The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered  |  Archives 
 
 
User: Guest

Home / Life  % width posts: 233

Do expats living in Poland speak Polish?


Nika 2 | 507
10 Aug 2009  #1
after some time spent in my host country (soon ex-host country) I can actually say that I master the national language pretty well, at least 1 out the 2 national languages - sorry Flemish!

I was wondering how many expats living in Poland speak Polish a little bit/quite a bit/well/ very well/perfectly...
And if you do speak Polish then how did you learn it and what do you think about it?
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
10 Aug 2009  #2
I think it's disrespectful to live in a country not knowing the language at all. And it makes your own life much more difficult as well. Especially if you are in a country where they don't speak so much English. If you stay for a long time in another country you should try to integrate. We can see what happen to people who don't.

I speak some Polish. Not extremely well, but it's improving. I learned from several sources, but mostly from talking to people and a book I have. I'm quite interested in linguistics.
Alx123 - | 180
11 Aug 2009  #3
I learnt it from books, drinking lots of Zywiec :), chatting with strangers on websites like interia, reading newspapers, memorising vocabulary with computer programmes, etc.

To be honest, I don't particularly like the language. It's difficult to express yourself in a very precise way like in English, and this has nothing to do with the fact that I know English better. Polish vocabulary seems more limited. When I ask someone to translate something complicated for me, the Polish version often seems rather basic.

Anyway, ex-pats who have lived in Poland for some time generally know at least enough to get by, though I have known a few who have been here nearly 10 years and have made no effort to learn anything.
lowfunk99 10 | 397
11 Aug 2009  #4
I spoke a bit of Polish. I wish that I knew more.
mafketis 20 | 7,249
11 Aug 2009  #5
Polish vocabulary seems more limited. When I ask someone to translate something complicated for me, the Polish version often seems rather basic.

This isn't the majority view and it doesn't really go with my experience. In translating from Polish to English my biggest problems are 1) there's no good word in English for a particular Polish word 2) Polish collocations are more flexible across parts of speech than English ones are. I find Polish to be endlessly fascinating in how it lexicalizes reality differently than English does.

I can't imagine wanting to live in Poland without knowing Polish for one very big reason: Poland and Polish people are a lot more interesting in Polish than they are in English. Two (among more) reasons 1) there are very big differences between what Polish people say in English vs what they say in Polish 2) Polish speakers are more conformist and less original in English than in Polish, they're more likely to say what they think you want to hear in English while you'll get the real story in Polish.

One big hurdle for English speakers in Poland is that the first Polish people they come across will speak English and give them lots of positive reinforcement for not learning Polish.
OP Nika 2 | 507
11 Aug 2009  #6
Polish vocabulary seems more limited. When I ask someone to translate something complicated for me, the Polish version often seems rather basic.

I disagree about the limited vocabulary, maybe the Polish version is basic because the people that translate don't master the Polish or English language enough. Translation is difficult and sometimes it is hard to find the right words.

Often when I am asked how to say something more complicated in Polish I just translate the general meaning 'cause I don't feel like making efforts - lazyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....
Myszolow 3 | 157
11 Aug 2009  #7
I'd say "quite well". Not perfect, but I can pass for a Polak unless I need to use a complicated sentence with lots of declension and agreement in it. ;)

I started by learning the pronounciation, learned some basic grammar from a book and the rest has been picked up the hard way. For example I learned a lot of building terms (and swear-words) when we built our "piętro" extension on the house. I learnt a lot of tennis terms when I got out there and played tennis with the locals.

Knowing the language is essential to understanding the people. I don't just mean understanding what they say, but understanding why they are the way they are. I found that once I can speak directly to people and have a conversation in their own language, I started to understand some of the differences in ways of thinking. (And boy are there some large differences:) )

I agree with the poster above. Anybody who makes no effort to learn the language is missing out.
pudddddin 7 | 48
11 Aug 2009  #8
No, it is true - in Polish there are less words than in English (for example) - you only need to look at a Polish-English/English-Polish Dictionary to see that - the English-Polish section is much bigger! Looking at thing in a different way - Polish has many more forms/inflections/transformations/etc, in my opinion - ie. 17 different forms of the word for the number 2 (if i remember correctly!), whereas in English there are only 2 for 2 :P So, it all balances out... maybe, but English is well known for its wide range of, so called, synonyms!

I try my best to speak Polish - simply because I think it is rude to just 'expect' people to speak MY language in THEIR country. I think, even if you try and are not too successful, then its better than not trying at all...
madpsychocat - | 5
11 Aug 2009  #9
To translate properly you can't do direct comparisons. You’ll always find richer the language you know better. I’m Portuguese but live in the UK for 16 years, speaking English fluently enough to blend as a local.

You can always find the right words as long as you translate the meaning, not the words themselves.

The hardest part so far of learning Polish is remembering the words, with so little vowels and too many consonants, it doesn’t feel natural to me. But that might also be my age…
BevK 11 | 248
11 Aug 2009  #10
Not so well as I would like yet, but that's possibly cos I have no patience and want to be fluent in a day. I try to learn a couple of words every day and that's by osmosis of listening, reading and trying to use it.

I agree that it is rude not to try to speak the local language: I want to learn one that I should have learned normally as a child if my Mum had let my Dad teach me.
Alx123 - | 180
11 Aug 2009  #11
This isn't the majority view and it doesn't really go with my experience.

Not the majority view? No offence but that's bullsh@t! Firstly, it's not a 'view', it's a fact. Statiscally, English has the highest number of distinct words (around 250,000) of all languages in the world. This number may not even include all the phrasal/compound verbs etc that exist which themselves have distinct meanings. So there's no way Polish can be as sophisticated as English. I don't know the figure for Polish, but it's probably considerably less.
frd 7 | 1,399
11 Aug 2009  #12
Not the majority view?

I don't think this thread was intended to create a flame war about which language is better. You can't compare Polish language spoken in Poland to English which is used in many big countries like US or UK. Huge number of users causes English language to change and grow rapidly and evolve, hence I can't see any sense in even trying to compare these two.

I also think that relaying on the translation of some random Pole isn't the best thing, beside when I translate something for my friends I always use the most basic forms which are simple for them to decode.

Now when everything is clear, you guys can go back to the original topic. I really admire people who are not Polish and mastedered at least basics of our language. Always happy to help those struggling with it..
mafketis 20 | 7,249
11 Aug 2009  #13
No linguist takes the 'more words' argument seriously for lots of reasons. (for one there's no way to define 'word' that works well across a lot of languages).

Also, there's no research that shows that the active vocabularies of English speakers is larger to a statistically significant degree than speakers of any other European language.

English speakers do have the most highly developed lexicographic traditions in the world but that mostly means that dictionaries have a lot of rarely used words in them.

The use of english in many countries means that English speakers often come across unfamiliar words from other dialects but that doesn't mean they learn and then use them.
Myszolow 3 | 157
11 Aug 2009  #14
what do you think about it?

I forgot to answer this part.

I think it's amazing that people can converse without opening their mouths. :)
I have a theory about why the language developed in such a closed mouthed way and it is this...

Being a very cold climate in winter, opening the mouth wider to speak would involve more heat loss to the body. So a fairly closed mouthed language evolved.

...it's probably a heap of crap, but I'd love to hear other people's ideas.

What else do I think about it? I think agreement and declension suck, but I've tried to learn Polish like a child learns language, by absorption of whole phrases rather than consciously thinking about cases and genders. (Conversely, it takes a very gifted Pole to be able to get definite and indefinite articles in the right places in English. You can spot the non-natives on this forum very easily on that alone - but fair play to them for posting - I wouldn't be able to post decent quality written Polish).

The adult way of learning a language might be faster (vocab and grammar) but that's not how we teach our kids to speak natively is it? At least, not until they reach school age.

My son (almost 7) has been brought up "one parent, one language" from birth. He often corrects my Polish, but I can still get him sometimes. For example, the other day I told him "Kuba is short for Jakub". He disagreed with me. "No it's not". I said "Let's ask Mummy" ;)

Dad was right. I still know more than him about tennis, photography, building etc. But how long will it last?
Alx123 - | 180
11 Aug 2009  #15
I don't think this thread was intended to create a flame war about which language is better.

So, it was intended to invite only 'politically-correct' views? I agree it's disrespectful and impractical not to learn the language of the country you are living in. However, the poster also asked 'What do you think of it?' So, I'm giving my view, that I don't particularly like using it. However, I do love the swearing. Polish is definitely the best language for swearing...very forceful and aggressive ;)

You can't compare Polish language spoken in Poland to English which is used in many big countries like US or UK.

Of course, you can compare them. If you speak them both, you can compare them. Polish often sounds rather primitive by comparison with its over-used words like 'zapraszam', 'oferta', 'super' (didn't that word begin to die out in English after the Abba era?), 'fajny' and many others. In fact, to a native speaker of English making an effort to learn other languages, the active vocabulary most other languages tends to be rather limited too. I'm not bashing Polish in particular. Just that English has been heavily influenced by several languages (Latin, German, French, etc) and their contributions partly explain its rich lexicon. Having said that, there are some useful words in Polish which don't have an exact equivalent in English. 'Pantoflarz' is one of my favourites to describe a guy who is controlled by his wife or girlfriend. Somehow, 'a henpecked man' isn't practical and words like 'a p***y', 'wuss' etc. are too informal and general in meaning.
Myszolow 3 | 157
11 Aug 2009  #16
'Pantoflarz' is one of my favourites to describe a guy who is controlled by his wife or girlfriend. Somehow, 'a henpecked man' isn't practical and words like 'a p***y', 'wuss' etc. are too informal and general in meaning.

What about "under the thumb?" Still, I agree a one word description is good. What about wimp? :p
Alx123 - | 180
11 Aug 2009  #17
Wimp is good. But it's also used in a more general context and therefore doesn't convey the specific meaning. 'pantoflarz' definitely deserves its place in the jargon of English-speaking ex-pats in Poland :P
steph - | 1
11 Aug 2009  #18
I concur with others that your own experience in Poland will be more meaningful and much richer if you try to learn the language (to whatever degree you're able).

In my first time in Poland, I made little attempt. The language simply overwhelmed me. It took me a full year to just to BEGIN to hear separate words in sentences.

I can't even tell you how many times I must have said the number "six" instead of informally greeting or leaving people. (please look up the Polish word for "6" and compare with "czesc").

I'm determined now, on my immiment return to Poland, to take courses and really learn the language so that I can at least attempt to hold a simple conversation with my in-laws.

Quick story: once my mother-in-law (who speaks no English, but certainly understands some from her years of exposure to us!) was trying to find some socks for my kids. She was using the English word "socks". I, of course, assumed she was saying "sok" and immediately went to the fridge to get some juice. :-D

I'm looking forward to my return!
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
11 Aug 2009  #19
Not the majority view? No offence but that's bullsh@t! Firstly, it's not a 'view', it's a fact. Statiscally, English has the highest number of distinct words (around 250,000) of all languages in the world.

Your lack of linguistic knowledge disturbs me.

You never studied linguistics, did you? What you write shows you don't know anything about these things. The number of words says almost nothing about a language. That's widely accepted in linguistic science.

Ask people who speak both English and Polish fluently, which language they think best differentiates subtle shades of an expression? Especially when it comes to emotions it's generally accepted, by people who speak both Polish and English, that Polish have more subtle shades. Look for example at the diminutive forms of the Polish langauge, and that's just one example.
Alx123 - | 180
12 Aug 2009  #20
Ask people who speak both English and Polish fluently, which language they think best differentiates subtle shades of an expression? Especially when it comes to emotions it's generally accepted, by people who speak both Polish and English, that Polish have more subtle shades.

You have carried out a survey then?
I regularly read, write and speak in Polish. I probably have a lot more contact with the language than you. I can't say I'm completely fluent yet, but I work with people who are, plus bilingual speakers/translators I know have also complained of the simplistic translations of English words provided by bilingual dictionaries.

Your lack of linguistic knowledge disturbs me.

Your a**-kissing of Polish culture is beginning to disurb me ;)
Myszolow 3 | 157
12 Aug 2009  #21
Ask people who speak both English and Polish fluently, which language they think best differentiates subtle shades of an expression?

Bet they will answer whichever is their native language or the one in which they have the best ability. ;)
Magdalena 3 | 1,837
12 Aug 2009  #22
As a professional translator, I have to say that bilingual dictionaries are just the starting point if you are doing literary translation. You look up a word (even if you know the meaning!) to check for possible versions in the target language, choose the one you think fits the source context best, and then look for synonyms in a thesaurus / dictionary of synonyms of the target language. Once you find something you like, you can field-test your full phrase on google, to check how often, and when, it crops up in actual utterances of native speakers. And so it goes on. This is why translation of technical texts is often easier, as the word-to-word and meaning-to-meaning conversion is much more straightforward (most of the time).

I wouldn't say any language is better, richer, or more sophisticated. Each has its little quirks, its surprises, strengths and weaknesses. In translation, the first thing you should learn is that there are no easy solutions, and no absolute equivalents of meaning.

If you think a language is simple or primitive, this usually means that your knowledge of this language hasn't progressed very far yet. Many English speakers think Polish is primitive; many Polish speakers think the same of English. They can't all be right, can they? ;-p
Myszolow 3 | 157
12 Aug 2009  #23
Many English speakers think Polish is primitive; many Polish speakers think the same of English. They can't all be right, can they? ;-p

Not unless both languages are primitive. ;)
sausage 19 | 777
12 Aug 2009  #24
All good advice Magdalena

you can field-test your full phrase on google

When searching google for a phrase don't forget to enclose your search phrase in "quotation marks" otherwise google will just serve up a list of webpages that contain the words from that phrase
madpsychocat - | 5
12 Aug 2009  #25
Being a very cold climate in winter, opening the mouth wider to speak would involve more heat loss to the body. So a fairly closed mouthed language evolved.

Both Portuguese and Spanish are warm countries, although Portuguese is quite guttural (I've heard been described by sounding Russian - but by non russian speakers ;)). Sounds deep and back of the throat.

Spanish is front of the mouth, mouth not as open, using tongue more (like a snake). So with warmer climates I would say your theory wouldn't stand! ;))
trevorisimo 1 | 27
12 Aug 2009  #26
My writing and my vocab is better than my spoken, im really self conscious at speaking polish because people never understand what im saying.
SzwedwPolsce 11 | 1,595
12 Aug 2009  #27
Your a**-kissing of Polish culture is beginning to disurb me

It's good to be disturbed sometimes

But as far as I know I haven't said much about Polish culture at all.
welshguyinpola 23 | 463
12 Aug 2009  #28
None of us Ex pats will ever know Polish enough to understand the subtleties of the language, neither will Polish ppl in ENGLISH.

It really rocked my boat when ppl sid that the Polish version of Shrek was funnier than the English version, but these people couldt totally get the English version so its bound to be less funny for them.

LAnguage is also an issue of culture. We as ex pats will only be able to gin a certain level of understanding of Polish because we have been brought up in an English culture and vice versa
OP Nika 2 | 507
15 Aug 2009  #29
interesting feed-backs, thanks!!!!

honestly, I really admire foreigners that speak Polish (even if it is just basic) because it seems to me that Polish must be very complicated to learn.

How do you deal with all the cases and genders? How can you actually learn it when you are not a native speaker?
moonlight 6 | 103
15 Aug 2009  #30
well I'm going to try, but it will be very basic! :)

I practice with my friends here but sometimes they just look at me like I have two heads :) Guess you have to be prepared to sound stupid a lot of times :)


Home / Life / Do expats living in Poland speak Polish?
BoldItalic [quote]
 
To post as Guest, enter a temporary username or login and post as a member.