Every year Polish popular cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Szczecin and Gdansk are visited by hordes of tourists from around Europe and the world. But when Polish destinations are gradually attracting greater numbers of visitors, is the Polish language also drawing a proportional number of learners?
Joining the EU in 2004 was quite a breakthrough for Poland. The country was officially recognised as a Member State of the European Community and given full representation in the EU’s institutions. Every year, Poland is becoming increasingly popular for its various food products, investment opportunities and places of interest. Every year Polish popular cities such as Warsaw, Krakow, Szczecin and Gdansk are visited by hordes of tourists from around Europe and the world. But when Polish destinations are gradually attracting greater numbers of visitors, is the Polish language also drawing a proportional number of learners?
The Polish language has a total of 43 million speakers in the whole world (I know some sources estimate this number at 48 million!). It is the official language of the Republic of Poland and has 36 million speakers there. In Europe, it is the second most widely spoken Slavic tongue (first is Russian), however, this does not change the fact that in reality you can communicate in Polish in Poland only. Nevertheless, in other parts of the world there are large Polish-speaking communities, mainly in the UK and the USA.
The impact they have on local communities should not be underestimated, as there have been reported cases when representatives of local services (e.g. a policeman in Wales) actually learned Polish to facilitate communication with the increasing population of Poles in the area. Luckily, not all of the people have time and aptitude for learning Polish, therefore demand for Polish translators in particular areas of the UK and the USA remains high.
Grammar in brief
Referring back to the difficulties inherent in the process of learning the Polish language, the main problem seems to be the ever complicated grammatical system. Unlike English (I only have sufficient knowledge to compare Polish and English), Polish is a highly inflectional language which differentiates between seven cases. Nouns, adjectives and pronouns are all subject to declension. Moreover, verbs have to be conjugated depending on the gender of the verb and the tense of the sentence.
Pronunciation does not make things any easier. In terms of phonetics and phonology, the Polish language offers quite a “selection” of sounds. Although Polish, just like English, uses the Latin alphabet, it also makes uses of diacritics and digraphs which are no longer present in English (which a few exceptions of “sh”, “ch” and “th”). I would say it is the pronunciation of these not-found-in-English letters that causes real trouble to a foreigner trying to master the Polish language. Because how can you explain to someone that “przepraszam” (Eng. “I am sorry”) is a perfectly pronounceable word and does not have any spelling mistakes? Most certainly some people consider these clusters of consonants to be nothing more than a tongue twister, something you can never successfully reproduce.
Do not get discouraged!
The complicated grammar and hard to copy pronunciation are the two things that can put you off learning Polish. At the same time, they are also the two main components of any language and it is absolutely vital to grasp the basics in order to start using the language in everyday exchanges.
Below are a few examples of links to on-line resources that will give you more guidance: