The BEST Guide to POLAND
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Witamy, Guest
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Where did you start or the best techniques for learning Polish.

Czarne Oczy 14 | 64    
6 May 2008  #1

What are the best techniques for learning Polish, from personal or second-hand experience? I don't mean by lessons or by books, I mean where did you start/what did you find the most difficult? Is there a certain strategy/way of organizing all of the rules that you have?

mafketis 16 | 5,701    
7 May 2008  #2

First, inflectional endings for nouns, pronouns and ajectives are the most important. The case system is really the backbone of the language and getting those endings right (except for numbers - see below) is the most important single thing in learning to speak/understand Polish.

The point isn't always getting the right ending (hard even for Polish speakers some times) but getting a _plausible_ ending. So if you remember that the inanimate masculine genitive is -a or -u, even if you have to guess and get it wrong (which will sometimes happen) you'll still be understood. Don't waste time memorizing which nouns take -a or -u just remember that either -a or -u will be understood and let practice and exposure be your guide in choosing.

Verb endings are important but much easier generally and there's a lot more leeway for understanding and being understood even when they're not so accurate (the challenge of verbs isn't the endings but choosing which verb to use. I'd say verb selection is the second most important thing).

Light at the end of the tunnel time: In English, it's relatively easy for learners to pick up how to make simple sentences. What's really hard is combining sentences (sequence of tenses, dropping relative pronouns, different kinds of completments, nominalized dependent clauses etc). In Polish the reverse is true; making simple sentences is hard (all those endings!) but putting sentences together couldn't be easier so the transition from textbook to realworld Polish is a lot easier (here the only real limit is vocabulary) than the same transition in English which is typically long and painful.

Things you really should worry your pretty little head about when learning Polish Language:

numbers - easily the most uselessly difficult part of the language and even Polish people don't like to think too hard about getting the right form, I made a principled decision early on to pretty much not think about number endings and hardly anyone ever noticed, eventually I started picking up some of the right forms by osmosis.

constituent order - sometimes called 'word order' but here I mean order of subject, verb, object, adverbial. Really not worth worrying about until much later. While constituent order isn't as 'free' as some might have you believe, ordering subject and verb and object in even the most unlikely ways will not usually get in the way of communication. For now, just remember that Polish speakers tend to order sentences going from old/known information to new information (but you don't have to yet).

adjective position - before or after? who cares? well some people do, but it should be pretty far down on your list of priorities.
7 May 2008  #3

i started at home then enrolled at a local college 15mins from my front door on a year one polish course and i am currently doing a 15 week evening course as well in polish ......
rdywenur 1 | 155    
21 Sep 2008  #4

Me I was born into it. (well I can speak and read some..please talk slowly..dzienkuje. The writing part is the hardest but I Skype with a cousin in Poland and she doesn't know English so learn from her by listening and coping her text...heheheh) Not all colleges have Polish as a language. I assume that it is a given for UK members to find classes since so many Poles have moved there so I am thinking it is easier to find a class. Some Polish churches have Polish classes. There are many software for learning a language.
Polonius3 1,015 | 12,527    
28 Sep 2008  #5

The quickest and most efffective is the total-immersion method used by the Berlitz School of Languages, but it suffices to get a non-English-speaking Polish girlfriend or boyfriend to speak it with constantly.

At the school, people sing up for a several-week or several-motnh course but spend from 6 to 10 hours there a day, during which all English is verboten! If you ask "where is the gent's" or say "please pass the salt" (insetad of "proszę o sól") at the lunch table, you won't get it. In other words, this is closest to the way a young child learns a language. It is quite pricey though.

The bf/gf variant presupposes an English-free environment. It works due to the psychological pressure in such a relationship -- not only the desire to communicate but also not to come off as a complete dolt, hence a strong incentive to learn and retain.
alpacino88min - | 5    
4 Jun 2010  #6

Thread attached on merging:
i wanna learn polish language

hi everybody im a new member in this respectable forum.i just want to ask abt procedures in the institut wich teach polish language and how they trest things to accept foreign to join it .

thanks u so much zack.
internaldialog 4 | 146    
4 Jun 2010  #7

use the search function and the language threads and you'll find your answers there :)
14 Feb 2017  #8


Best way to start learning Polish?

Hello Everybody, I know very little Polish other than the basics but I really want to start learning it now. I just do not know where to begin. Some people say Vocab others say Grammar and others say Start Talking. Should I do all three at the same time to be right? I want to learn it properly, I am in no rush as I would rather do it the correct way without any shortcuts.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Ziemowit 10 | 2,875    
14 Feb 2017  #9

Should I do all three at the same time to be right?

Yes, do all three at the same time or leave it altogether ...
14 Feb 2017  #10

...thanks for reply, even though it was not of a much help and just a tad condescending lol
14 Feb 2017  #11

Any other help would be great.
mafketis 16 | 5,701    
14 Feb 2017  #12

. Should I do all three at the same time to be right?

Do you know any other languages? A lot depends on your particular learning style.

As an experienced language learner I always take the same approach, I try to get an overview of the whole system first and then go back and work on the details. But if you don't have much experience that probably won't work.

My advice would be to start all three but be ready to follow one more than the others as it takes your fancy.

In terms of grammar, concentrate on the case system and the endings for nouns, adjectives and pronouns first. That's the backbone of the language and where a lot of the trickier things are. If you can deal with that then the rest won't be too hard.

The first thing to concentrate on are the singular nominative, accusative and genitive for masculine nouns both animate and inanimate.
That's one of the trickier parts for an English speaker.

In terms of vocabulary, learn vocabulary more in patterned sentences rather than try to memorize lists (which you won't be able to use).
14 Feb 2017  #13

I do not have any experiences with languages other than what I studied in school but I have forgotten most of what I learned and it was Spanish and French so it won't help me much for Polish anyway. I have been learn everything that I said together, I was just making sure that was the correct approach.

Thank you mafketis for your kind response. You have help me a lot. Thank you for taking the time to reply.
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
14 Feb 2017  #14

The audio-visual method still seems to most organic, that is, effective! I learned most of the Polish I know merely through watching mainstream Polish movies with POLISH (rather than English or German) subtitles which I could switch on or off whenever I wished:-)

TV news on POLSAT also worked for me using the identical technique.
Famico - | 1    
23 Aug 2017  #15

My strategy is, as a 'new learner (5 months in) is to get a good audio course with booklet that will teach you the basics of:

How to ask for things,
How to ask directions,
Basic greetings and responses,
Basic personal questions and responses.
Now I am trying to get a grip on the grammar,
(conjunctive endings, present/past/future tenses)
...the cases and the difference between determinate and indeterminate verbs. Once I am confident enough and have loads of questions the study books I use don't appear to answer properly, I plan to go to my local Polish supermarket and put an advert in the window for a 'tutor'. I will find one who suits me and who I feel comfortable with and learn more.

You should thrive with 1-1 tutoring.
Hope that helps and you haven't given up.
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
24 Aug 2017  #16

None too shabby an approach, famico.

Immersion seems to be the common thread running throughout this discussion:-)
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
24 Aug 2017  #17

Again, while there are tricky points about every language, I feel though it might be a mistake to "not think about" numbers in Polish, for example, doggone difficult as indeed they are!

Perhaps both a question of maturity of study as well as the learner's background, but had I decided early on not to worry about counting, I'd have had a heck of a time picking it up later on. I speak for myself here.

It's sort of like excerise. Sure, sit-ups especially can be tough as hell to do properly in the beginning, merely putting off doing them, preferring "easier" calisthenics such as running in place, knee-bends etc. merely delays the learning process and makes it that much harder to pick up years later:-)

The "fun" part of Polish is watching people's jaws drop when they finally hear or see you express yourself fluently, naturally, and correctly in the language. However, as with dessert, without the substantials from the start which are far less fun, the exhileration of victory won't feel as though you've achieved as much if there's little sweat to show for it.

Merely a few subsequent thoughts.
mafketis 16 | 5,701    
25 Aug 2017  #18

I feel though it might be a mistake to "not think about" numbers in Polish, for example, doggone difficult as indeed they are!

I thought about them, I just never tried to decline them (because the system is needless complicated and confuses many native speakers)

one - jeden (easy, just an adjective I did decline that)

dwa, dwaj, dwie, dwoje, dwóch (just in the nominative!) no thanks I did dwa and dwie, eventually adding dwaj (though I usually when the dwóch route)

It's a question of cost and benefit (important in an immersive environment). Learning all the 'correct' forms of numbers would give me no practical benefit* while costing lots of time and effort.

*I never experienced any problems with misunderstanding related to numbers, while other endings gone wrong could and did interfere with communication
Ziemowit 10 | 2,875    
25 Aug 2017  #19

dwa, dwaj, dwie, dwoje, dwóch (just in the nominative!) no thanks

You no longer have to use the dual number, lucky you ... (or only occasionally as in dwie-ście [200] or dwa-dzieścia [20])

no thanks I did dwa and dwie, eventually adding dwaj

'Dwa dzieci' or 'dwie dzieci' or 'dwaj dzieci' all sound truly awful.
mafketis 16 | 5,701    
25 Aug 2017  #20

You no longer have to use the dual number, lucky you

yay? Although I think traces still show up in the weird declinations of body parts that come in twos (oko - oczy) and in set expressions like 'pod oczyma' (instead of the more usual pod oczami)

'Dwa dzieci' or 'dwie dzieci' or 'dwaj dzieci' all sound truly awful.

I tried to not talk about children too much..... though I did learn dwoje dzieci very early on so I may have used it

dwa-dzieścia [20]

I usually end up saying dwajścia.... (I also usually say szejset and pięcet)
NoToForeigners 8 | 951    
25 Aug 2017  #21

Yet you try to teach people Polish even in this thread lol
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
25 Aug 2017  #22


In Poland, among elsewhere, non-native English speakers (often with decided Polish pronunciation, not to mention occasionally questionable grammarLOL) typically are THE instructors from whom all Poles from first grade or so right up through high school learn their English, much as they learn math, their first language, history, and science. I ought to know. I once recently observed an English lesson at a Polish-American parochial school in Maspeth, Queens and nearly squelched a few chortles while the teacher, a young Polish woman, was instructing the class on article usage in English, never ONCE seeing fit even to consult her textbook, by the way. Embarrassing, to say the least, yet not one parent in the school seemed to notice:-)


I totally get what you're saying and, again, for you, whatever works will lead you closer to your goal of communicative fluency. For heaven's sake, nobody's completely "perfect" in their own, much less a foreign language one learns in adulthood. It is though a kind of nice feeling to master such difficulties and to watch native speakers' reactions as you wend your way effortlessly through the bramble patches you did above!! Wouldn't you agree?
mafketis 16 | 5,701    
25 Aug 2017  #23

Yet you try to teach people Polish

Those pronunciations are far more common in everyday usage than the 'official' pronunciations. Teach people what they will actually hear and not what some people think they say...
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
25 Aug 2017  #24

Yes, exactly! CD-roms all too often will pronounce the "e" with a bottom hook as almost a nasal, whereas actual Poles speaking normally (rather than academically, such as a teacher/professor) will tend to pronounce same as a schwa. The "r" though, can be problematic. Could swear that several speakers on Rosetta pronounce a "French" aka uvular "r", such as sometimes heard in arch stage diction, though rarely in this US-born listeners experience in everyday speech:-)

This also applies to the "l" with a slash. I've occasionally heard a "dark" "l-sound", but SOLELY in older movies or among those who come from the Zakopane region of Poland. The "k" in "taKze" I've usually heard pronounced as a gently-voiced hard "g-sound", among others, by those from Krakow.
kaprys 1 | 1,424    
25 Aug 2017  #25

If a native speaker of Polish pronounces r the uvular way, they probably need a speech therapist.

K in także is actually pronounced as g - one of many examples of udzwiecznienie.

Pre-war Polish films shouldn't be your guide to how Polish words are pronounced nowadays.

Finally, if you start learning a foreign language as an adult, you won't get rid of your accent.
But that's ok. It's part of who you are.
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
26 Aug 2017  #26

And vice-versa, kaprys.

That young Polish-born and trained teacher of English in my above Polish-American parochial school example, doubtless learned English at around the same time you did.

Didn't help much! Talent, in addition to age of acquisition, must also be taken into account:-)

Furthermore, I guess from your first sentence that Donald Tusk needs a speech therapist. Then again, maybe I need a hearing aidLOL
kaprys 1 | 1,424    
26 Aug 2017  #27

Actually, he does. He can't pronounce Polish 'r' properly. If you don't believe me, ask other native speakers of Polish.

As I stated above, if you start learning a foreign language as an adult, you speak with an accent. It doesn't matter if you're Polish/French learning English or Spanish/American learning Polish or Hungarian. You can work on it and some people sound better in a foreign language than their compatriots, but a native speaker of that language will be able to notice it is not their mother tongue.

As for pronounciation of words in any language (you mentioned Polish ę), a lot depends on whether you pronounce a single word or a phrase containing that word, sentence stress or position in the sentence.
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
26 Aug 2017  #28

That's true to my experience as well.

As far as Tusk is concerned, the ONLY "r-sound" in Polish I know or have heard, is the flap or "trilled", much as exists in Italian, Spanish, even Bavarian German:-)

Concerning the native language aspect (no pun intended there), I certainly have no objection if someone has a foreign accent in English etc. I DO have an objection when that person calls themself English teacher and deigns to teach others pronunciation in a language in which, although basically "fluent", isn't other wise one-hundred percent. Then it becomes a joke.

I for instance speak Polish, yet would never dare to say I could teach Polish with complete native speaker accuracy in pronunciation as, for instance, German or English.
kaprys 1 | 1,424    
26 Aug 2017  #29

And that is why a good language course should include recordings of native speakers.
What else can you do to teach any foreign language anywhere?
You can't expect hundreds of thousands of native speakers of English, French, German, Spanish etc to get a degree in foreign language teaching and leave their countries to teach their mother tongue worldwide. That would be impossible.

As for the teacher you were talking about, well ... someone decided to hire her. She must have had a job interview. Why did they decide to hire her if her English and her Polish accent were so terrible? It is them to blame ...
Lyzko 17 | 4,617    
27 Aug 2017  #30

Or to answer your last question, "Przez lapowke pod stolem"! Never fails. What worked under the old Soviet system remains alive and well under fledgling capitalism, maybe more so.


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