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Word order; simple & continuous tenses; definite/indefinite articles

xwelcomex 5 | 5
5 Nov 2008 #1
I teach English as a foreign language. I don't speak Polish (so go easy on me) but do speak 3 other languages in addition to English so understand different grammar systems. I have a number of Polish clients who all have similar problems with English. I would be grateful for your comments on the following.

1. Word order. Am I right in thinking that Polish verbs are highly inflected and so word order can vary in Polish without affecting meaning?
2. Is there a distinction in Polish between the simple and continuous tenses ( ie /I walk/, /I am walking/...)? If not (and I assume not), how is meaning expressed... I mean, what is the literal translation between, say, /I walk to the shops/ (ie I do it regularly) and /I am walking to the shops/(something I am doing currently)?

3. There is, I gather, in Polish, no equivalent to definite and indefinite articles (the, a/an). It's always a difficult area to teach if the first language has no equivalent. Does anyone have a weblink that explains this concept (in Polish)?

dziękuję (:-) I try, I try)
Vincent 9 | 891
5 Nov 2008 #2
Does anyone have a weblink that explains this concept (in Polish)?

maybe this site will give you some help.
RubasznyRumcajs 5 | 498
5 Nov 2008 #3
1. i didn't understand question :/ (or, more truly- i don't imagine situation like that in polish)
I walk to the shops - chadzam do sklepów (or chadzam po sklepach- more common form)
I am walking to the shops - idę do sklepów

chodzić - its official version for verb 'to walk'
chadzać - used in means of frequent action

also (for example)
czytać - czytywać
siedzieć - przesiadywać

3. well, if you *really* need to use an equivalent of "a, an" you can use: (sing) jakieś (masc, neutr), jakaś (fem); (pluralis) jakieś (m, f, n)

hope it was helpful :>
Krzysztof 2 | 973
5 Nov 2008 #4
1. you're more or less correct, not only verbs, but also nouns are highly inflected, so you usually have a few options in Polish sentences, although some word orders sound more "natural" and some are used in very specific contexts (like poetry) or to to put an accent on a part of the statement. Generally, we tend to use the "simple" word order (subject + verb + object) the most.

another (short) thread about Word Order

2. Usually rendered with the verb aspects (imperfective and perfective)
"niedokonane"/imperfective - repetitive, incomplete actions, often correspond to continuous tenses in English (kupuję = I'm buying, kupowałem = I was buying)
"dokonane"/perfective - usually complete actions often correspond to simple tenses in English (kupię = I'll buy, kupiłem = I bought / I've bought)

Unfortunately, there are many exceptions from that simple rule:

3. A tough one for Slavic learners, as there's no such thing, we usually don't need any distinction, unless the context really requires it (then for "the" you can add in Polish "ten (masculine) / ta (feminine) / to (neutral)" = this. And for "a/an" you can use in Polish "jakiś/jakaś/jakieś" = any/some), but the articles are definitely a foreing concept for a speaker of Polish, and it takes much time and practice to understand the need in English for those pesky little words.
Marek 4 | 867
6 Nov 2008 #5
Polish, like the other Slavic languages (as Krzysztof and other native speakers have explained) uses 'aspects', i.e. ways of perceiving motion, where English and most non-Slavic European languages use 'tense' or time modes, e.g. "I go". meaning "I am in motion on foot somewhere every day, that is, regularly = "Chodzę do szkoły". (I go to school/I am a student or pupil) vs. "I am going ( school)". with the sense of "I find myself presently in motion toward school. = Idę do szkoły. Here, Polish uses two compeltely separate verbs 'chodzić' and 'iść', whereas English applies two different tenses of the SAME verb!

Multiply the above example by literally uncountable verbs with independent aspect forms, and you'll quickly see both the problems Poles have learning English as well what English speakers must endure learning Polish-:)
OP xwelcomex 5 | 5
8 Nov 2008 #6
Thanks so much all...
Marek 4 | 867
10 Nov 2008 #7
Practically ALL Polish verbs are paired aspectually; 'mówić'/'mawiać','pisać'/'pisywać', 'zadzwonić'/'dzwonić' etc. Although not every verb follows this rule, your best bet in helping to understand the rules written in English is "500 Polish verbs - conjugated in all tenses"! The intro. got me through first year Polish and the back of the book has games and puzzles which reinforce the structures mentioned in the text.

Other than that, there have been literally umpteen in-depth linguistic articles on this subject, many in English--:)!
sausage 19 | 775
10 Nov 2008 #8
500 Polish verbs

"301 Polish verbs" is the book I have...
Marek 4 | 867
10 Nov 2008 #9
same difference - -:), same author as well!
OP xwelcomex 5 | 5
12 Nov 2008 #10
501/301 Polish Verbs... must be a series...I have 301 Greek Verbs (and there is a 501 too!).

Present simple and continuous is a particular sticking point for my students from Poland. I'm an experienced teacher of Efl and have tried every way I know... they seem to keep sticking with errors such as "I am walk " or "I walking" and I had wondered if it was L1 interference (ie caused by defaulting to rules from the native language...) Picking up on this thread, I think it is just that the two grammars are so different and that they have become a little 'stuck' using language they have picked up here in the UK and just adapted themselves in order to communicate. I don't seem to have this problem with Greek learners though (also no continuous tense)...and I didn't have a problem picking up Greek. May do a little more study of the polish grammar... (thanks for that link to the website..I'm trying hard :-)) Lost my copy of 'Learner English' (our 'bible' for this kind of thing) so your responses have been great.

(Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and Other Problems , Cambridge, by Michael Swan)
Marek 4 | 867
13 Nov 2008 #11
Thanx, that's the first time I've ever heard this wonderful book acknowledged as a valuable source tool!!--:)

My Polish students had numerous hurdles to overcome (not the least of which learning to curb Polish aggressive curiosity within an Anglo-Saxon context) and the English tenses proved even harder than American English pronounciation.

Word order used to confound the bejesus out of 'em: 'VAAIIRRR YU ARRR GOINK, MISTERR?' was what one of them would ask repeatedly almost every day, inspite of constant gentle yet insistent correction! And he was only in his twenties!

The women learned faster, which should come as no surprise.
hussey - | 1
2 Aug 2010 #12
I love your post! You will be in our prayers and thoughts! Nice and informative post on this topic thanks for sharing with us.Thank you!
4 Aug 2010 #13
z przyjemnością! = With pleasure! So glad you found it helpful. Actually I do speak Polish (more or less, less than more, he-heLOL) and have many years training in cross-cultural interference. Swan's book is awesome and, as someone who speaks a number of languages fluently like yourself, many American ESL teachers often don't take language interference into account, figuring with all this English out there, most folks just refuse to learn correctly!! This is patently false, of course!


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