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learning Polish using American phonics

joan 1 | 1
18 Apr 2009 #1
I am the mother-in law of a wonderful polish woman. Her parents are coming to the USA in June and I would love to be able to speak to them. Is there a Polish course on the computer, a cd or something that teaches Polish using American phonics? I found one course on the computer but it only gave 5 important phrases like " Good morning" or "how are you". If anyone can help me, I would appreciate this so much.
Lori 4 | 118
18 Apr 2009 #2
Go to and look for the Polish material that can be downloaded for free. Also if you live anywhere near a large bookstore, there should be Polish language book. Also get a Polish-English dictionary. One can actually have a conversation that way. I go to Poland to teach English. One day the school secretary walked in the office and gave a big sigh. I went to the dictionary and found the word for busy. She went to the Polish part of the dictionary and found the word for frustrated! By the way, Polish uses the Latin alphabet the same as English. It simply has a few more letters and codes some of the sounds differently. Hope this helps.
z_darius 14 | 3,960
18 Apr 2009 #3
Joan, not to discourage you, but I doubt that you will be able to learn enough Polish to speak to them given just to months to learn the language. It's on the list of the 5 to 10 most difficult languages in the world. I'd say two months that you have might be enough to practice Polish sounds if you give it a few hours a day. As for grammar... well... it's pretty much a horror story ;)

To give you an idea of the difficulties:

When I first came to the US over 20 years ago I took a driving test in the great (little) state of NJ. I spoke decent English but I was afraid I lacked the vocabulary that would allow me to understand the test questions, so I opted for a Polish version of the test. I failed miserably. I could not understand anything. Not even close. Someone (a non native speaker of Polish, apparently) translated the English version without any sense what Polish grammar is. The errors in translation did not make the test funny, iffy or grammatically incorrect. The test was a total gibberish and basically contained no meaningful sentences.

Realistically, I'd suggest concentrating on a few phrases that you think you might want to use. That will be enough of a heroic effort on your part, and it will certainly show your welcoming attitude.
Marek 4 | 867
18 Apr 2009 #4
Merely seconding Darius' advice, I'd gently start off with a few sample basics, considering your visitors speak little to no English, with Poles, more common than with most other Europeans, except perhaps the Spaniards-:) LOL









And then there's also:

(DAWBRII VYECHOORR) a slight trill always on final 'r's




Do let us know how things worked out. -:)))
Hope it helped a little. LOL
Bondi 4 | 142
20 Apr 2009 #5

I suggest you have a look at the "sticky" topic (at the top of this forum):collection of Polish language learning resources. You can find lots of audio/video courses for beginners in Polish.

For example, Magauchsein's videos are great for a start. They go through the Polish alphabet, pronouncing each letter -- which means each Polish sound. Unlike English, every letter (or a double/triple combination of letters) conforms to one vocal in Polish, so you only have to memorize them once to be able to read/pronounce Polish texts. It is a much better way than trying to transcribe them into "American"...

I don't know if you want to keep this as a secret... If not, you can always ask your daughter-in-law to aid you in the correct pronunciation. :)
Marek 4 | 867
21 Apr 2009 #6
My pleasure, Joan! LOL Only too happy to help. Z przyjemnością --:)
21 Apr 2009 #7
Bondi, in my opinion, Polish pronounciation shares certain superficial similarities with Hungarian in the sense that ALL letters are sounded and that it is basically a completely phonetic language, plus, vowel sounds, for that matter all letters are rarely if ever slurred, as they often are in English, where vowel.consonant reduction in speech is taken to exaggerated lengths.

I'm not generalizing though, of course-:)

Olimpia - | 8
23 Apr 2009 #8
Hi Joan,

Should you have any questions, just e-mail me.
I studied English (American pronunciation!) so I might be helpful :)
May even record sth for you and e-mail it, if you wish.

And don't get discouraged! There is plenty of languages even 'worse' than Polish when it comes to pronunciation! ;D
Marek 4 | 867
24 Apr 2009 #9
...yes, and one of them is English. LOL
Don't bother denying it! If such weren't the case, then everybody else's English pronounciation would be much better. I also think it's easier for a non-Pole, namely an American or Brit, to acquire a nearly perfect Polish accent with hours and hours of intensive training than vice versa!

Recently, I met a Polish diplomat who'd lived for years in Ottowa, working as legal counsel for their Embassy in Canada. Like the great Joseph Conrad, his written English was perfect, his pronounciation on the other hand was so thick, you could cut it with a machete. Someone whom he'd just met at the gathering we attended at the Consulate asked him within several seconds if he was from Poland. A trifle irritated, he inquired how the other person could tell he was Polish. "From your accent." was the reply. Rather annoyed at this point, the gentleman snapped, "Vall, sawrrii! Aii deedn't eeffen know ai het an ekssent!"
Olimpia - | 8
29 Apr 2009 #10
Marek is right - pronunciation is sth that people usually ignore while learning a language. We tend to misspronounce words. But there's an explenation for it: we can only hear these sounds which are natural for us, which exist in our native language. Thus, we need TO LEARN TO LISTEN TO new sounds because we simply cannot hear them. For example, in Polish we have only one way of pronuncig 'i' and it's LONG 'i', just like in English word "feel" or "see". In English, however, there are two ways od pronuncing this sound: long 'i' and short 'i' (like in 'it') which sounds much like Polish 'y'. During my first 'phonetics' class at University I got shocked - I thought I was pretty good and fluent in English... and then my teacher made me aware that my pronunciation was faaaaar from English!! However, he also mede me HEAR these sounds. Once I learned to hear them, I started producing them :) It took a year of practice and I got a very nice 'American' accent (that's what my native-teachers said) :)

I don't want to say that I sound '100% American', of course I don't. I am Polish and I will always be. What I want to say it that people who have never studied a language or have never been told how to teach others are not even aware that pronunciation of vowels and consonants may differ and that pronunciation is a critical element in the whole process of learning a foreign language.

Tomorrow I start Yoruba lessons :P Well aaa...
Possible takes a day, impossible takes a week (or 10 months :P) - when u know WHAT to learn.
OP joan 1 | 1
29 Apr 2009 #11
I want to thank you all for you wonderful help. I will try everything as I really want to communicate a little with our new family as we will be with them for 2 weeks.

Thanks again

Olimpia - | 8
29 Apr 2009 #12
Just to help U a little:

Polish ----------- like in American English:

A ------------- Lost /la:st/ or Wow /wau/
B ------------- Ben
C ------------- Waltz
D ------------- Doll
E ------------- Every
F ------------- Fall
G ------------- Goal
H / CH -------- Hell
I -------------- Beat /bi:t/
J -------------- very long i /i:/ or like in Yes (jes)PLUS makes diphtongs with vowels, ex. mój /mui/, fajne /'faine/
K -------------- Can
L --------------- Level
£ -- ---------- Wow
M -- ----------- Money
N --------------- None
O -- ----------- like in British English lost /lost/
P -------------- Place
R -------------- need to roll your tongue, tap it a couple of times on your alveolar ridge, like Scotts do ;)
S -------------- Scott ;)
T -------------- Table
U / ó -------------- you /ju:/
W ------------- Very
y -------------- it, miss, list, stick (short i)
Z ------------ Zorro ;)

ą, ę, ż / rz, ź, ń, ć, ci, ń, ś, si.... need to think more to explain it well :) It'd be good to hear it and see what Poles actually do with their mouth when pronouncing these :P
29 Apr 2009 #13
Dziękuję bardzo, Olimpiu! The phonetic table's very useful indeed-))

Poles of course are not the only ones who fail to differentiate between long and short, resp. closed vs. open, vowels. Nearly ALL speakers of non-Germanic tongues hear no difference between 'fEEl'/'fIll', 'hEAt'/ 'hIt' etc..., among them the Spanish (but not the Catalans!), the Brazilian Portuguese, the French (yet not the Italians or the Romanians), the Russians, the Slovaks, the Arabs, the Israelis or the Turks. LOL

Olimpia - | 8
30 Apr 2009 #14
Sure! Plus Italians! :) They have only 5 vowels :P :) But still this is my fave language ;) [maybe because of that? :P] Hmm... Ok, maybe Finnish and Turkish are also my fave :P I can't choose just one of them! ;)

Turkish do have long (i) i and short i (without a point upon it) in their language but, still, yes - they keep misspronouncing it. Hmmm... strange ;)

p.s. My name in Vocative is Olimpio ;)
30 Apr 2009 #15
My name in (the) wołacz is Olimpio:)

.....silly me, as in DanutO, ElizO, MariO, etc... (same rule), BUT JolU, BasiU, KaziU,..., correct? I know for males, it's almost always U, Panie, Marku!, Jarku, Lechu...., correct? LOL

Olimpia - | 8
1 May 2009 #16
YEP!! :)
Have never thought about that actually....
Danuta - DanutO...
But if you say Danusia (instead od Danuta), then vocative would be DanusiU... !
Wow! It seems I've just found another rule :P Let's check if it works:

Anna --- Anno but Ania --- Aniu
Aleksandra --- Aleksandro but Ola --- Olu
Barbara --- Barbaro but Basia --- Basiu
Katarzyna --- Katarzyno but Kasia --- Kasiu
Jolanta --- Jolanto but Jola --- Jolu
hmm.... Seems it works in most cases! :D
1 May 2009 #17
:))) I'm glad!
Patrycja19 62 | 2,686
3 May 2009 #18
marek, wow, thank you .. I think your alright no matter what anyone says about ya

this is some really good information!!
3 May 2009 #19
Gee thanks, Pat! (Now I'm scared to ask what everybody else has been saying!!:-) Only bad things, I trust. LOL

Bondi 4 | 142
10 May 2009 #20
Hope Joan could manage...

Poles of course are not the only ones who fail to differentiate between long and short, resp. closed vs. open, vowels.

+ Hungarians have no problem with long vs. short vowels.
...but we have problems pronouncing English diphthongs (+ the triphthong in flower, R.P.) and we can't hear the difference between ae vs. e (bad vs. bed).
osiol 55 | 3,921
10 May 2009 #21
Imagine you will be eating Polish for the next week.

Each meal will consist of a starter (phonetics), a main course (vocabulary) and a dessert (grammar).
It's nice to plan your meals ahead, but you only eat one meal at a time and one course at a time, otherwise it would taste horrible, give you bellyache and be too much for your alimentary canal to cope with. However, whilst tucking into Monday's nosh, you should be aware that by Saturday there will be a huge dessert, all of which you might not be able to eat in one sitting.

On Monday, have a big starter of pronunciation, followed by two much lighter courses of vocabulary and grammar.
On Tuesday, you need your starter, but the main course can be a little more substantial. That way, you have more words with which to practice your pronunciation.

On Wednesday, you can indulge in a bigger dessert which will make the meal feel a little more complete and digestible.
... and so on.

When people give guides to pronunciation, be very careful to note who is giving the explanation and what variety of English they speak. As a southern Englishman, if I say something sounds like the letter a, an American might say it sounds like the letter o. Chances are, when descibing Polish, neither of us actually hit the mark and are too accustomed to the kind of hors d'oeuvre with which we start dinner in our own country.
lowfunk99 10 | 397
10 May 2009 #22

I have been learning Polish for a bit over a year. Now I have an advantage because I live in Poland.

I have a very large vocabulary. I understand how most things work but I would say that I can't speak yet.

I can make my self understood and I can understand some conversations.

There is a good book series.


10 May 2009 #23
Bondi, that's why I found Hungarian pronounciation rather familiar sounding, as this long/short vowel distinction is almost identical with German "bItten" (short 'i') = to request something of someone vs. "bIEten" (long 'ee' sound in English!) = to offer something to someone":-)

Only the lack of reduced end vowels in Hungarian compared with most other European languages, proved a challenge for me in learning to pronounce words naturally, that is, without hesitating before speaking, "Oh, is this a schwa sound or not?" Plus, the hypnotically measured cadences of Hungarian made me think I was imitating Bela Lugosi (nee Blaszko, Bela) playing Dracula every time I opened my mouth. LOL


Poles too have no "bed"/"bad", "pen"/"pan" distinction. Russians on the other hand seem to grasp this phonetic distinction fairly easily. Often in fact when they pronounce English sounds, f.ex. in the word "yes", it usually comes out sounding like "yiiiss", whereby the short 'i' sounds practically wrenched from inside their mouthes. With Ukrainians it may be even more extreme!

Polish pronounciation in English frequently sounds oddly nasal, wishy-washy and the pitch of the voice appears to rise and fall quickly, rather like birds chirping.

Russian instead sounds more viscous, like an long oozing river!
b_o_h_e_m_a - | 3
26 Apr 2010 #24
As for the endings of male names forms of "wołacz", ending "-ie" is often used, for example Jarosławie, Krzysztofie, Edmundzie, Filipie. Of course it may also be Jerzy as an exception:P:P sorry for mistakes in english.

Jeśli chodzi o końcówki męskich imion w formie wołacza, końcówka "-ie" jest często używana, np. Jarosławie, Krzysztofie. Oczywiście Jerzy może być potraktowany jako wyjątek:P

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