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Do Poles have a problem understanding American English?


TJD 2 | 4
10 Jan 2014 #1
Do Poles have a difficult time understanding Americans when they speak English? Specifically, do they think Americans speak too fast?
whyikit 6 | 102
10 Jan 2014 #2
Firstly I am not Polish so can't answer your question directly, however I would say that the question can't be answered. The reason for this is that it will depend on where in the US the person is from as I have difficulties understanding some Americans, however that doesn't have anything to do with speaking too fast as on the whole I feel they speak slow. but more to do with a thick accent.
OP TJD 2 | 4
10 Jan 2014 #3
Thanks. I'm from the Chicago area. We speak fast. I lived in Armenia for a while (I'm part Armenian). I had to speak English much slower there - even to the English teachers there. That's why I asked.
peter_olsztyn 6 | 1,098
10 Jan 2014 #4
Do Poles have a difficult time understanding Americans when they speak English?

I understand American English far better than British English. British people tend to mute endings and
change amplitude rapidly (of course there is huge difference when British person turn the posh English on)
while American English is more compressed to me.

Specifically, do they think Americans speak too fast?

nope
Wulkan - | 3,251
10 Jan 2014 #5
I'm from the Chicago area.

it's the biggest Polish city in the world so what are you talking about?
OP TJD 2 | 4
11 Jan 2014 #6
"it's the biggest Polish city in the world so what are you talking about?"

I think you mean something like Chicago is the city with the second largest number of Polish people in the world (or #1 outside of Poland). I think it might actually be number 3 now though.

I know that there is a very large Polish population in Chicago and most of them speak English very well. Many of them also speak Polish (obviously). They seem to be able to switch from speaking English to Polish without any problem. There are large groups of other ethnicities here who speak both English and their native languages, but they usually do not speak English very well.

I was just basically wondering if Poles in Poland find it easy to understand Americans when they speak English. It sounds like they do.
Ziemowit 12 | 3,571
11 Jan 2014 #7
I was just basically wondering if Poles in Poland find it easy to understand Americans when they speak English. It sounds like they do.

As a Pole in Poland, I find it pretty difficult to understand Americans speaking English. This is because I have been trained to use the "true" British English [chiefly according to the BBC "pronounciation pattern"] from the age of 13. Likewise, I quite often find it difficult to understand foreign, non-English speakers speaking English if they speak with their own, (too) national accent.
tygrys 2 | 294
11 Jan 2014 #8
know that there is a very large Polish population in Chicago and most of them speak English very well.

No they don't. They have a terrible accent you can't understand hardly anything, but you probably have an accent too, since you're from Armenia. And also the Poles in Chicago have this made-up language, where half the words are Polish, half English. That stuff really messes with your head. It takes a lot of creativity and imagination to understand that language.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
11 Jan 2014 #9
You're referring then to "Pidglish" otherwise familiar as Pidgin Polish, a mishmash of old-fashioned countryside regionalisms combined with US-slang and sloppy grammar, right? I recently met several US-born Polish-Americans who began speaking in Polish once I told them I knew the language. To be honest, much of what they said I couldn't much make out.

Perhaps a Polish native speaker would've had better luck:-)
Monitor 14 | 1,821
11 Jan 2014 #10
Poles have the most contact with American English through movies. Canadian, British, Australian or Indian English movies are nearly not existing in Poland. So out of all English types this should be the most understandable.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
11 Jan 2014 #11
Right on, Monitor, and rarely any movies of the highest quality of, say, a Hollywood black-white classic with snappy dialogue and acting which reflected a higher standard in society! The average Europunk nowadays knows only Bruce Willis, Sly Stallone et al., little if at all pre-1982. This is a crying shame. Even late Seinfeld's considered some arcane, useless antique to the Euroyouth. Cultivation's being eroded to such an extent that it seems people so little any longer but, eat, sleep and fornicate to excess, leaving the art of conversation way back on highway One.
goku
11 Jan 2014 #12
As a native Pole i think American English is the "cleanest" one to understand. I discovered as a teenager that I understand what they say in those American movies (i always learned English by myself - english Cartoon Network, video games etc.). I'm and adult now and i still have some problems (sometimes) with movies from UK.
Tamarisk
11 Jan 2014 #13
I'm and adult now and i still have some problems (sometimes) with movies from UK.

Err, do you mean something like this...

youtu.be/wSodvRnD3Qc

;)
Paulina 9 | 1,448
12 Jan 2014 #14
The reason for this is that it will depend on where in the US the person is from as I have difficulties understanding some Americans, however that doesn't have anything to do with speaking too fast as on the whole I feel they speak slow. but more to do with a thick accent.

Yes, for example, I have difficulties with understanding the Cajun accent.

As a Pole in Poland, I find it pretty difficult to understand Americans speaking English. This is because I have been trained to use the "true" British English [chiefly according to the BBC "pronounciation pattern"] from the age of 13.

I've been trained to use British English too since high school but that was the British queen's English (I was even told by one teacher at one point that I talk like her lol). But that's not how normal people talk in the UK, apparently. So it's so much easier for me to understand American English.

And Monitor is right - it's thanks to the American films on Polish TV.

I quite often find it difficult to understand foreign, non-English speakers speaking English if they speak with their own, (too) national accent.

Yes, me too. But I guess it depends how often you hear it. If you hear it often enough you learn to understand it, I think.

Specifically, do they think Americans speak too fast?

No, Americans usually speak more slowly and clearly, than the British, for example.
Not always, though - I remember watching "Gilmore Girls" in original and Lorelai and Rory could speak really fast when they were talking with each other and throwing some cultural references in and sometimes I had problems with understanding them.

So, who knows, maybe you're one of such fast talkers :)
Tamarisk
12 Jan 2014 #15
Yes, for example, I have difficulties with understanding the Cajun accent.

I would hazard a guess that most people would have difficulty with the Cajun accent.

youtu.be/p9l5Ou-WNro
Paulina 9 | 1,448
12 Jan 2014 #16
OK, that's evil... lol
I guess it's more a dialect than an accent?
Monitor 14 | 1,821
12 Jan 2014 #17
As a native Pole i think American English is the "cleanest" one to understand.

I think that there is nothing like cleanness of language, but only what you're used to listen. So I think that it's just illusion.
DominicB - | 2,678
12 Jan 2014 #18
I think that there is nothing like cleanness of language, but only what you're used to listen.

By "cleaness", I think Goku means articulation. American English is more articulated and makes far less use of liason than British English. That makes it easier to distinguish separate words and individual sounds. British English also uses more vowel sounds that do not occur in Polish, and which Polish ears are unable to distinguish. American English also uses a lot more open vowels, which are relatively easier for Poles to distinguish as there are no fully closed vowels in Polish.

For example, the words "cot" and "caught", when pronounced in British English, contain closed vowels that are not at all similar to any vowel sound in Polish, and Poles have a hard time hearing these vowels correctly, never mind pronouncing them correctly. When pronounced by most Americans, both words are practically the same as the Polish word "kat". It also helps that most Americans pronounce the "r" sound. For example, it would be difficult for a Pole to correctly tell if they heard "cart", "court", "cot" or "caught". They all blend into a big mess of unfamiliar and indistinguishable vowel sounds.

Yet another problem is that very few British people speak RP, the "official" version supposedly taught in Polish schools. Non-RP British accents can differ more from RP than American English does. I use to have a Geordie boss who had a language school in Poland, and the students often had a hard time getting used to his accent. Also had a colleague from Hull who even I had trouble following. It was difficult to map his vowels against my American ones.

Put it this way: if you try to write American English using Polish letters, you will have a lot fewer blanks and make much more accurate identifications than if you try to write British English.

Caveat: By American English I mean the standard Inland North accent known also as General American, and by British English I mean RP.
jon357 63 | 14,137
12 Jan 2014 #19
American English is more articulated and makes far less use of liason than British English.

I suppose it depends very much which American English (as you mention the Inland North accent) - as well as the speakers own speech patterns.
wrrrr
12 Jan 2014 #20
As a native Polish from Poland I have found difficulty in understanding Irish and Australians. About Americans, as some people have mentioned in Poland we are taught British English so sometimes the vocabulary problems appear. And one thing more, it's also very hard if you are the only non-native surrounded by natives, the purely linguistic problems are multiplied by different social habits so keep it in mind and welcome in Poland, you will survive!
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
15 Jan 2014 #21
Many foreigners, Poles among them, often labor under the delusion (though understandably so) that listening to contemporary American movies in particular will somehow "improve" their English skills. The root of this fallacy is that by listening to people chattering away in a language necessarily builds comprehensive fluency, adequate for more than merely touristic discourse.

All this does in my mind is reinforce slang, whose level the learner cannot judge adequately in the first place, and then allows the learner to go about babbling this garbage to her or her heart's content, merrily deluding themselves into thinking that they automatically sound hip, idiomatic, cool and as someone(s) to be taken seriously. Rarely is this ever the case; they end up sounding ridiculous:-)
Paulina 9 | 1,448
15 Jan 2014 #22
Wlodzimierz, I don't understand what's your problem.
For people who aren't immersed in the foreign language by living in a foreign country watching films (or foreign TV in general) is the only way to listen to some everyday language, to practice listening comprehension, enrich their vocabulary in a fun way.

I'm sorry, Wlodzimierz, but you rant and rant all the time how English learners do everything wrong. It's irritating and it makes you look like you're obsessed. Relax.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
15 Jan 2014 #23
The sooner others freely admit to their English faults as such, the sooner I'll "relax", as you put it. My sole point is that you all have to be as critical about the quality (as opposed to the sheer quantity) of what you're watching/hearing as we on the other side of the Pond have to be when viewing European movies without those annoying subtitles. Your English for instance is very good, no qualms there. However, don't you want to make it even better??? 'Course you do! So do Ironside, Wulkan etc. I too want to improve my language skills, e.g. Polish. We all want to learn new stuff, so there is no problem.

By the way, one needn't be "immersed in" foreign languages to want to speak them well. It's all a question of pride and respect, that's all it is.
Paulina 9 | 1,448
15 Jan 2014 #24
The sooner others freely admit to their English faults as such, the sooner I'll "relax", as you put it.

It seems everyone does that, except from you. Poles, for example, are often very self-critical about their English to the point of being ashamed to speak it. So, again, I don't understand what's your problem.

By the way, one needn't be "immersed in" foreign languages to want to speak them well.

I haven't wrote that someone who isn't immersed in foreign languages doesn't want to speak them well.
I just have a problem with your attitude.
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
16 Jan 2014 #25
Many do, so don't let it worry youLOL
Paulina 9 | 1,448
16 Jan 2014 #26
It should worry you, not me...
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
16 Jan 2014 #27
Only if you allow yourself to worry. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the show:-)
Paulina 9 | 1,448
16 Jan 2014 #28
Wlodzimierz, I'm saying that you could do well with some self-criticism and a change of attitude yourself. Otherwise you'll just get on people's nerves instead of helping them (if helping others is what you think you're doing or want to be doing).
Wlodzimierz 4 | 544
16 Jan 2014 #29
Getting on one's nerves often serves the cause of enlightenment. I used to rail against similar teachers of mine, yet never regretted their finickiness in the long run! I grew from it.
TheOther 5 | 3,831
16 Jan 2014 #30
I'm saying that you could do well with some self-criticism and a change of attitude yourself.

Not that I told you so, Wlodzimierz... :)


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