A gateway to Slavic languages
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Polish is the official language of Poland, which has a population of 39 million people. There are big Polish-speaking communities in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Lithuania, the Ukraine, the US, Russia, and the UK.
Polish has borrowed heavily from the English language in recent post-communist years. These words receive a Polish makeover, but are easily recognisableFor example, ‘komputer’ and ‘skaner’ – the ‘c’ in English turns to a ‘k’ in Polish.
Poland boasts stunning mountains, rivers and forests and a beautiful language to go with it. It is soft and gentle to the English ear and lends itself easily to poetry and music. The Polish language is sometimes difficult to pronounce and has some complex grammar rules. But the consonants sound pretty much like they do in English, and the stress of a word is always on the last syllable but one.
Polish is now the main language spoken in England after English. There are 546,000 Polish speakers in England and Wales.
Polish has been influenced by a variety of foreign languages, particularly German and French. It is spoken in Central Europe and derives from the Western Slavic languages.
KPMG has asserted that Poland is one of the best places to develop and invest in a business. People who learn Polish as a second language and speak English as a native language earn 38% more in the UK in IT and finance than those who can only communicate in English. With millions of Poles working in the UK, there is a great demand on all levels for this language.
The Polish people are sociable and hospitable and love to entertain guests and talk. If you are ever invited into their home then you will be treated like royalty. What is more, they will be absolutely amazed and delighted if you speak to them in Polish. They are also a very polite people, who even argue politely – what a refreshing change!
Written in the Latin script, Polish is often far more approachable than other Slavic languages. For example, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian and Bulgarian all traditionally use the Cyrillic script. This means that to learn Polish you will not need to study a whole new alphabet, but rather just become acquainted with a couple of specific diacritic signs (accents) and digraphs (combination of two letters making one sound like ‘sh’). You’ll find that Polish, being an Indo-European language, has lots in common with other European languages.
By learning Polish, you gain easy access to other Western Slavic languages, such as Czech and Slovak. Whilst they are not mutually understandable, these languages share many similarities and will be within your grasp immediately. The same goes for Belarusian and Ukrainian. Russian may be a bit more difficult, but it also has similarities. Polish can be a convenient gateway to the fascinating wider realm of Slavic languages. A community which geographically makes up a large part of Europe and Asia, and includes over 300 million speakers worldwide.
By learning Polish, you gain access to the second most widely spoken Slavic language. With some 55 million native speakers, the only more common Slavic language is Russian. The Polish diaspora (traditionally called Polonia) has been one of the most active and mobile elements of the nation. Forming big centres in the US, Canada, Germany and Britain, you can start learning it right where you live, finding native speakers all around you.
Polish offers a promise of both familiarity and exoticism. While some words and structures will strike you as familiar (perhaps because of the Latin and German influence on Polish), others will seem difficult or mysterious. Parts of Polish reflect the alternative path of Indo-European development, and show influences from surprising sources such as Turkey and Iran. Some of the most confusing and obscure words can provide linguistic revelations and draw surprising connections – like that between Polish twaróg (Polish cheese) and the quarks (particles) of quantum physics!
By learning Polish, you will be able to acquaint yourself with a country with one of the most turbulent histories in Europe. This history still has influence on the life and politics in the country today, and may offer the key to understanding the region’s present.
Poland came into existence in the late 10th century. It became one of the first confederated countries in Europe – a true empire stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. With its tolerant religious policy, Poland became an early instance of a cultural melting pot.
Poles also became one of the few nations to have their country erased from the map of Europe, only for it to return some 123 years later. It was also ravaged during WWII by its neighbours Germany and Russia, and then had communism imposed on it afterwards.
Learning and eventually mastering Polish will give you access to one of the most fascinating libraries worldwide. You will be able to indulge yourself in the words of all those serious Slavic poets you’ve heard so much about, such as Miłosz, Szymborska and Zagajewski. You will learn that Polish literature can be very different and diverse.
Poland now has a total of five Nobel Prize winners in literature. Maybe one day you’ll be able to read their literature in the original Polish.
Polish is a Slavic language, meaning it’s related to Russian, Ukranian, Slovak, Czech, Bulgarian, etc. It sounds impressive to speak in front of your English speaking friends, as it can be difficult for English speakers to pronounce some of the sounds. Do not be put off though, it is not all that hard!
Polish is mostly phonetic, and it uses a Latin alphabet. It is different from many other (popular) languages such as English, French or Spanish because it uses cases. So some words change depending on the context you use them in. It does challenge your brain to think in a different way.
More and more Polish people are emigrating to other countries, so you are bound to meet people speaking Polish at some point. Maybe it had something to do with lots of people fleeing the country during the tribulations of the 20th century, but you’ll run into Polish-speakers all over the globe.
Today there are Polish citizens who are discovering that they have distant family members everywhere, from the United States to the British Commonwealth countries.
Polish tongue twisters are among the most complicated in the world. For this reason, it’s a tempting challenge to master them! Try the following: “W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie” (“A beetle buzzes in the reeds in Szczebrzeszyn”).
The sz is a sh sound, the cz is a ch sound, and you can combine them (other Slavic languages do so as well) to create a “shch” sound.
Rz is pronounced like a combination of a sh sound and a z sound, like a French J.
Ch is the classic guttural sound, like the “ch” in Bach (many other languages have them – Hebrew and Dutch are probably best known for theirs). Now you try!
There are no articles in Polish. For non-English speakers who wish to learn the language, a challenge normally arises in the use of articles such as ‘the’, ‘a’, and ‘an’. The process of learning how to use articles is very simple in the Polish language, as it contains no articles.
In Polish, word order can be flexible. In English, word order is used to show the role words play in a sentence. If you change the word order, you change the meaning. Whereas in Polish, words have different endings or inflections which indicate their role in a sentence.If you arrange the words in a different order, the meaning stays the same, but the emphasis may change.
There are few verb tenses in Polish. The English language contains a lot of verb tenses, namely 16! Whereas Polish has just five, categorised into two aspects and three tenses. Sounds refreshing!
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