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Is it common for Polish people to speak English in Poland?


raeshal 2 | -
21 Mar 2014 #1
are polish people comfortable speaking english
DominicB - | 2,677
21 Mar 2014 #2
Rather not. Few people over 40 speak it at all, even among the well educated. Most recent high school and university grads know enough English to be able to have at least a very simple conversation, though often with some difficulty and visible discomfort. About 20 percent of current students speak English well enough to have more than a very basic conversation, though the proportion is rising with every graduating class. Many young academics have decent reading knowledge of reading technical or scientific literature, but would be unable to read a simple novel, and many of them are unable to speak except basic things in their technical field, and then only with difficulty.

My guess for proportion of 25-year-olds' English speaking ability for the general population:

Less than 5% Advanced
20% Intermediate
30% Basic
And the rest rudimentary or elementary at best.

I can count the number of Poles I've met who read English literature not related to school or work without taking off my shoes and socks. Poles have an extreme terror of reading English, and getting them to pick up an English book and read is harder than pulling teeth. Consequently, their English vocabulary is horribly stunted.

There are exceptions, of course, mainly in Academia and high-tech workplaces. Poles, especially academics and high-tech professionals are becoming keenly aware that they are crippled by not knowing English. Few of them are willing, however, to spend the time and do the work to acquire advanced knowledge. Most settle for a basic knowledge of the jargon in their specific field.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
21 Mar 2014 #3
As in many European countries today, the majority WANT to say that they "speak" English, but only a minority in my experience actually do:-)
smurf 39 | 1,981
21 Mar 2014 #4
I speak English every single day that I'm in Poland.
On average I speak about 10,000 English words per day.
I'm not Polish though.

People Over 40 don't speak it, younger people do, especially those in their 20s.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
21 Mar 2014 #5
How many POLISH words do you speak, smurf? Just curious, I mean, so long as you'e over there:-)
Tamarisk
22 Mar 2014 #6
As in many European countries today, the majority WANT to say that they "speak" English, but only a minority in my experience actually do:-)

Yes, I would say this is 100% correct. I do find it amazing that not more people speak English.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
22 Mar 2014 #7
Sorry 'bout that, modsLOL

Smurf,

How's about we try next time (unless you already have...) when you enter a store, shop, official or semi-official business, or any of the above "Czy mówi Pan, resp.Czy mówi Pani, resp. Czy mówią Państwo po angielsku?" FIRST, before assuming that they all speak and understand fluent English, huh?

I'll bet somehow you'll get a heightened response:-)

PS
Are you at least able to chat a little in Polish about the weather as well as other simple, daily stuff??
KochanaPatrycja
23 Mar 2014 #8
Generally speaking, Polish women tend to speak English better than Polish men (among the youth). This has a lot to do with women in Poland being more educated than the men.
Englishman 2 | 278
23 Mar 2014 #9
I don't think Polish people speak English in Poland, except when talking to people from English-speaking nations (we're too lazy to learn Polish) or working for multi-national companies where everyone speaks English for convenience. In British TV dramas and American films, all foreigners speak English with heavy accents among themselves, but we know it's not like that in real life...
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
23 Mar 2014 #10
I'd certainly have to concur with the KochanaPatrycja! Women typically pick up language much faster than men. I've found this as a language instructor over a long period.
szczecinianin 4 | 345
24 Mar 2014 #11
Rather not. Few people over 40 speak it at all, even among the well educated.

You seem to be putting the bar at far too high a level.

I personally know a great many people over forty who speak English (imho) well.

Furthermore, I'd suggest far more than 20% of students can speak English well enough to have more than a 'basic' conversation.

It depends how you define 'basic'.

I'm not aware of Poles having a 'terror' of reading English. Probably most Brits and Americans don't read literature for pleasure even in their own language, let alone anyone else's. And if they do, 99% would read in the translation rather than the original.

Given that it is obviously far more difficult to communicate in a second language than in your own, I'd say Poles are (generally) doing pretty well at English.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,582
24 Mar 2014 #12
Yes, I would say this is 100% correct. I do find it amazing that not more people speak English.

I don't. If you travel across Europe and are able to speak to locals in their local language, you will quickly discover how artificial communicating in English in continental Europe is. Even in the Netherlands, with their high percentage of population who are able to communicate in English, I have occasionally met people who could not speak English. And if you start to speak to them in Dutch, uttering a few simple phrases, you instantly discover that it is not at all a true English-speaking country, and they seem to be different people than when you speak English to them.

Such an impression is even stronger, for example, in France or the French-speaking part of Belgium. Believe me, France or Belgium through English are simply different countries than France or Belgium through French.
jon357 63 | 14,148
24 Mar 2014 #13
The same can't be said for Polish men though who tend to be lazy, inconsiderate, prejudice, and very ignorant.

Now that's a sweeping generalisation. Some Polish men speak English very well and some women are lazy and all the other things you say.
TaiCat 1 | 30
25 Mar 2014 #14
On topic:
While I was visiting Poland with my Japanese husband (then boyfriend) we were surprised how many people tried to communicate with him in English (while asking about JPN too), ex. a guy in my home town whom I knew from high school, told us that he never had a chance to use English in real-life conversation apart from internet chat ( I guess he played online games) but I thought his grammar was fine. There must be many people like him, who only use English while online and just wait for a chance to use it outside. Where I grew up, we never had any foreigners visiting apart from our families from abroad (mostly from Germany), so when my husband appeared, suddenly half of the pub, which we went to, was on him, asking him questions in English.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
25 Mar 2014 #15
How "good" was their English? Accurate, communicative or generally fluent? I realize it's often hard to tell how another person's English is if it's not YOUR native language:-)

I found especially in Germany that most younger people wanted desperately to practice their English (usually with mixed results!). Same in Poland. Often I'd be answered in English even though I

always made the overture in Polish. After several tries though, my Polish partner usually got the idea and decided to stick with his native tongue! They'd sometimes even correct my Polish, which I thought was great. Sadly,as elsewhere in Europe, it didn't work in the reverse; most thought their English was "good enough" (...while my Polish needed to be perfect)LOL
Jardinero 1 | 407
25 Mar 2014 #16
I suppose a good measure of how well English is spoken in a given country is a comparison with the others in the region; from own experience, the highest level of English among your ''average" person when backpacking was probably in Romania; lowest probably in Poland/Hungary/Albania/Slovenia.
Wulkan - | 3,251
25 Mar 2014 #17
Now that's a sweeping generalisation. Some Polish men speak English very well and some women are lazy

That's what I noticed from my experience

backpacking was probably in Romania; lowest probably in Poland/Hungary/Albania/Slovenia.

And how many countries you have backpacked?
dr_rabbit 5 | 90
26 Mar 2014 #18
I can count the number of Poles I've met who read English literature not related to school or work without taking off my shoes and socks. Poles have an extreme terror of reading English, and getting them to pick up an English book and read is harder than pulling teeth. Consequently, their English vocabulary is horribly stunted.

I'm not going to disagree with your anecdote, but reading literature is a poor indicator of aptitude / level in speaking English as others have noted. From people I know, a lot of them learn English through movies, TV shows, magazines, written and tv news, reading non-fiction. Educated Poles who live in Poland that I know read great works of literature in translation: for example, my wife is fluent in English, but reads novels by English authors in Polish. I have a feeling that this would be the case with a lot of people.

My take on the OP's question about *speaking* Polish is that people who I have met (I've spent about six months in Poland, in Warsaw and Krakow as well as smaller cities and towns) tend to be good speakers of English. Most of those aged around 30 generally tend to speak polish reasonably well, especially if they have a university education, though don't necessarily have an extensive vocabulary. Those aged 17-25 tend to have very good English (I imagine this is due to strong curriculum improvements in the later years of secondary education), and that includes outside of Warsaw, Krakow. I've spent a decent amount of time in Germany and with Germans, and the level of 17-25 year olds is pretty similar to 17-35 year olds in Germany.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
26 Mar 2014 #19
Precisely the point, dr._rabbit! Those Poles (and others) who only read English classics in translation, usually miss the point, not to mention the flavor and texture of the original. It's sort of like the difference between taking a VIRTUAL luxury cruise vs. an actual one; you'll derive some degree of vicarious pleasure, yet the impact of the experience will be lost on you!

All I know is that while a German grad student in German language, all of us were required to read German authors IN GERMAN, never in translation. Those of us who did this sort of thing naturally, i.e of our own volition, were far more successful in the long run than those who didn't:-) Face it, the level of English in particular worldwide has been dumbed down beyond measure, therefore less is expected of both native as well as foreign English speakers.

@
Wulkan, I didn't post that comment to which you referred, I merely replied to it ^^ As far as backpacking trips I've taken in Europe, up to now never even once encountered a RomanianLOL

Please stick to the thread title. I am having to remove far too many of your posts.
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
26 Mar 2014 #20
Face it, the level of English in particular worldwide has been dumbed down beyond measure,

speak for yourselfLOL
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
26 Mar 2014 #21
In fact, I'm NOT speaking for only myself, but for scores of others too! Why so defensive, rozumiemnic?

Back on thread, I found that on average more Poles imagined their English to be better than it actually was! Albeit Szczecin's not Warszawa or Krakow by a long stretch, my travelling companion from Berlin (for whom I acted as "interpreter") and I were accosted in the hotel bar where we were staying by a friendly-enough group of twenty-something year olds, eager to practice their English with us. Figuring correctly that we probably spoke English being day tourists from the West, they began speaking to us in English. Although my friend knew some English, I decided to speak in Polish to our buddies, meanwhile translating for my companion. Without asking us whether we knew English or not, they refused to speak a syllable of Polish in reply! Their English was poor to often plain incomprehensible, resolutely refusing succor in their native language.

I found this annoying scenario played out time and again, in the Old Town Square, in the hotel lobby and even on our return trip to Berlin. While as polite as I could be, I had to say at one point that I honestly couldn't understand their English, and could they PLEASE speak in Polish.

Finally, the young ladies in the group conceded:-)

This is not to generalize concerning similar encounters throughout Poland, since I only know this one small area of the country.
Wulkan - | 3,251
27 Mar 2014 #22
I had to say at one point that I honestly couldn't understand their English, and could they PLEASE speak in Polish.

and then they said they couldn't understand your Polish :-)))
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
27 Mar 2014 #23
That thought did cross my mind, actually:-)To be honest though, don't see how "Dobry wieczór, państwu! [They were a mixed group, after all, plus my lady friend along with myself] Bardzo nam miło zapoznać! To nasz pierwszy raz w Szczecinie." could be misunderstood anymore than their response in (what to some passes for..) English: "What means this words? I talk English language with you. Why you like so much Polish?" etc..
Wulkan - | 3,251
27 Mar 2014 #24
You pronunciation not being perfectly spot on would be my fair guess of the reason why
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
27 Mar 2014 #25
And so "Vot miinss diss vawrrds? Aj tawk eenglish lonkvich vitch yu. Vaj yu lajk sao mach Poleesh?" is "spot on" pronunciation??

I suspect you're teasing... which is ok, incidentally. I ought to be used to it by this time:-) My Polish pronunciation "Dawbrrij vyechoor, pajnstvuh! etc.. I'd say is more or less as close to the authentic as their attempts at EnglishLOL
Wulkan - | 3,251
28 Mar 2014 #26
Once again you are getting back to that what was clearly explained to you by me and Magdalena in the other topic, too bad fruitlessly. There is no chance that you can convince anyone on this forum that those people were saying "vot" "vaj" with the V sound. There is W sound in Polish and it's £. Only Eastern Europeans have tendencies of saying that as they have no W sound so they replace it with their closest V sound. I know that you won't acknowledge that because you don't want to but at least you can't have an excuse that nobody told you :-)
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
28 Mar 2014 #27
I will concede that "typically" Polish is a tendency to soften the "l" sound at the end of certain words, making English words such as "cool" sound like "kuł" etc...

Apart from that, friends, I know what I heard and I can assure everyone reading this post that the people whose phonetics I mimicked were Poles and NOT Russians!!

We had incidentally a most pleasant encounter, those people and ourselves, albeit a bit frustrating in the beginning:-)
Wulkan - | 3,251
28 Mar 2014 #28
I know what I heard and I can assure everyone reading this post that the people whose phonetics I mimicked were Poles and NOT Russians!!

I not saying they were Russians, I said that you are lying that they were saying "vot" "vaj" etc. just back your bs up and find one video on youtube of a Pole saying like that, you won't :-)
rozumiemnic 8 | 3,671
28 Mar 2014 #29
wulkan is right, Polish people would have to need to say 'vot' or 'vy' as they have the w sound clearly in their language.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
28 Mar 2014 #30
As literally ANYTHING is possible, folks, it's just possible in this case that my Polish acquaintances were purposely caricaturing their native accent(s) speaking English, that's all. There remains nonetheless the issue of intelligibility. Sans voice simulcast on PF, I'm quite certain that my Polish pronunciation was clear and that the people whom we met were merely having a little harmless jest.

Again, there was and isn't a thing wrong with my hearing:-)


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