versa

I know exactly what you mean. I wouldn't like to say which is easier overall, but the phonetic consistency in the Polish language definately makes it easier to write than say English which, quite frankly, is a mess.
Lyzko
10 Oct 2012 #17
On the money, Tommy G.!

I've been saying that for years, yet Poles and others fight me on this tooth and nail every step of the way. It was of course the year 1066AD with the Norman Conquest which changed the course of English forever, "Frenchifying" spelling by adding the hitherto unknown factor of silent letters into the most phonetic Anglo-Saxon.
TommyG 1 | 361
10 Oct 2012 #18
It was of course the year 1066AD with the Norman Conquest which changed the course of English forever

Which is probably the second reason why we call him "William the Bastard". True on both counts :)
Wulkan - | 3,251
10 Oct 2012 #19
Lyzko, Spelling system of English is probably the worst from all the languages surely including Polish, but that's only one small thing among others.

Claiming that learning Polish for English person is easier than the other way round comparing only spelling systmes of those languages is in fact ridiculous.
Lyzko
10 Oct 2012 #20
If your claim to the contrary were true, Wulkan, then Poles would speak/write/understand English much more than they do, since our language (in your view) is so much simpler, right?

Come on! We both know the opposite to be the case; because English "seems" to you so much less difficult, you take less time to "get it right", because the international standards for English are universally lower than for Polish, German, Russian or any one of a number of other languages:-)
Wulkan - | 3,251
10 Oct 2012 #21
There are millions of Polish people speaking fluen English.

I have never seen a single English person speaking fluent Polish.

Even you claim to speak fluent Polish and yet make unacceptable grammar mistakes.

Sorry but there is no chance for you to win that argument.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
10 Oct 2012 #22
I have never seen a single English person speaking fluent Polish.

I can introduce you to several with pleasure.

That's what I mean, not all of them use it in everyday life but all of them know it.

It actually doesn't make sense - why would a Pole and Ukrainian communicate in Russian if the Ukrainian speaks Ukrainian properly?

What's more likely is that the Ukrainian girls you're talking about are ethnically Russian and don't actually speak Ukrainian well/at all.
strzyga 2 | 993
10 Oct 2012 #23
It actually doesn't make sense - why would a Pole and Ukrainian communicate in Russian if the Ukrainian speaks Ukrainian properly?

Because, if they both know some Russian, it's much simpler. Ukrainian is not so easy to understand for a Pole. Simple words and phrases, yes, but it's very easy to get lost in a full-blown conversation.
delphiandomine 85 | 18,254
10 Oct 2012 #24
Sure, but wouldn't that require the Pole to also know Russian to a very decent standard?

I know quite a few Ukrainians (living in Ukraine) who learnt Polish very easily - they don't even treat it as a real foreign language because of how similar it is and how easy it is to pick up for them.
a.k.
10 Oct 2012 #25
If your claim to the contrary were true, Wulkan, then Poles would speak/write/understand English much more than they do, since our language (in your view) is so much simpler, right?

What kind of Poles do you mean? If someone wants to learn English then surely is able to learn it to a fairly decent level. If someone finds English difficult then I dare say such person isn't capable to learn any foreign language.

To answer the OP. Poles find difficult exactly the same languages as Americans and other nations do. Since I haven't learn any language from my language group (Slavic) I am not able to assert if being a Polish native speaker is any advantage but the common believe is so.

Contrary to Lyzko's claims German is not any easier language to learn for Poles, especially the existence of case system in both Polish and German is not a facility. In Polish there are 7 cases while in German 4. Those 4 don't always correspond with Polish counterparts. Even if they did, I have no idea how that would help in learning German since learning a language is more about aquiring intuitive ability of applying grammar than understanding it. Declining article der, die, das is as much difficult for a Pole as for an English speaker, believe me!
Lyzko
10 Oct 2012 #26
Wulkan, I wasn't, nor am I, trying to "win" any "argument" regarding the lack of fluency or even the presence thereof among Poles who 'know' English! I was merely sharing my rather extensive experience in this area, that's all. And as for my grammar mistakes in Polish being "unacceptable", yours in English are no less acceptable, (albeit forgivable):-)

Bottom line is simply that the margin for error is far greater in Polish than in English, therefore, what looks like correct English to the casual glance of a Pole such as yourself, might in fact be aggegious to an educated English native speaker.
strzyga 2 | 993
10 Oct 2012 #27
Sure, but wouldn't that require the Pole to also know Russian to a very decent standard?

I said "if they both know some Russian", meaning the generation of Poles who had an 8-year exposure to it in the primary and secondary school. Trying to speak to an Ukrainian, you automatically switch to Russian or whatever you remember of it, as it usually works better than simply speaking Polish.

I know quite a few Ukrainians (living in Ukraine) who learnt Polish very easily - they don't even treat it as a real foreign language because of how similar it is and how easy it is to pick up for them.

It is and it probably works both ways but still, you need some exposure time and the situation is not quite symmetrical here, at least with the Western Ukrainians. Many of them have more contact with Polish than Poles do with Ukrainian - I mean, they come here to work or to sell things, there are a lot of Poles and Polish tourists around the Lviv area, they watch Polish TV etc, and as a result, they're more familiar with the Polish language than vice versa. Given the same time of exposure, a Pole would probably pick up Ukrainian with equal ease.
Lyzko
10 Oct 2012 #28
a.k., I take your point about German. I was merely attempting to debunk the shibboleths, i.e. myths, concerning the perceived nature of language difficulty, no more, no less.
Wulkan - | 3,251
11 Oct 2012 #29
I can introduce you to several with pleasure.

I wonder how much time would I need to make them switch back to English

It actually doesn't make sense - why would a Pole and Ukrainian communicate in Russian if the Ukrainian speaks Ukrainian properly?

Because the Poles don't speak Ukrainian?

Sure, but wouldn't that require the Pole to also know Russian to a very decent standard?

Sweet Jesus! another on with the reading issues

because all Ukrainian people speak Russian, this is the language they comunicate with as he has learned it in school before.

regarding the lack of fluency or even the presence thereof among Poles who 'know' English!

This is the source of the problem here that you have, an experience with Poles who don't 'know' English, or they know English but not at the fluent level because they didn't learn the language long enough or hard enough.

The fact is that English is as hard for Polish speakers as for eny other foreigners because English is not similar to any other language, maybe French people have a bit easier cause French shares a lot of vocabulary with English.

You say that the English person can learn Polish easier then the other way round. I think you could easier convince someone that the water is not wet.
Lyzko
11 Oct 2012 #30
Actually, there is such a thing as "dry" ice, but then I'll quite while I'm ahead as this is NOT a science forum, apropos "dry water"LOL

What your say about the French is partially true though. Having spent time (apart from Poland) in both France and Spain, I can safely assert the difference between the Spaniards vs. the French is that the latter typically DON'T speak English, although most can, because the're simply too damned proud, whereas the former almost NEVER speak English with foreigners because most never learned, one of many regrettable legacies of Generalissimo Franco:-)

When I was last in Spain (1997), this was the case. I was also in Poland later that same year, and would bet you all dollars to donuts that more Poles at that time knew English than the Spanish!!!


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