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Is it possible to master the Polish language fluently for a non-Polish speaker?


Simon1 5 | 12
8 Nov 2016 #1
Hello again, I have just came across this forum so I am making the most of it lol. From what I read on the forum it seems to be that Polish is a really difficult language to learn and I get that as I am trying my hardest to learn it. So my question is...You always here about English speaking people who can speaking fluently in Spanish, French, Italian etc but I have never come across someone who is English that can speak fluently in Polish and understand others competently. Is it just due to the fact it is extremely difficult or have I just not came across them lol.

Sorry for bombarding the forum...I am just asking the questions that I have thought about in the past.

Is Polish up there with the MOST difficult language to learn?

Thanks again, Simon
gumishu 13 | 6,140
8 Nov 2016 #2
Is Polish up there with the MOST difficult language to learn?

it is very difficult for people whose native language is not Slavic - Polish language is quite irregular - even Polish youth often struggle with more obscure aspects of our language
Wincig 2 | 227
8 Nov 2016 #3
@gumishu

Polish language reflects Polish culture: quite simple and straightforward in appearance, but with multiple exceptions and sidesteps designed to trick the uninformed foreigner!
mafketis 37 | 10,897
8 Nov 2016 #4
but I have never come across someone who is English that can speak fluently in Polish and understand others competently.

In my experience Americans are generally better at learning Polish than British or Irish people are (there are some exceptions both ways of course).

I remember at one time knowing about 4 or 5 Americans (no contact with the language in the US) who were fluent enough in Polish to deal with bureaucracy on their own with no interpreter. I knew a similar number of Brits at the same time who'd been in Poland for similar lengths of time and none of them could speak Polish for crap.

IME Polish is much easier to learn in situ rather than in another country. The learning curve is _very_ steep in the beginning and for the first two years or so it just seems like a hodgepodge of exceptions rather than a system. It's sometime in the third year it starts becoming a bit easier. The problem is you need an overview of the whole system and how it works before you can make much sense of it but once you have that you can predict things pretty well.

(English works in the opposite manner, it starts easy and then after a couple of years starts getting harder and harder).

My advice is first and foremost concentrate on nouns, pronouns and adjectives. For many people that seems to be counter-intuitive and they want to spend more time of verbs in the beginning. But the case system is really the backbone of the language. It should be the priority (don't neglect verbs entirely but don't go crazy over them in the beginning, the more you understand the noun system the easier verbs will be).

Whatever you do, don't spend a lot of time memorizing "aspect pairs" of verbs that's all but useless. I wasted a lot of time learning lists but the more I learned the less I thought about aspect (it largely takes care of itself in advanced learning).

Is Polish up there with the MOST difficult language to learn?

No. The old US Airforce classification (specialized for Americans) put it in category 3, harder than French or Spanish (1) or German (2) but easier than Chinese or Arabic languages (4).
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,862
8 Nov 2016 #5
yes but Maf with such a small sample size you cannot categorise by nationality, it's stupid.
In my experience how good someone is at learning languages is about personality and necessity, Also whether one has a partner who speaks that language. Now obviously all of these things would more have been variables in your tiny sample of nine people than nationality....S:
mafketis 37 | 10,897
8 Nov 2016 #6
.

with such a small sample size you cannot categorise by nationality, it's stupid.

I wasn't submitting this to a peer reviewed journal, but mentioning personal experience.

In my experience how good someone is at learning languages is about personality and necessity,

Exactly, this comes from the 1990s where it was much harder to get around with just English. Still, Brits mostly didn't learn and Americans mostly did (I did mention there are counterexamples both ways).

I think it has something to do with American social networking. We like broad social networks with shallow connections (we like to know a lot of people but not necessarily deeply) At the time the only way to have anything like a broad social network in Poland was to speak Polish.

By contrast, IME Brits are more like other Europeans (esp northern Europeans) in preferring smaller social networks but with deeper connections so knowing fewer people bothered them less.

There's also the idea that most of the Americans I knew had chosen specifically to come to Poland while about half the Brits just sort of.... ended up here.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,862
8 Nov 2016 #7
mentioning personal experience.

yes yes I get that....I was just pointing out that drawing conclusions from personal experience can be a bit of a pitfall.

.

about half the Brits just sort of.... ended up here.

ha ha now that I cannot argue with...:)
mafketis 37 | 10,897
8 Nov 2016 #8
I was just pointing out that drawing conclusions from personal experience can be a bit of a pitfall.

I don't draw conclusions as much as working hypoetheses that are amended as new data is obtained. Of course making too many inferences from too little data is dangerous, but the alternative is to fly blind in almost all situations which is even more dangerous.
Ziemowit 14 | 4,278
8 Nov 2016 #9
Whatever you do, don't spend a lot of time memorizing "aspect pairs" of verbs that's all but useless. I wasted a lot of time learning lists...

Yes, learning from "lists" is completely useless. The polish people often make this mistake learning the cases of German articles.
OP Simon1 5 | 12
8 Nov 2016 #10
Thank you to everyone for all your help. I do appreciate it a lot.

Cheers, Simon
Alien 20 | 4,979
19 Oct 2023 #11
/ Is it possible to master the Polish language fluently for a non-Polish speaker

The answer is simple, it is not possible...or at least not with a Polish accent.
Atch 22 | 4,125
20 Oct 2023 #12
I think it's possible to get the accent right. It's the grammar that's the killer!
Alien 20 | 4,979
20 Oct 2023 #13
A topic for broader discussion. I recognize a Ukrainian fluent in Polish immediately by his accent. My children all speak Polish without a foreign accent, but they learned it as children. However, they still have problems with syntax. These are 2 extreme cases. Most foreigners have problems with syntax and a foreign accent.
Novichok 4 | 7,962
20 Oct 2023 #14
My children all speak Polish without a foreign accent,

Do you speak Polish at home?
Atch 22 | 4,125
20 Oct 2023 #15
I recognize a Ukrainian fluent in Polish immediately by his accent.

Ironically speakers of other Slavic languages have a problem with the accent perhaps more than an American or a Brit. It's because of the very similarity and yet difference between other Slavic languages and Polish.
Alien 20 | 4,979
20 Oct 2023 #16
speak Polish at home?

Of course, as long as the children are at home without their partners.
Novichok 4 | 7,962
20 Oct 2023 #17
As I said, Europe should switch to American and be done with this nonsense of god only knows how many crappy languages nobody wants to learn per square mile.

As a long-term benefit, you would have fewer world wars.
Another benefit: I could watch your movies without subtitles.

Of course, as long as the children are at home without their partners.

In what sense are you German/ Or do you just live in Germany?
mafketis 37 | 10,897
20 Oct 2023 #18
I recognize a Ukrainian fluent in Polish immediately by his accent

Eventually... but some come very, very close (some have been in Poland a long time). Last year on a streetcar, some teens came around collecting for the Ukrainian army. Both a Polish friend and myself thought they were Polish volunteers until we heard them talk among themselves.

A few years ago a young cashier started at the local Biedronka and I wondered why her name tag was misspelled (ending in -iia which I now recognize). I didn't hear any kind of accent and even a Polish neighbor said it was only after a long time that he noticed a very slight accent (sometimes not all the time).
Alien 20 | 4,979
20 Oct 2023 #19
n what sense are you German

Well, a certain Marcel Reich Ranicki, a famous German literary critic, talked to his wife in Polish until the end of his life. It will be the same with us.
Lyzko 45 | 9,420
20 Oct 2023 #20
Yes Simon, it certainly is.
The pitfalls are numerous and many fellow non-Poles I know, long since gave up on the idea even trying to pursue fluency, smartly employing an interpreter when either visiting Poland or working with Poles on a regular basis instead of relying on English!

On the other hand, I for one continued to persevere in my pursuit of Polish and didn't do half badly at it, if I must say....errors and all:-)
Novichok 4 | 7,962
20 Oct 2023 #21
Well, a certain Marcel Reich Ranicki, a famous German literary critic,

In what sense was he German? Address and photo ID?
Novichok 4 | 7,962
20 Oct 2023 #22
In what sense was he German?

This question is not trivial. In the event of war between Germany and Poland, which side would he take? On the lighter side, what about soccer?
pawian 223 | 24,390
20 Oct 2023 #23
In the event of war between Germany and Poland, which side would he take?

Czech side, of course.

what about soccer?

Yes, what about??? What do you propose???
Miloslaw 19 | 4,925
20 Oct 2023 #24
Europe should switch to American

There is no such language as American.You speak English, albeit a barstedized version of it.
Count yourself lucky, your national language was very nearly German.
And in the near future may become Spanish.
Novichok 4 | 7,962
20 Oct 2023 #25
There is no such language as American.

I am proud to be the first to call it that way.
I understand the American language perfectly well. Even from 20 to 30 feet in a doctor's waiting room.
For British, I need subtitles. Polish - forget it...They are sloppy, they mumble, and don't observe the rules of what's first and what's second...

You speak English, albeit a barstedized version of it.

In American, it's bastardized.
Lyzko 45 | 9,420
21 Oct 2023 #26
@Rich,
you've reduced "American" (actually a European designation for our language, NOT an American one, in order for Continentals to distinguish it from British) to a raw, primitive tongue.

Neither Hemingway, Steinbeck nor John O'Hara would have been proud!
mafketis 37 | 10,897
21 Oct 2023 #27
There is no such language as American

Tell this guy...

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Language

As a native speaker of GAE (who's had more contact with British types than over 95% of the population), American has a very different language ... feel.... than British. In some ways spoken British usage is like Swedish for a Norwegian -- understandable but still foriegn.
Novichok 4 | 7,962
21 Oct 2023 #28
The superiority of American vs. British is objective. It can be tested and measured.
Subjectively, I find the British language almost as disgusting as German or Chinese. That's why we don't watch British movies.
biegacz
19 Jan 2024 #29
Ah these Germanic speakers, they never understand that German, British, and American sound the same to the rest of the world, and learning either of them is as pleasant as most Germans, Americans, and Britons are. But the topic is about Polish, a beautiful language, why did you have to advertise your frustration here?
Alien 20 | 4,979
19 Jan 2024 #30
The superiority of American vs. British is objective

Yes, especially since English is the language of kings and American is the language of self-made millionaires.


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