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Ile by nie było to i tak jest za mało


Derevon 12 | 172
23 Jun 2010 #1
I understand that this sentence is supposed to mean something along the lines of "No matter how much, it's always too little", but it still doesn't make any sense to me.

"ile by nie było"?

"to i tak"?

Could someone please help me make sense of this?

Thanks
pgtx 29 | 3,159
23 Jun 2010 #2
are you talking about a relationship or amount of sugar in your coffee?
Aqua
23 Jun 2010 #3
Ile - how much
by było (also byłoby) - would be,
by nie było - wouldn't be
'Ile by nie było' is like a simplified 'Nie ważne ile by było', instead of saying 'No matter how much it would be' we say something like 'How much it wouldn't be'.

'To i tak' is a sort of 'it still (is)', now that i think of it, it seems untranslatable to me.

Hope it looks more clear now ;)
tygrys 2 | 294
23 Jun 2010 #4
we say something like 'How much it wouldn't be'.

Who's we? That is not proper grammar
Aqua
23 Jun 2010 #5
Eh, i know it's not proper grammar, you're right, i probably shouldn't write that -__-'. It's just the literal meaning of the polish phrase... Even in polish it doesn't make exact logical sense and i'm not sure if it's correct to say that, but it is a phrase that is commonly used. By 'we' i meant polish people, and i'm sorry if i offended you or anybody else by generalising or in any other way... Also please excuse my english, it is not my first language.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
24 Jun 2010 #6
That is not proper grammar

It was a word by word translation from Polish. Can be useful for the understanding of the structure of the Polish language.

i'm sorry if i offended you or anybody else

You have nothing to apologize for.
Matowy - | 295
24 Jun 2010 #7
You know Polish is fucked up when you know every word in a sentence but can't understand a thing it says.
Nomsense - | 38
24 Jun 2010 #8
SzwedwPolsce, I think this forum is lucky to have you among its members :-) .

Sorry for being offtopic ;-) .
Ziemowit 12 | 3,588
24 Jun 2010 #9
Will adding the direct object 'it=to' (in genetive 'tego') make things clearer for you?

Ile by [tego] nie było, to i tak jest [tego] za mało.

An assumptive or understood direct object is present in the structure of this sentence.
OP Derevon 12 | 172
24 Jun 2010 #10
Thanks for all answers.

Ziemowit: At first the whole sentence was just a pure nonsense to me, meaning absolutely nothing. Now that I know "to i tak" is some kind of expression meaning roughly "still" that part makes sense. I guess I also had some trouble understanding what exactly "by" referred to, and what sense of "ile" was intended (as much, so much, as many or so many). Now after some thought I think the only confusing part is the "nie". It just doesn't make any sense to me.

"As much as it would not be, it would still be too little".

As for "to i tak", there seem to be a lot of those expressions In Polish that you will never find in any dictionary, but still are extremely common.

You know Polish is fucked up when you know every word in a sentence but can't understand a thing it says.

Truer words were never spoken. ;)
Ziemowit 12 | 3,588
24 Jun 2010 #11
Now I see what you mean. As your initial translation ("No matter how much, it's always too little") renders the sense of this sentence perfectly, the problem was why this particular choice of words in Polish.

First of all, leaving out the negation particle nie from this sentence doesn't change the meaning of it at all. The negation particle "nie" strenghtens the initial clause and also gives a better vocal rythm to the entire phrase (notice the negation in the English clause as well!).

The particle by is a flying one, so you might not have been able to assign it instantly to the verb było (Ile tego nie byłoby, ...).

"To i tak" can also be ommitted, so the phrase may sound: Ile by nie było, jest (or: będzie) tego za mało. "To i tak (or: "i tak" alone) strenghtens the final clause quite remarkably.

Another form of this sentence might be: 'Choćby nie wiem ile by tego było, to i tak będzie za mało'. Here the negation particle 'nie' moves onto the verb "wiedzieć".

Now I have another explanation. What makes the sentence unclear for non-native speakers of Polish is the absence of the principal clause, whereas the subordinate clause is still there. In fact, this sentence should be: "Nieważne / nie ma znaczenia / Nie jest istotne [principal clause], ile by było [subordinate clause], i tak jest za mało."

The first clause matches the English "No matter, ...", while the second clause matches the English "... , how much (it is), ". With the disappearance of the first clause, the sense may indeed seem unclear. The missing principal cause is like a "black hole" devouring the sense of the phrase in the eyes of a foreign speaker. We, the native speakers of Polish, having been used to such "black holes", don't even notice they are there which is why I was't able to tell the sensible explanation at once.

By explaining it this way, the abundant "nie" in the existing subordinate clause can easily be re-found in the "nie" of the non-existing (or understood) principal clause:

Nie jest istotne, ile by było, i tak jest za mało ---> [...], Ile by nie było, to i tak jest za mało.

In fact, the nie of the subordinate clause is the only trace of the entire principal clause which has dissappeared. This is exactly the same "nie" which can be found in the English principal clause "No matter how much it is, ..." of your translation.

----------------
Thanks for your inquisitive questions that made me realize the existence of these truly hidden phrases in the Polish language.
Lyzko
25 Jun 2010 #12
Ile by nie było to i jak jest za mało.

Is this sentence perchance meant to used in serious or daily conversation? It looks more like one of those conundrum sentences, common to every language, which are almost impossible to translate:-)

***** (After a painfully long absence.)

"meant to BE used..." whoops!
OP Derevon 12 | 172
26 Jun 2010 #13
How difficult it is to learn a language at adult age when you try to combine totally incompatible concepts into one framework.

Our thinking is to such a large extent based on the languages we grow up with that I wonder how it can even be possible to learn a foreign language as an adult (one that is significantly different from one's own).

I've come to the realisation that I don't really speak Polish when I speak Polish. I'm encoding sentences based on Swedish or English thinking. Sadly, Polish for me is more of an encryption algorithm than a language. Even though I know the translation of roughly 10 000 words in Polish, only a handful of them are really part of my "natural" language (i.e. those that I use all the time). All the rest are like dictionary entries that need to be retrieved, analysed (and most likely inflected to agree with person, number and gender) before use. Whenever I try to speak Polish without thinking hard, it always ends up in disaster, and even when I'm thinking really hard and manage to string together a perfectly grammatical sentence with good pronunciation, chances are big that I will not be understood, because people just don't say like that...

As for the sentence in question, if you simplify it as much as possible, would it be possible to say "ile byłoby jest za mało" or something like that?
Ziemowit 12 | 3,588
26 Jun 2010 #14
1. Your statement about learning Polish sounds petty desperate.
2. Are you totally immersed in the language or do you constantly switch from English (or Swedish) to Polish? Total immersion lasting at least for half a year (I suppose you live in Poland now) without any (or as little as possible) interference from another language could be vital for you. The costant changing of languages may be quite "destructive" for your Polish. I am able to immerse myself into English within two hours at an international confrence at Brussels, while I was not able to immerse into it during a three-week long stay in England with my wife because of the need to translate into Polish for her, thus the need to change languages constantly.

3.

As for the sentence in question, if you simplify it as much as possible, would it be possible to say "ile byłoby jest za mało" or something like that?

Yes, it would, but "Ile nie byłoby, jest [preferably: będzie] za mało" will sound much better.
Lyzko
26 Jun 2010 #15
Even from Swedish or another Germanic language closely related to English, such as Dutch (much more than say, German or even Icelandic), the "encryption" phenonmenon of cross-cultural 'code switching' etc. is never really complete. Therefore, even if many Swedes maintain that English is as "natural" to them as English, my experience has taught that this is little more than a pipedream, a long-yearned for desire to be achieved of perfectly mimicking the English, i.e. American, native speaker, practically on the level of undercover agent! A lofty goal, I'll grant you, yet scarcely attainable for a number of reasons. One, "trying" to sound native makes you sound foreign; stop talking and start listening to ALL levels of language, not only Sly Stalone blockusters orearly incoherent Brando. Second, internalized correction barely fits the thick skin of attutude, and finally, we are living all of us in post-literate world (regrettably!) where people aren't getting their information as we once did in more halcyon time, such as through intelligent, literate, witty conversation or classic literature. COME ON, FOLKS! THE ECONOMY SU*CKS, NOBODY HAS THE TIME FOR CULTURE THEY ONCE HAD!!

Back to Polish expressions. That an Anglo-Saxon, a Swede, a Dane..... find much in Polish totally weird and incomprehensible, is obvious. Yet, the process of discovery and being able to apply that discovery in context, that makes the effort seem worth it in the end, (speaking here just for myself, as well as someone who admittedly had a much easier time mastering Swedish than Polish-:) LOL)

Typo! "Even if many Swedes maintain that English is as natural to them as Swedish, their mother tongue....."

Apologies once again))))
OP Derevon 12 | 172
26 Jun 2010 #16
I live in Poland since August 2008, and at current rate I will be able to participate in a normal conversation around 2018 or so.

It's quite annoying at work not to understand what your colleagues are saying to each other. I usually have some kind of idea what they're talking about, but I rarely understand any details.

I've noticed that I understand a lot more for example if someone is talking (rather formally) during a meeting. Then I understand almost everything. If I hear two colleagues talking to each other during the lunch break, on the other hand, only around 10-20% depending on who's speaking.
Lyzko
26 Jun 2010 #17
An interesting assessment, Derevon.

As Polish was my first, and remains my only, Slavic language, I've gotten to the point where I can communciate orally much more fluently than in writing. The reasons are clear; in speaking, especially when counting, we can slur over certain sounds which of course in writng you just can't do: DWA could be made to sound like DWOJE in quick speaking, in writing, the wrong choice stands out like a sore thumb.

In addition, when we talk, most people leave off half or part of the sentence/word. True, Polish is not spoken as lazily as say, American English or Danish, but nonetheless, no native Pole in normal conversation stresses those nasals. In writing, mistakes are laid bare for all to see (...and point at) LOL
OP Derevon 12 | 172
26 Jun 2010 #18
When writing you have time to think about rules and such.

Anyway, I'm sure I could learn to speak decent Polish, but only if I first learn to understand when other people speak. I don't really pick up anything from listening (at least not as far as I've noticed), so that's my problem.
Lyzko
26 Jun 2010 #19
When I was first in Holland, after knowing German, I too thought I could understand everything, after all, Dutch and German (even more than Dutch and English, the Normal Conquest in 1066, you'll kindly remember!! LOL) are almost as close as Swedish and Norwegian, right? (ha-ha!) WRONG!!!

A gentlman asked me "Rijdt u naar Duesseldorf van Amsterdam, of wilt u met de trein? (Are you driving to Duesseldorf from Amsterdam or do you want to take the train?) I responded, "Nee, ik kan niet rijden, ik neem m'n auto." (No, I can't ride, I'll take my care.) The man stared at me with puzzled annoyance amd repeated the question in rather heavily accented English. I responded in German and the man finally understood.

In Dutch 'rijden' means 'to drive' NOT 'to ride' as in English and German. I stupidly thought he was asking if I wanted to travel on horseback LOL

False friends can sometimes be truly dangerous liasons!

TYPO: "I'll take my car....."
))))))))

Apropos false vs. true friends, an amusing story.

A Polish-speaking friend from The Czech Republic, whose house guest I was, once asked me how I was enjoying the glass of Pilsen I was drinking at the local tavern to which she had invited me. I replied _________!, using the word for "fresh", which I can no longer recall. She looked at me a little shocked and the others at the table appeared most disaaproving: Apparently the word I thought meant 'fresh', curiously mean 'stale' in Czech.

I was sooooo embarrassed-:)
Ziemowit 12 | 3,588
28 Jun 2010 #20
I've noticed that I understand a lot more for example if someone is talking (rather formally) during a meeting. Then I understand almost everything.

That's not bad, isn't it ...

Anyway, I'm sure I could learn to speak decent Polish, but only if I first learn to understand when other people speak. I don't really pick up anything from listening (at least not as far as I've noticed), so that's my problem.

In my view, you should try to take a course in phonetics or at least study a book on Polish phonetics (I one had one titled "Fonologia i fonetyka polska") where you can read the formal descriptions of numerous Polish consonants (s, c, ś, ć, sz, cz, dz, dż, dź, szcz, z, ż, ź) and how to distinguish between them. Then, you should have an opportunity to first listen to various Polish dialogs several times before following them in reading the transcripts of the same dialogs.
OP Derevon 12 | 172
29 Jun 2010 #21
There are several reasons why I'm having trouble understand spoken Polish. Some of them are:

1. I have to somehow translate each word I hear except the very most common ones, so it means that if a sentence has more than 5-6 words I quickly lose track, because there's simply not time to do that. If I don't focus very hard when listening I am not likely to understand more than an occasional word here and there.

2. Polish just doesn't sound clear to me. Sounds blur together and many sounds are too similar to distinguish between in fast conversation. The slighest amount of background noise renders any conversation 95% or more unintelligible.

3. Each word has so many different forms that even though I recognise the main form of a word it doesn't necessarily follow that I will recognise it while inflected.

4. Not all words are stressed, for example if people say "każdego dnia" it sounds like "każde godnia" (dnia not having any stress at all).

5. Poles use a lot of metaphors and a lot of things are omitted and simply assumed.

6. Word order is more flexible which makes things more confusing, because, for example, when I would expect a noun, all of a sudden there might be a verb first instead, etc, etc.

The main problem, though, I guess is:

How does one really learn words themselves rather than the translations of words?
Matowy - | 295
30 Jun 2010 #22
How does one really learn words themselves rather than the translations of words?

You have to use them practically. Have you tried having conversations with Poles, and just asking them to speak a bit slowly?

EDIT: How old are you?
OP Derevon 12 | 172
30 Jun 2010 #23
I don't think Poles know the meaning of "speak slowly". ;) Whenever I ask, they repeat the same sentence again at the same speed, and if I hestitate but for a second when speaking, they always try to fill in the blanks for me.
Matowy - | 295
30 Jun 2010 #24
I'm inclined to agree, I don't know why they insist on speaking so fast. Do they really have so much information to convey is a short space of time?
Ziemowit 12 | 3,588
30 Jun 2010 #25
There are several reasons why I'm having trouble understand spoken Polish.

The main problem, though, I guess is: How does one really learn words themselves rather than the translations of words?

You've made a sound diagnosis, indeed. How to find a suitable remedy?

If I were your doctor, I'd advise you that overcoming your main problem as you've described it is absolutely essential if you want to progress any further. You should absolutely abandon the habit of translating words into Polish (or whatever foreign language you learn). Never ever translate any words when you or listen to people or speak to them !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stop learning Polish beyond what you've learnt already and start to eradicate this habit in you. The best way to achieve this is creating links (in your mind) between the imagination of an object or an action and the sounds or graphs which represent them. When you hear, read or speak the word "gruszka", you imagine the fruit as it is, not even trying to recall the English or Swedish equivalent in your mind. You just don't remember a name for it in another language. Similarly, if you hear "pływać", you imagine the action in progress, without any reference to the verbs that describe this action in other languages.

This method needs time and perseverence. It is a training that teaches you to develop a habit to automatically assign a real object or action to its symbolic (or abstract) representation of it in a given language. Likewise, you may treat declined nouns as seperate "entities" which are represented by individual words, e.g. "w domu" means you are in a place where you live, whereas "dom" represents a building which may be your home or may be a building in a street or in a country. This way you don't have to bother which case "w domu" is (by the way, I think it is the way native speakers acquire their command of cases). Giving up your native language as an intermadiary between the real world and the Polish language spares you time and effort, and removes an obstacle that stops you from making any real progress.

Buy yourself a good monolingual dictionary of Polish. For a time being, stop using any bilingual ones.

All the other shortcomings of yours in mastering Polish are weak in face of your main problem, so I won't be commenting on them at the moment.
Lyzko
30 Jun 2010 #26
All excellent advice from Ziemowit. I tried the same with both Swedish as well as Polish and after a while it started to work. Noone said though that it would be either quick, painless or easy-:)))))


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