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Frustrated Polish Learner -- people in Poland try to speak to me in English


polishfighter
1 Dec 2013 #1
I've been learning Polish for a few years and am around B1/B2 level so can speak OK. I can watch the news and can deal with most every day situations. I live in Poland. However, if I meet any Poles socially and they speak English they always switch to English even if I persist in speaking Polish. Sometimes they try for a bit and then when I make one case mistake smile and then start speaking English. Why is this? I don't find it helpful. It's obvious I want to learn and speak.

Even when I lived in France and spoke worse French than my Polish, people, who could speak English, just carried on in French. I want to learn Polish but only ever speak in the classroom or with my girlfriend's parents who don't speak English. But they aren't very patient either. P.S. my girlfriend isn't really patient at all either. We speak for while and then if she gets confused switches to English. She claims he can't help doing this. I don't want to stay in a country where I can't practise and learn the language.
TaiCat 1 | 30
1 Dec 2013 #2
Many Polish think that our language is too confusing to learn and they just want to help you understand what they are saying, they also may think it will avoid you the embarrassment if they switch to a language you're fluent at.

But if you find this an issue, speak to +45 or elderly people. Their second language is russian so there's no way they can speak english beyond 'yes,no,cool,f*ck' (learned from american movies no less :))

Or go to a village or some small town. At first, people may appear less friendly than city dwellers, and usually they are less proficient at foreign languages since they don't see much need of using them when they have decided to stay in such places. But as soon as they realise you are a foreigner who genuinely wish to become fluent in polish, they may turn out to be a very warm and welcoming people who will be amazed at the fact that you have put all this effort to learn the language.

The bonus is, for many small-town people, having a foreign friend is a status!
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
1 Dec 2013 #3
We speak for while and then if she gets confused switches to English

You know, people tend to communicate in a way which is most efficient.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
1 Dec 2013 #4
@polishfighter

Strangely, you seem to have picked up some minor errors in your English which are common to Polish people who learn English!
szczecinianin 4 | 345
1 Dec 2013 #5
You know, people tend to communicate in a way which is most efficient.

Exactly. If your Polish was better than their English then they wouldn't be making the switch.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,846
1 Dec 2013 #6
it because English speakers are used to hearing their language spoken with mistakes and Polish people are not
Ironside 51 | 11,499
1 Dec 2013 #7
Or go to a village or some small town.

What is that obsession with villages?

The bonus is, for many small-town people, having a foreign friend is a status!

Yes, all others natives are bringing such a person a small offerings and keep the best place around a fire.
Monitor 14 | 1,820
1 Dec 2013 #8
haha, good one :)
frd 7 | 1,401
1 Dec 2013 #9
It really depends on the people. I've got a foreign friend who I work with who's learning polish. When he told me he'd like to talk with me in polish more often I followed that request. Now I pressure him to speak polish even when he's sometimes tired with his learning process ;) I also noticed it's quite hard for me to remember and explain certain grammar structures and concepts. Maybe that's the problem - some people are afraid they are gonna get cornered in some scary dead end of polish grammar they haven't visited since childhood ;)
szczecinianin 4 | 345
1 Dec 2013 #10
it because English speakers are used to hearing their language spoken with mistakes and Polish people are not

There's some truth in that. Speakers of Polish generally have little or no experience of conversing in their own language with those who speak it imperfectly.
Wulkan - | 3,243
1 Dec 2013 #11
Speakers of Polish generally have little or no experience of conversing in their own language with those who speak it imperfectly.

truth, I usually laugh my head off when an individual like that tries to speak to me, I know it discourages them but I can't help it.
InWroclaw 89 | 1,915
1 Dec 2013 #12
When I try to speak Polish it makes anyone within earshot get hysterics [uncontrollable laughter] ! I really don't mind at all, in fact it's got me talking to some really nice people, who perhaps felt a little guilty when I jokingly exclaimed I could see them laughing at me out of the corner of my eye. Best result's when it gets me talking to some eye candy, but we'll keep that quiet as they're usually married ;o)
szczecinianin 4 | 345
1 Dec 2013 #13
truth, I usually laugh my head off when an individual like that tries to speak to me, I know it discourages them but I can't help it.

How would you react to native speakers of English reacting in such a way to yourself (assuming your English to be non-native)?
sobieski 107 | 2,128
1 Dec 2013 #14
I would judge my Polish to be A2/B1. I honestly find it hard to talk with Poles in any other language besides Polish. I do not have that experience, that Poles switch to a foreign language if they recognize a foreign language.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
1 Dec 2013 #15
I do not have that experience, that Poles switch to a foreign language if they recognize a foreign language.

In that case, you must speak it perfectly.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
1 Dec 2013 #16
Dear Frustrated!

My time-tested advice is (and always has been!!) that when Europeans start getting smart-alecky and answering back in broken English, you know you're up s*****t creek without a paddle, let me put it to you that way:-)

In brief, iniquitius non carborundum est - just continue speaking to them in Polish and sooner or later (most likely the former) they'll have little recourse but do do as they ought to have done from the outset; answer in Polish ^^

Hang in there and be a Polishfighter )))
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
2 Dec 2013 #17
some people are afraid they are gonna get cornered in some scary dead end of polish grammar they haven't visited since childhood ;)

I feel a slight temptation to join language exchange but I guess I can offer "learning by heart" at the moment. Maybe next year ;)
sobieski 107 | 2,128
2 Dec 2013 #18
In that case, you must speak it perfectly.

A2/B1 is not perfect, far from it. What I still have problems with though is the "language"used by US, NFZ, ZUS...It seems to come from another planet. But then, for my (Polish) wife their correspondence is also hard to understand.
Rick.
31 Dec 2013 #19
My name is Rick. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. after WW1. My dad has begun to lose his battle over throat cancer. When my grandfather died, my dad found a letter I am pretty sure is in Polish. He always wanted to know what it said, and frankly I am interested too. If I copied the letter, is there anyone who would take a look at it and translate it for me? I would like to read the letter to my dad while I still have him. Thank you....
xerxes2
31 Mar 2015 #20
Merged: Polish (Mexican) Standoff

Does anyone find themselves in a Mexican standoff language-wise with Poles sometimes? My Polish is very close to a B2 level based on testing. But I still find waiters, new people etc. switching to English when speaking with me and then when I keep speaking Polish they're still speaking English. It's quite weird sometimes. Sometimes I'm asked if I want to speak English and I say no thanks. This sometimes seems to cause annoyance and they start speaking really quickly like they're trying to catch me out. Maybe I'm paranoid but just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me ;-)
Lyzko 32 | 7,873
31 Mar 2015 #21
Stand yer ground there, xerxes2 ol' man! Don't let 'em scare you off from some honest communication. If you really truly knew only a few words and your partner was actually "fluent" in English, then I'd probably say "Screw it! Speak English."

Apart from that (as this is not the case here), keep on speaking Polish and sooner or later they'll relent:-)))
DTok1972
11 Jul 2016 #22
I have a relative who does this and it's basically to show off. I find him annoying as everyone else in the room is left in the dark.
Lyzko 32 | 7,873
11 Jul 2016 #23
Oho, in your case, I'd make him suffer with withering sarcasm and mimickry!!

Only to repeat, STAND YOUR GROUND and continue to practice your Polish. If they claim they really "can't" (or more likely WON'T) understand your Polish, merely ask them to speak more slowly, throwing it back into their court that you can't quite make out what they're saying in English:-)

Get's em every time!
LOL
Poleboy765 - | 66
11 Jul 2016 #24
Well, if that's the case, I'd feel welcomed with the help, but I want to be completely fluent in Polish. I know a bit, but not like I know English.
Lyzko 32 | 7,873
11 Jul 2016 #25
"Illegitemis non carborundum est!" aka "Don't let the b******s getcha down!"

The more you indeed just stick to your guns, your Polish will improve in leaps and bounds, as did mine:-)
Trevek 26 | 1,702
12 Jul 2016 #26
I find it annoying when people hear me speak English, I speak to them in Polish and they reply in German!
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
12 Jul 2016 #27
We are dropping English. Wasting of time. You know, now German is trendy ;)
jon357 69 | 18,445
12 Jul 2016 #28
Only to repeat, STAND YOUR GROUND

That's all you can really do. I just pretend (with a little shake of the head and that blank look that nurses often give you if you start to use nursing terminology with them) I can't understand what they're saying in English (unless it's someone I know well who wants to practise their English. If you speak Polish all day every day for long periods, it's quite annoying if someone suddenly speaks to you in English. Rude to others present who don't speak English.

I find it annoying when people hear me speak English, I speak to them in Polish and they reply in German!

One person I know used to speak to me out of the blue in German - I had absolutely no idea what he was saying. Oddly enough he'd heard me make formal speeches, deliver academic lectures in Polish and hold long conversations.

It is actually quite rude when people do that.
Lyzko 32 | 7,873
12 Jul 2016 #29
Piotr Olsztyn,

You're right about German being not merely exceedingly useful, but above all, trendy as well!
:-)

@Trevek and jon, I see we've had similarly annoying experiences regarding Poles' use of English. At least if I were to speak in Polish and someone were to respond in German, I'd know that they were speaking a language which they knew COMPETENTLY, instead of merely for the value of sounding "cool"LOL

At least with German, trendy as it likely is, the bar is so much higher than with English, that there's a bona fide incentive to speak/write/understand it properly (awful accent often notwithstanding)!

This whole question as to which language is "efficient" at a given moment all depends on the partner's competency! Is it then "efficient" if the partner suggests switching to English, but the latter's English is so poor as to be incomprehensible to the interlocutor?

Frequently, Europeans are just in prove mode when encountering a random foreigner, figuring (usually incorrectly!) that the dude won't understand a syllable of the native language:-)

My experience has proven that when they're wrong, THEY'RE the ones who wind up with egg on their face!
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
12 Jul 2016 #30
You're right about German being not merely exceedingly useful, but above all, trendy as well!

I'm looking for a new job now and despite that English is a language of electronics and computers it would be nice to know some basic German at the start. I was pretty good in understanding German in technikum many years ago. I'm hoping that the skills I've learned I cannot forget like a riding a bicycle but books must be open definitely ich bin, du bist, guten tag, mahlzeit .... ;)


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