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How do Poles feel about foreigners learning their language?


Lyzko    
29 Jul 2011  #31
Obviously, we can't generalize here. All I'm sharing are some elementary observations based solely upon my experiences in both Poland as well as in Germany and Austria. I would add that many German speakers have had more years of English instruction in school on average than most Poles. Having said that, I still maintain that Poles in general show far more open gratitude at foreigners learning their language than the rank-and-file younger German speaker I've encountered meeting an American-born visitor who speaks German.

No offense meant to anyone!
XxxYyy    
9 May 2013  #32
I'm Polish and I really adore when foreigneres are trying to speak in Polish and I always try to be as helpful as possible, I've learnt English many years and I know how difficult is to learn foreign language :)
Kromat83 - | 4    
9 May 2013  #33
They are happy at the way I speak Polish, because i left when I was 4 and lived in Canada for 23 years, but I haven't stopped using it more then 3 days max and speak it almost every day with family and friends.

I still combine polish with English, but I can use simple words properly, so they understand most of what I want to say.
Like they say, ' If you don't use it, you lose it '
jackmark 1 | 26    
9 May 2013  #34
I've had a couple (i.e. two) of experiences in small towns with young people who were a bit grumpy that I spoke to them in Polish instead of English.

Maybe they were grumpy for other reasons, and not because you spoke Polish..
Lyzko    
9 May 2013  #35
They probably just wanted to practice their elementary English with you, that's all! G_d knows, they need all the practice they can getLOL
jackmark 1 | 26    
9 May 2013  #36
I am a native Pole living in US for 22 years, (almost half of my life); I can't even fathom who did you hear these comments from, but judging by their "content" I think none of them actually ever were in Poland. Come to think of it, I am surprised that you heard so many such comments, and wonder why.

Poles generally consider their language "one of the hardest ones to learn" (I personally think the hard part is only because it is a fully "inflected language" (look up Wikipedia). Anything else I consider easy, like: it writes phonetically, it has a flexible word order, and it only has some small degree of ortographical difficulty related to the usage of "u" versus "ó", "rz" versus "ż", and "h" versus "ch". Other than that, it is no harder than any other language. I think it is on par with Russian and German, which I also know)) and if you only attempted to speak even a few words, they will be simply delighted (and embarrased at the same time that Polish is such a hard language to learn). Like I would be, if someone would try to communicate with me in my native language :)

Rain33: I have mixed feelings about going to Poland after listening to the above comments. After all, if I don't go, I feel that I will be missing a huge opportunity. Besides, when I am ever going to get the opportunity to study nuclear physics in Warsaw again? Or when will I ever get the chance to visit Wawel castle in Krakow? I don't know now....

I hope you didn't miss this oportunity, since it would be a shame. Allow me to give you some other advice - never, and I mean never, and for the world, miss a chance to do something in life, just because of some prejudice or preconceived notions of your peers. Always go ahead and find out for yourself, just like any physicist (or scientist) would do!
Lyzko    
9 May 2013  #37
Am curious, Jackmark, as to whether you consider German on the same level of difficulty. Your English seem reasonably good, which one would expect after a longer sojourn in an English-speaking country:-) Russian for a fellow Slav is scarcely a stretch, I would think.
jackmark 1 | 26    
10 May 2013  #38
Your English seem reasonably good, which one would expect after a longer sojourn in an English-speaking country:-)

Thank you for the good word; thinking back on it wasn't easy. When came to US I spoke very basic English (I guess I was at beginner's level back then). When I tried to speak English, German words would pop up in my head all the time. But I still do need a spellchecker, as I would always write words like "almost" with double "l", "maybe" with double "e" etc. :)

Am curious, Jackmark, as to whether you consider German on the same level of difficulty.

Yes, I do. German is "partially flexed" language like Polish, and I never remember the correct gender of nouns, as you must use them with "der"(masculine) die (feminine) or "das" (neutral). In regard to pronunciation, it was easy for me because it just reads and sounds very similar to Polish. Also, due to long common history and the shared border, there obviously are many words with German origin that incorporated into everyday Polish.

On a positive side, I can assure you that you already possibly know of the bat possibly hundreds of Polish words - those that came from Latin - just change the endings: "-tion" to "cja" - so "nation" becomes "nacja" in Polish, "information" becomes "informacja" etc. :)

Russian for a fellow Slav is scarcely a stretch, I would think.

Not quite so. While the pronunciation is similar as Polish (yet much softer and melodic), it is a completely different language. It has its own alphabet (Cyrilic) versus Polish "Latin-based". It shares some similarly (but distinctly) pronounced words like "bread" for example (Polish "chleb", Russian "хлеб "). I cannot tell for sure, because I am impartial, as I started learning Russian back in elementary school and I understand it on an intermediate/advanced level. But many Russians I encountered here are at total loss when I try to speak Polish to them. Therefore, I am not that sure about Russian-Polish similarities. If I had to compare, I would draw on Spanish/Italian ancestry and similarity, but I do not know either one of them to tell.

Keep in mind that Polish is considered West Slavic language with heavy influences from western language groups, and so it changed greatly drifting away form Slavic "mother tongue" whatever it was.

I hope that explains it a bit
Lyzko    
10 May 2013  #39
Nice responses/observations, Jackmark, many thanks indeed:-)

A little aside. A friend of mine was an exchange student many moons ago in (of all places!!!) Sofia. Having never been behind the that-time Iron Curtain, nor having studied as much as a syllable of Bulgarian, she cleverly though to use here college Russian from her arrival at the airport right on down through to the hotel reservations desk, car rental etc...

It worked like a charm.

The reservations desk clerk was so charmed by her Russian, he asked her if she was Czech or Slovak, never suspecting she was American by birthLOL
jackmark 1 | 26    
10 May 2013  #40
:)

From the little I know about Bulgarian, there seem to be many similarities with Russian. Your friend's story sounds just right because:

- Bulgarian uses Cyrrilic just like Russian does,
- Bulgarian and Russian share a lot of vocabulary,
- Don't forget about the influence of Orthodox Church,
- During Cold War, as in every country in USSR sphere of influence, Russian was taught in all schools as "lingua franca" of the Eastern Bloc.

- Hearing your friend speaking Russian (which they can relate to and understand probably far better than English), Bulgarian people must have been naturally charmed.

And lastly, to quote some other source: "Bulgarian is a direct descendant of Church Slavonic (or something very close to it, anyway), while Russian is a kind of nephew to it. Church Slavonic is the primary liturgical language of the Orthodox Church in Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Belarus. It is also used in the Serbian Orthodox Church and Polish Orthodox Church, and it occasionally appears in the services of the American and the Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church. It is the most widely used liturgical language in the Orthodox Church. That is why Russian and Bulgarian have a *lot* of common vocabulary but are very different grammatically. Also, in the 19th century Bulgarian would start to borrow back from Russian, in a national revival campain to eliminate Turkish influence."
Lyzko    
10 May 2013  #41
.....a scant thirty or so years before Ataturk himself would attempt to (not so sucessfully!!) exponge any and all Arab language influences from standard, spoken Turkish (so-called 'Ottoman Turkish'), in a desparate play for salvaging the historic Turkic roots which the Ottomans had tried to root out from the language:-)

Interesting these vain experiments in "language purification" ^^
pierogi2000 4 | 229    
10 May 2013  #42
Good luck. Polish is difficult
jackmark 1 | 26    
10 May 2013  #43
Ah, these "experiments" can be vain because language can be considered a living entity with great ability to morph.

Yet to give you a contrary example, there is one that could overshadow any other attempts, current or historical soon: contemporary Chinese authorities are way more aggressive (and resourceful) now against Cantonese or other dialects/languages (whichever is the right term). They simply trying to kill it:

voanews.com/content/anger-over-anti-cantonese-moves-in-china-99760444/123149.html

The image portrayed by Bejjing is that Mandarin is "Official Chinese" whereas Cantonese nothing more than a slang, not worth preserving. And, Mandarin is "the language of business" versus Cantonese "language of history, poetry and the past". Clever and dangerous.

So much that even many Cantonese speaking people (in America) are considering it a "dying language" already.

straight.com/news/cantonese-endangered-language

Chinese government has already "half-killed" the "Shanghainese" (less that 50% of residents of Shanghai speak it), they are on a good road to exterminate Cantonese. I know this because I have a small personal stake in this Cantonese/Mandarin struggle myself.

Now I do not think Cantonese will actually die for another 100 years, but beyond that, who knows, it is possible. Nobody speaks Latin or Arameic (in real life that is) for that matter anymore...
Rysavy 10 | 308    
10 May 2013  #44
My experience when I ordered the chocolate telegram was positive. Though highly amused and chortling, the man was kind and patient. Even communicated to me that the english speaking employee would be in next day.

(Alas I had to find alternate way for order because my IE didn't like the site. But result -perfect)
jackmark 1 | 26    
10 May 2013  #45
Good luck. Polish is difficult

No, it is not ;);) Cantonese is!

Just try to learn tonal language with difficult aphabet, and you will aprecciate Polish :)
pierogi2000 4 | 229    
10 May 2013  #46
No question. I was going to post before so I might as well now but Polish might be the most difficult European language. Asian is on a different level.
delphiandomine 87 | 16,885    
10 May 2013  #47
but Polish might be the most difficult European language.

Wrong. Hungarian, Finnish and Estonian clearly win that one.
92290xxx    
10 May 2013  #48
Witam! Another BS topic! Polish language is difficult for people whose native language is not a slavic language and very easy for people whose native language is a slavic language. I know numerous Russians, Ukrainians, Bulgarians, Czech, Slovaks, Croats.... who learn Polish in a jiffy. On the other side, Anglo-saxons, or latin language speakers (just to name a couple of examples) have a hell of a time to learn Polish or other slavic languages.

The only difficult languages are those not related to any other, such as Hungarian, Estonian, Finnish (the 2 latter are kind of related), Gaelic, Basque...;.(to talk about European languages). I've also heard that for instance Thai and Vietnamese are almost impossible for Europeans.

To summarize, Polish is difficult and easy depending upon one's native language.
Lyzko    
10 May 2013  #49
As I keep saying, difficulty is completely relative! English for instance has a superficially "simple"- looking grammar (one reason why far too many people believe they can speak English well), yet a ferociously difficult spelling/pronunciation correlation:-) The latter of course is due to English's historical inability to keep up with the development of printing which helped to standardize the language.

A further point, Jackmark, one has the feeling thoughout much of urban America that ENGLISH, not Cantonese, is the real "dying" languageLOL
Polson 5 | 1,775    
10 May 2013  #50
very easy for people whose native language is a slavic language.

Of course, Slavic languages are very closely related. But, as you said, for the rest of the world, Slavic languages, and especially Polish, are very difficult. In Polish, one word can have tens of different forms. I'm speaking as a Frenchman (who's also half Polish), I think it would be a bit easier for me to learn German than Polish, even if German is not a Latin language.

Polish is easy only if you speak another language that is very close to it. Otherwise it's not.

English for instance has a superficially "simple"- looking grammar (one reason why far too many people believe they can speak English well), yet a ferociously difficult spelling/pronunciation correlation:-)

Yes, but in the worst case, you speak English with a strong accent. That's not possible with Polish tho ;)
Lyzko    
10 May 2013  #51
In some quite homogeneous languages, not pronouncing the words PRECISELY as a native of that language, can lead to grave misunderstanding, as so comparatively few outsiders ever learn those languages, natives aren't typically used to errors, such as in Hungarian, Polish, even German. The key difference between English and these other languages is that English (American especially) speakers all too often naively think that THEIR language is instantly understood equally by the rest of humanity and therefore use English to INclude others rather than EXclude those perceived as "outsiders". Germans do this a lot and often register shock, possibly surprise (rarely delight however) when they realize that others out there know their language too:-) Poles tend also to be less "inclusive".
Lyzko    
11 May 2013  #52
I wasn't aiming to generalize with my last post, but was speaking merely from my experience. Americans abroad, save for the occasional ex-pat, typically never even bother to learn much if anything of the target language in the country they're visiting. I know lots of people who've lived and live in, for example, Germany, Switzerland, France etc.. and unabashedly admit to virtual ignorance of that country's native tongue(s).

On the other hand, uncounted numbers of immigrants come to our shores on a regular basis, not only don't know much English (sometimes none!!), but automatically expect that the host should learn the language of the guestlol

Both are a double edge of the same sword. Ah yes, cheap labor 'tis of thee, sweet land where all is free:-)
jackmark 1 | 26    
12 May 2013  #53
Yes, but in the worst case, you speak English with a strong accent. That's not possible with Polish tho ;)

This guy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Godson speaks an excellent Polish. (I heard him on tv giving interviews a few times). His slight accent can be only heard only in a few words, however most words he pronounces just perfectly.

See for yourself here: youtube.com/watch?v=WyXzHDZpAHY

Polish is easy only if you speak another language that is very close to it. Otherwise it's not.

Not sure how long it took him to learn it so well, but his native language certainly is not even remotely close to Polish.

IMHO learning language well may be easy or hard (depending on various circumstances) but it is possible. It is just a matter of motivation. In other words: if you keep telling yourself "it is so hard" it will be. Try telling yourself "it's not so hard, I can do it" and results will be startling :)

A further point, Jackmark, one has the feeling throughout much of urban America that ENGLISH, not Cantonese, is the real "dying" languageLOL

That might be. In a few hundred years, we will have 'Spanglish' mixed with 'Ebonics' here ;)

Just joking, who knows how the language will evolve

Poles tend also to be less "inclusive".

With Polish, I do not think this is the "inclusive" versus "exclusive" attitude that is taking place here. Since following WWII Poland was for 45+ years cut off from the rest of the world behind the "Iron Curtain", few visited it, let alone learned Polish. Even now, admittedly, few outsiders speak Polish, hence any foreigner speaking it will be met with either with awe or surprised attitude, and not because he/she is mispronouncing words or making grammar errors but because he/she is speaking Polish at all!

Of course, Slavic languages are very closely related.

Admittedly, Polish noun declension and adjective inflection is confusing even to Poles (we learn it in school and make mistakes too). But you will be understood even when making horrible errors in that regard - just don't worry about it. I had similar issues with German (similar, yet simpler) but I cared less as the most important was to communicate. After a while (and watching enough German TV) the rate of errors in my German subsided. But that was a long time ago; now I have forgotten most of my German as I haven't been in contact with the language for quite some time.

Here is another commentary to "Polish is very hard, impossible to learn for non-Slavs" discussion: fluentin3months.com/polish/

Now this guy impresses me a lot!
Polson 5 | 1,775    
12 May 2013  #54
This guy speaks an excellent Polish.

I know him, he's been in Poland since the early 90's if I remember well, so he better be fluent in Polish now ;)

Try telling yourself "it's not so hard, I can do it" and results will be startling :)

Of course, I'm not saying it's impossible, nothing is impossible (more or less), but it will surely take me a while to 'master' many aspects of Polish ;)

Here is another commentary to "Polish is very hard, impossible to learn for non-Slavs" discussion:

That's a very interesting article. Even if I didn't say Polish was 'impossible' to learn for non-Slavs ;)
jackmark 1 | 26    
12 May 2013  #55
Even if I didn't say Polish was 'impossible' to learn for non-Slavs ;)

Yep, you didn't. My bad :)
Polson 5 | 1,775    
12 May 2013  #56
So, Jackmark, how does it feel to you when a foreigner speaks Polish? (at least a bit)
jackmark 1 | 26    
12 May 2013  #57
I am as happy as a clam :)
Polson 5 | 1,775    
12 May 2013  #58
Bardzo dobrze. Uczę się polskiego, ale wciąż jest trudny dla mnie. Mam nadzieję że będę mógł mówić po polsku tak jak Polacy ;)

High hopes here ;)
jackmark 1 | 26    
12 May 2013  #59
Like I said - happy, happy :)

I am quite sure that with this attitude, you will. As long as you keep on trying to learn (even just a tiny bit) every day. The elephant in the room (or should I say, "in one's head" :)) is motivation and commitment.

Ty też możesz mówić po polsku!
pam    
12 May 2013  #60
I would say most Poles I've come into contact with are just surprised I am learning Polish.
By far the most popular question is ' Why are you learning Polish when you don't need to speak the language?' ( I live in the UK )

Fair point I suppose, but why not? It's my hobby, although I do wonder at times why I'm torturing myself learning this language!



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