What makes learning Polish so easy?

What makes learning Polish so easy?

Benny

Today’s guest post is along the lines of my own posts that Chinese, Hungarian, Turkish, Czech etc. are easier than you think, from someone with good experience learning the umpteenth “world’s hardest language“, Polish!

It turns out that it’s not that bad after all! The Polish language can certainly be as hard or easy as any other language, but its difficulties tend to be more loudly advertised (especially by proud natives) than what is actually pretty straightforward about it.

Given the clear need for a little balance in the universe, I asked David Snopek, from LinguaTrek an American who grew up only speaking English, but now has pretty impressive sounding Polish, to chime in and offer some encouragement to those learning this language!

This blog post is based on this popular video that he made in Polish (click “CC” on Youtube to read subtitles in English):

Over to you David!

All over the internet people are saying that Polish is the HARDEST language to learn or one of the hardest which is just simply not true. You can start learning it for free or very cheap (see recommendations later).

This is a widely held view by many Poles (but not all!) and few will hesitate to share this opinion with foreigners or to defend the language’s honor if someone challenges it. I know because I’ve been learning Polish for about fives years.

I regularly make videos in Polish on various topics and the only video I’ve ever made that still receives thousands of views per month over a year after it was publish is the one above (called Polski NIE jest jednym z najtrudniejszych języków na świecie; English: Polish is NOT one of the hardest languages in the world).

Personally, I think Polish is one of the most beautiful languages in the world! There are many great reasons to learn Polish. For me, learning this language has been a joy and, honestly, has changed my life for the better!

I don’t mean any disrespect to the Polish language – but I’ve talked with many people who rationalized giving up on learning Polish because it was the hardest language in the word and they don’t have a talent for languages. There are even more people who wanted to learn Polish – but gave up before they started, because they were convinced it was too hard.

This opinion isn’t helping anyone!

What makes Polish so hard?

I’ve seen many reasons given, but almost all of them focus the number grammatical forms:

  • Nouns can have three genders (some linguists count five)
  • Each noun and adjective can appear in one of seven cases
  • Verbs conjugate for gender, person, mood and time (depending on how you count, this makes over 25 forms of every verb)
  • Verbs come in two aspects (English doesn’t have grammatical aspect)

Are you scared yet? :-) If you want more (although I don’t recommend it!), see the links I gave at the beginning of the article.

When something gets harder, something else gets easier

It’s my personal theory, that all languages are equally hard. I have no linguistic reference to back this up – only my own intuition and the stories of other language learners – but I think that our brains are only capable of holding a fixed amount of linguistic complexity.

So, if some aspect of the language is harder, than some other aspect is easier – or non-existent!

It’s true that there are lots of forms of each individual word in Polish. And it’s true that if you learn Polish, this will be a challenge for you. But many things that would be challenging in other languages AREN’T in Polish!

No articles

One of the most difficult pieces of grammar to learn in English, is when to use “the”, “a”, “an” or nothing at all. In fact, I don’t personally know any non-native speaker that uses them correctly all the time! This is usually how I can identify non-native speakers when their pronunciation is perfect.

(Luckily for people learning English, articles are also one of the least important parts of English grammar! If you use them incorrectly, people will still understand exactly what you mean.)

Unfortunately, for native speakers of English – when other languages also have articles, the rules for using them are frequently totally different!

In Polish, there are no articles! So, you don’t need to worry about them at all.

No word order

In English and many other languages, the order of the words in a sentence is very important to the meaning. “Jan loves Maria” means something different than “Maria loves Jan” and, of course, “loves Maria Jan” is gibberish.

When learning another language, you may encounter a word order different than that of your native language, providing you with an additional challenge.

In Polish, word order is mostly unimportant!

The following sentences all mean the same thing (“Jan loves Maria”):

  • Jan kocha Marię
  • Marię kocha Jan
  • kocha Jan Marię
  • Marię Jan kocha

You can simply speak as the words come to you and not worry about their order.

There are certain word orders that Poles would consider normal in a specific situation. But they are all understandable! This is used to great effect in music and poetry.

Few verb tenses

In English, we have very few verb forms (ie. the words don’t change much). For example, the verb “do” has only the following five forms: do, does, doing, did, done. But we have lots of verb tenses!

For example:

  • Present simple – I read everyday.
  • Present continuous – I am reading right now.
  • Present perfect – I have read this book before.
  • Present perfect continuous – I have been reading this book for two hours.
  • Future perfect continuous – At 5 o’clock I will have been reading this book for four hours.
  • Past simple – I read all day yesterday.
  • Past continuous – I was reading yesterday.
  • and so on! In total, there are 16 tenses.

If you count tenses the same way in Polish, there are only 5! (Poles count them differently, they’d say there are 3 tenses and 2 aspects.) The following sentences: “I read”, “I am reading”, and “I have been reading” – would all be translated into Polish the same way: “czytam”.

So, forming the verb might be harder in Polish. But knowing when to use which tense, is actually a lot easier!

The alphabet is 95% phonetic!

In English, it can be difficult to know how to pronounce a word from it’s spelling. For example, compare the pronunciation of “oo” in the following words: book, soon, door, flood. It’s different in every word! And there’s no way to know that just from looking at them.

I am a native speaker of English, but even I’ve had the following situation happen to me several times: I’ll learned a new word from reading that I’ve never heard out loud. Then later in a conversation, I’ll try to use it but with the wrong pronunciation and no one knows what I’m talking about! It’s embarrassing, but it’s probably happened to everyone. :-)

On the other hand, the Polish alphabet is almost entirely phonetic. Once you know the rules, you can look at any word and know how to pronounce it.

The opposite isn’t entirely true (hearing a word and knowing how to spell it) but it’s still a lot easier than in English!

Lots of vocabulary with Latin roots

Largely because of its relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the Latin language has a long history in Poland. Because of this, many words of Latin origin have seeped into the language.

If you speak a language that has borrowed lots of words of Latin origin (like English!), there will be some familiar vocabulary.

For example, many words ending in -cja are directly related to English words ending in -tion:

  • motywacja – motivation
  • sytuacja – situation
  • promocja – promotion
  • and many more!

How to get started learning Polish online?

I think the fact that so few people learn Polish helps perpetuate the view that Polish is so hard. I personally know dozens of people who learned to speak Polish at a very high-level. But frequently when I meet a Pole, they say I’m the first foreigner they’ve ever met who can speak Polish!

Please, help me change this! :-)

Like learning any language, all that’s required is a little time, motivation and an effective method.

If you want to get started learning Polish, I recommend the following resources:

  • Natural Language Learning (Without a Teacher!) – My FREE ebook, which you will receive if you subscribe to my blog! In it, I describe the exact method I used to learn Polish and how to create your own method that will allow you to learn any language on your own. It’s available in both English and Polish.
  • Don’t start learning Polish with the grammar! – An article on my blog where I try to convince you NOT to do what most Polish language courses do: focus on nothing but grammar for years before actually having contact with the real language.
  • Real Polish – A blog and podcast in Polish with some excellent content for learners.

I wish you the best of luck in your language learning journey!

Do widzenia! Pozdrawiam!

Any comments, or other words of encouragement for learners of Polish? Share them with us in the comments below!

Today’s guest post is along the lines of my own posts that Chinese, Hungarian, Turkish, Czech etc. are easier than you think, from someone with good experience learning the umpteenth “world’s hardest language“, Polish! It turns out that it’s not that bad after all! The Polish language can certainly be as hard or easy as […]

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  • Marek

    Pozdrowienia z Polski!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1046691305 Veronica Nelson

    Wow, I’m a native and I didn’t even know English had that many verb tenses! It’s funny how you just learn things without learning the grammar behind them for your native language. I don’t know why everyone insists you HAVE to learn grammar first with a second language. I don’t mind it because it helps me learn, but there are other ways to learn a language. Your mind is amazingly good at picking up patterns. :)
    Thanks for the awesome blog post! I’m not learning Polish, but this is applicable to any language!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000704616791 Edmund Yong

      Agreed! Native normally don’t have to learn grammar. I had a hard time in English Tenses and super irregular pronunciation. I’m a native Chinese and learn English in school since kindergarten but schools are always terrible in language teaching so it ended up many Malaysian people can only write English. I’m lucky to be helped by ‘Harry Potter’, films ,songs and so forth. umm… Chinese learner, is there any tenses at all in Chinese? I think there isn’t.   

  • Rémi

    Very interesting. I have a polish friend that might want to help me with that!

  • MidlifeSinglemum

    There is a lot of Polish and Russian that has seeped into Modern Hebrew because of the nature of the first big Jewish immigration in the 1880s. So we also use words such as ‘informatzia’, ‘motivatzia’ and ‘protectzia’. Hey, I can speak Polish and I didn’t even know it!

    • Sarah Warren

      As someone who speaks Russian (rustily) as well as smatterings of various other Slavonic languages and is attempting to learn Hebrew, this is encouraging :D

      תודה :D

  • http://twitter.com/kantanda Kantan da!

    Cześć!

    Wow, David, I’m a native Polish speaker and teacher and I always think that Poles are just as easily impressed with foreigners speaking their language as Japanese people (commenting on someone who an say “Hello” – “Nihon-go ga jouzu desu ne” [You are veru skilled in Japanese!]). this is because we are aware that we have high amount of difficult phonemes and the case system more complicated than in neighbouring countries. But I am more than glad that someone who LEARNS Polish is able to advocate its non-complex features. 

    You sir, deserve a big, fat hug! 
    *tulas* 

  • http://www.facebook.com/freekarol Karol Darvas

    Polish is also difficult because of its pronunciation. I know there is a difference between ś and sz or between ć or cz. But I dont know how to make the ś and ć sounds. ;)

    • http://twitter.com/tomfrompoland Tom from Poland

       For Polish natives the same is in English, for example a in apple, bad etc. It’s hard because we don’t have this sound in our mother languages.

    • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

      Well, I think this comes in stages. :-) First of all, there are very few words where mixing up ć and cz can change the meaning of the word. And when there is, context will almost always indicate which it is. But after listening to lots of Polish, you will slowly be able to hear the difference. Once you can hear it reliably, you’ll eventually learn how to pronounce it.

      I’m still working on learning how to pronounce it, but I can hear it when native speakers speak now. :-)

      Best of luck in your Polish studies!

      Regards,
      David.

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    This is fantastic, I’ve just been learning a few things about Poland that made me much more interested in visiting there than I was before and I much prefer to become at least moderately proficient in the native language of a country prior to visiting it for any period of time (anything more than a few weeks), so I’ve been kind of wondering about whether I should learn Polish and if so when and how and all that whatnot.

    I completely understand what you’re saying about all languages being roughly equally difficult which makes perfect sense when you think about it: they all do the same thing, express what people want to say, and people want to be able to say about the same amount of stuff the world over–the Japanese don’t have significantly more things to say or express than the Poles or French or Brazilians, you know? So those languages will all be of approximately the same ‘size’ if you will, some of  them might be a bit more efficient than others but it’s almost certainly not going to be by a significant margin–we’re all about the same average level of intelligence and therefore no one’s language is going to be significantly easier or more difficult than anyone else’s.  I’m not sure that made the best of sense but that’s sort of how I’m conceptualizing it.

    Excellent article and video, I’ll be sure to look you up when I start into Polish.

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • TLH

    Thank you for posting this!  I’ve been studying Polish for about a month and it’s really not as difficult as people make it out to be as long as you’re persistent.  Although I might have had a head start, because I already speak German, so the idea of a case system isn’t so scary to me anymore.  Even the cases are manageable if you see enough examples of them being used correctly.  Polish is such a beautiful and expressive language.

  • http://mainlymagyar.wordpress.com/ Bliddy

    Great post!
    I wrote an article on my mainlymagyar blog about how “Hungarian is the Hardest Language in the World!” (it isn’t really!!)  All languages are difficult – and all of them are easy!  It really does depend on your motivation and your mindset.

  • http://twitter.com/KarolGajda Karol Gajda

    1) Thank you for posting this.
    2) I have no clue what anybody is talking about when they mention grammar rules in English, much less Polish. If I had to take an English exam I would likely fail. (I used to use English classes as nap time.) How is it possible I can write/read/speak English? ;)
    3) I speak Polish. Grew up in the US (since before age of 1), but was born in Poland. I’m currently in Wroclaw.

    I mess up a lot speaking Polish, but everybody understands me, and I think more than anything else that is most important. My pronunciation is pretty darn good, but I use unnatural word orders/tenses/all that other stuff. And my vocabulary is lacking compared to my English vocab.

    I have also heard many Poles and foreigners say the language is difficult. “How often do you use it outside of a classroom?” Answer is usually, “I don’t.” Well, Spanish (or insert your favorite “easy” language here) is difficult for *me* since I don’t use it in real life situations either.

    It’s an issue of perspective and it’s not unique to just languages.

    I’ve heard Guitar is a difficult instrument. But so is piano. And so is harmonica. And so is every instrument until you learn it. I’ve played guitar for most of my life so it’s easy and I could probably teach most people to play a song within 30 minutes. I’ve played piano for much less of my life (and never have one to play on) so it’s a lot more difficult. And harmonica I’ve practiced for about 2 weeks so it’s “the most difficult instrument in the world.”

    Thanks again.

    Pozdrawiam!
    -Karol

    • Luciana

      best reply ever!

      • dufus

        Yes! That is part of what I meant in reply to Natalia who writes that Polish is NOT easy if one want to know proper Polish.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Dzięki. :-) Osobiście przetłumaczyłbym np. “I have been reading for two hours” na “Czytam od dwóch godzin”, więc to miałem na myśli. Pozdrawiam serdecznie, David.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Thanks! Well, the problem is that if it had articles, the rules to use them would probably be different. I don’t speak Spanish, but a buddy of mine does and one day he tried to explain to me how articles work in Spanish since you can end up with phrases like El David (The David) which wouldn’t make sense in English. Needless to say, even with similar seeming articles, the rules are not 1-to-1 to English. The same goes for languages with lots of verb tenses – they wouldn’t necessarily line up with the system in your native language.

    In any case, that’s awesome that you’re learing Polish! I wish you luck on your language learning journey – let me know how it goes with Harry Potter!

    Regards,
    David.

    • dufus

      Hi, David. I really liked the video. I have been trying to learn Polish for years — in the classroom. Took a class, Polish 1 and signed up for Polish 2 which as cancelled for lack of students (only 5). I grew up in a Polish neighborhood, learned it in grammar school, prayed in Polish (Catholic school), ate Polish food, sang Polish Christmas carols, etc etc. I am very familiar and can do the pronunciation. I love the language and watch Polvision here in Chicago and really like the music videos.
      I am bilingual Eng. and Spanish. When I read that the articles are hard and complicated in Eng, I thought WHAT?? they are? Then I thought of all my friends from other countries who rarely get them right. But more importantly, you mention how hard articles can be in Spanish and have have heard the difficulty that non-native speakers have with el, la, etc., not to mention the feminine.masculine thing. I did study Italian and French (eight years with this one) in college and do find some similarities among all these languages– which surprised me with the Polish since it is not a romance language.

      Anyway, I’m off to try and teach myself Polish. I have many poeple with whom I can practice.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Dzięki. :-) Pozdrawiam serdecznie, David.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_YCINJXODIKMDMME47X447A3XC4 S.D.I.

    Honestly, I think the hardest thing about any language is vocabulary. I think people make too much out of grammar and phonology. The later comes naturally with exposure, whereas the former *will* take longer if it’s futher away from your language.

    Also, I don’t know if it has to do with Catholicism. Serbia is a historically Orthodox country, and the language is full of Latin loans (we also have motivacija, situacija and promocija). Although granted, we do share our language with historically Catholic and Muslim peoples (Catholics and Bosniaks).

    • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

      I agree completely! I even wrote an article about it:

      http://www.linguatrek.com/blog/2010/12/vocabulary-the-biggest-challenge-in-language-learning

      But for some reason, people do tend to focus on grammar and phonology.

      To the Catholic connection: you know… I think you’re right. Latin did get more use in Poland due to Catholicism, but that probably isn’t why those words are in Polish. Because there are many similar words in Russian too! I’m not sure who to blame: Rome, use of Latin in academia, etc? In any case, those loan words are there now! :-)

      Best regards,
      David.

  • http://twitter.com/rooshv Roosh

    I love Polish women.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Me too ;)

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Nie dokładnie. Bo “I have been reading for two hours” znaczy nie tylko, że “czytałem przez 2 godziny” ale, że nadal teraz czytam. “I was reading for two hours” znaczy dokładnie “czytałem przez 2 godziny”. Mam nadzieję, że to ma sens! Pozdrawiam, David.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Thanks! I absolutely agree. :-) Regards, David.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    I met a Korean woman in Poland who spoke really good Polish! She actually had terrible problems with English and it was really hard for her. :-) But I think it was a question of motivation.

    I agree with your idea that it’s difficult to transform your way of thinking! I’ve seen Americans learning Polish encountering the same problem. I remember being on the Polish course, where I first attempted (and failed) to learn the language. There were people who said things like “Why do they do it that way in Polish? It’s stupid. The way we do it in English is just fine.” :-) There was a resistence to the differences in the language.

    In any case, I agree with the commenter below. It’s difficult if you look at it as difficult. If you just focus on communication, however, you’ll enjoy yourself and before you know it – you’ll have learned the language. ;-)

    I wish you continued success with your Polish!

    Best regards,
    David.

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Thanks! I wish you continued success with your Polish! Regards, David.

  • Mariusz Jamro

    Gre

  • http://twitter.com/waegook_tom Tom Stockwell

    Ahh Polish…I was there for a couple of weeks earlier in the year. All I could say was, “nie mowie po polsku.” It came in handy. Definitely a tricky language, but they have the most satisfaction – I’m learning Korean (considered super hard for English speakers) but if you put your mind to it, it can be achieved!

  • Marion Cottil

    Słuszne spostrzeżenia :) moje gratulacje i również pozdrawiam z Polski :P

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Hi Alex!

    To be honest, I only have cursory understanding of grammar terminology. If you say “continuous” and “perfect” are aspects, I beleive you. :-) But it’s definitely different than Polish’s system. In Polish, most verbs come in pairs with the same meaning: one you use when you want the imperfective aspect and the other for perfective. In any case, the Polish system always seemed simpler than the English on to me. But that is very subjective!

    Thanks for the comment!

    Regards,
    David.

  • Pippa

    I really want to learn polish and I have some of the basic pronunciation and meanings down ok but the section where you point out grammer is NOT the place to start really encouraged me as I’d dived right in with the vocab and phrases. 

  • http://www.linguatrek.com/ David Snopek

    Yeah, in Polish there is something similar: the word “się”. And there is a natural place for it to land that will sound best for native speakers. BUT you can put it anywhere and they’ll still understand, it’ll just seem a little unnatural. This is actually something that I’ve only recently started to make headway on! In the past, I just put it after the verb for simplicity but now I’m starting to feel where it should go. But it’s taken a while. :-)

    I wish you further success with your Czech!

    Best regards,
    David.

  • Sam Tureski

    This is amazing! Thank you so much!!

  • Donna

    I’m ready to explode!!! I’m currently living in Warsaw and taking a language course to help me learn Polish and I’m having a nightmare with the “Tense’s” I just can’t get past them, just when I think I’ve cracked it, along comes another huge confusion. I don’t understand how I could learn properly without familiarising myself with the 7 tense’s first. I’m doing OK with my understanding, reading and pronunciation (although I still avoid saying the Polish number 3 or anything involving it :) damn you English tongue!)

    Thank you for this site, I’m going to have a good look around and see if I can pick up any tips to make it a bit easier.

    Oh speaking of the “Polish is so difficult” brigade, the best statement I’ve heard is – Learning Polish is only for intelligent people :) I think I’d best quit now if that’s true :)

  • Vadim

    If you know polish then you know ukrainian language. I’m ukrainian man and I understand almost every polish sentence when I reading It and sometimes I can understand real polish talk.

    So If you want to hear some ukrainian words that are similar with polish you can contact me ar skype: go.mirgorod

  • Zosia

    I’m amazed! I’ve never heard any foreigner who can speak Polish like David, with little mistakes. I learn English and French and I’d like to speak these languages so fluently. Congratulations – you have convinced a Pole that Polish is easy. I love English and I must say, articles are so annoying! But I find the pronounciation prettier than ours.

    I wonder what you think about Polish spelling, I mean, the use of “rz” and “ż”, “u” and “ó” etc. Many native speakers have problems with it.

    Bardzo mi się spodobał ten artykuł :) Chciałabym kiedyś porozmawiać z kimś uczącym się pięknego i, jak się okazało, wcale nie trudnego języka, jakim jest polski.

  • ewa

    Hey I from Polen and now I live in Canada. We can help each other. Send me @ ewaklepin@gmail.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/natalia.j.bednarz Nattie Natalinkaa Bednarz

    Im polish.. and this everything in this post makes polish more complicated than it should be.. it’s not this hard…

  • john tylor

    awesome!

  • Mrs Gacia

    I am married to a polish born Australian. I have always admired his language duality and now that we are planning children I want them to grow up bilingual. I started polish speaking classes at evening school. I was amazed how many English speaking third generation poles were there because they wanted to be able to speak to their emigrated elderly grandparents in their native tongue as they were dying. Where there used to be shame in the early 80’s after fleeing communism, to speak polish, I feel there is a real resurgence in the admiration for the language. I tried to learn, and gave up because it was too hard. However after 6 weeks in Poland for my honeymoon I began to dream in polish and string phrases together, linking nouns I knew. When I left my mittens at the snowboarding shop, I went back and said ” proshe je jest scarpekta renka?” (excuse me where are the socks for hands?! ) my husband and the staff were amused and delighted that necessity had taught me so well! Your article has given me renewed enthusiasm, and I’ve always thought that watching soap operas and listening to songs helps too. Thanks again and good luck everyone! Aussie wife who has learnt to wash up the polish way x

    • Tomasz Antochów

      Just a correction. It is funny how you said prosze*. prosze means please. :P Przepraszam means excuse me or sorry. Also, I am just trying to help, the sentence should be something like this. Przepraszam, gdzie jest/są skarpetka/skarpetki na rękę. Or formally it would be as follows: Przepraszam, gdzie mogłabym znaleść skarpetki na ręce. And btw, In Polish we have a different name for that. It’s called ” Rękawiczka” ( prural= Rękawiczki)

  • Raxit

    “Then later in a conversation, I’ll try to use it but with the wrong
    pronunciation and no one knows what I’m talking about! It’s
    embarrassing, but it’s probably happened to everyone. ”
    This happened to me! I heard about and looked up the definition of “suave”. I used it in a conversation, but my friends had no idea what “sweyv” meant. I felt so stupid >.<
    Great post! I'm studying Polish and this is good encouragement.

  • amine !

    this blog is the reason i’am learning polish dzięki ! :D

  • Sylwia

    Znalazłam ten artykuł przypadkowo i muszę powiedzieć, że jestem pełna podziwu :) jesteś świetny, mówisz bezbłędnie i płynnie. Gratuluję! Musiałeś włożyć wiele wysiłku i pracy, by osiągnąć tak niesamowity efekt!

  • Sara

    I learn Chinese. It has five (with the neutral one) tones, not seven.

    I’m Polish and I think your Polish is very good, your mistakes are tiny, many Poles make more mistakes than you do;)

  • Katica

    Think about it this way…if children can learn the language as a child … admittedly they hear it constantly …then surely it is not too hard for us Adults to learn it too,,,the problem with being an adult is we have the convenience of giving up…bored or lack motivation or delay it etc…where as a child you need to understand to survive…

    So sure languages are hard but are they really ? or is it our accustomed to comfortability that is disallowing us to delve further and to continue to learn said language we desire…?

    Like I said if children are born not able to speak anything but proceed to understand and speak as children a very *difficult* language…which they have no knowledge it is difficult they just hear and mimic it etc…adults should have that advantage of already being able to get a kick start…since we already understand how words work etc…

    So it’s *ourselves* that make it seem hard it’s inside us…we already form these thoughts…of it being hard…children – babies don’t …they just follow and mimic and start to hear the words over and over again…they don’t form these obstacles… we as adults do…

    By the way I’m trying to learn the Polish Language…I wish to one day live in Poland…

  • Max

    disagree. French and German were a lot easier than Polish. Using incorrect declination sounds funny whereas if you miss off an article it doesn’t affect the understanding in general. English is a lot easier at a basic level but starts to become more difficult with the introduction of phrasal verbs. I have many friends who are fluent in other languages but still struggle with Polish so whole heartadly disagree with your analysis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/harld.castillo Harld Castillo

    I started to study Polish less than a week ago. My native language is Brazilian Portuguese and I learned English on my own throughout the years and now I give English classes online. I’m using the Michel Thomas Method to learn Polish. I’m acquainted with the Method and I find it very useful, fun to work with and easy. Its focus is on sentences with the verb conjugation in all tenses as a primary factor. I’ve already learned a few thing in Polish with only some 20 minutes of audio like, Czy Pani ma nie jest tego? Co Pan czita? Czy to jest bank czy teatr? -To jest bank.
    It actually doesn’t sound so bad as it looks when we read it.

  • arturo

    If you think it from another point of view… having 5 verb tenses instead of 16… to express the same ideas… it makes Polish again more difficult than English… I don’t agree with the video. There are languages much more complicated than others.
    Arturo,

  • abandontheshiphornet

    This will come in handy! I already know some really basic polish. I want to learn polish because my best friend is polish and we will be travelling together. He only taught me how to swear :P I learned most of what i know already from google translate and confirmed with him if I said it right. it’s not THAT hard, the hardest part for me is pronouncing things correctly.

  • Olga

    W języku polskim jest jeszcze jedna rzecz o której nie wspomniałeś – ortografia i jej zasady, które spędzają sen z powiek nie jednemu dziecku w szkole :) Kiedy h i ch, u i ó, ż i rz, sz i rz :)

  • Beata

    Loved your video. My mother tongue is polish but I can also speak English fluently. I think that once you learn one other language learning third, fourth etc is much easier as you no longer care about the grammar that much. As you are trying to work out the meaning of the sentence rather than the meaning of the individual words. Interestingly I find English really easy and can write great stuff if English but I am not very good at writing in my own language. Strange but true. I find the best way to learn languages is to find a topic that interests you most. You are more likely to stick with something that you find interesting. So if you like cooking… learn about cooking and recipes in another language. It is great fun.

  • Natalia

    Well I am Polish and I have to disagree with you David. You either do correct word order or you do conjugation. Which one is easier you chose yourself. In Polish the conjugation explains the meaning of the sentence. If you omit both of them the whole sentence is very confusing. Second thing is the ortogrpahs which is difficult for Poles as well. For example “napewno” or “na pewno”, “poprostu” or “po prostu”. In the end it all depends where you need to use the language. If it’s tourism people don’t care. However if it’s your job incorrect grammar and ortographs are considered very bad. If you are just willing to speak up and have a nice chat then of course Polish is a piece of cake but remember that then you cut 70% of the language :). It’s like saying- Chinese is easy, just don’t study 4000 characters. Conclusion- proper Polish is not easy. However I am really happy to see there are people willing to learn it. It’s all about motivation in the end.

    • Marcin

      Dear Natalia! I am also a Pole and I think that you made some mistakes:
      1) You either do correct word order or you do DECLENSION, not conjugation. Conjugation is the modification of a verb from its basic form and exist both in Polish as well as in English. However, in English is very, very poor (only 3 pers. sing is modified). What makes the order of a sentence unimportant in Polish is declension (that is a modification of noun, adjective, etc.), exactly a case declension. Because “Jan” and “Maria” have different cases – the word order is not necessary. Thus, the meaning of the sentence is made by declension, and neither conjugation nor word order. It is a suffix, that is an ending of a word different for each case, which makes the meaning of a sentence.
      2) Then, In correct Polish language the word order is only a conventional matter. Of course there might be examples where different cases have the same form and then it might be confusing. But it is rather rare. Of course I am talking about correct Polish when user of the language uses 7 cases correctly. Then you can omit the word order and use only declension and everybody who use correct Polish will understand you without any problem.

    • dufus

      I think David was talking about learning the language, Polish, for speaking and more so to encourage people who want to learn it. Of course, proper Polish or any language in its proper form is NOT eaey, even for native speakers of the language. It takes year of use and practice for learning a second language in its proper form. I know many people who are afraid or embarrassed to speak English (or Spanish) because they are afraid of not speaking it properly. However, others are glad that they can speak enough to be understood, as they continue working toward the “proper” of the language.

  • Mirjana

    Dear, My name is Mirjana and I am going to Poland in September and I will spend there 4 months for sure (hopefully more) so Im starting to learn polisH language. i love this country i love people i love the langauage and i am highly motivated in learning it so i hope i will make it :D

  • Agnieszka

    Hej, powiem Ci dlaczego Polacy sami uważają go za jeden z najtrudniejszych języków na świecie – to dlatego, że spora część nas Polaków sama nie potrafi się nim dobrze posługiwać, pisać poprawnie ortograficznie, stawiać odpowiednio przecinków, a nawet mają problemy z odmianą niektórych rzeczowników (są nawet strony na facebooku, na których tłumaczą nam “poprawną polszczyznę” :D ). Sęk w tym, że aby porozumiewać się na ulicy i napisać maila – nie trzeba ani znać ortografii, ani interpunkcji, ani idealnie stawiać akcentów. Jednak, żeby napisać tekst na dwie strony druku i nie zrobić żadnego błędu – no cóż – myślę, że ponad połowa ludzi spotkanych przypadkowo na ulicy nie byłaby w stanie tego dokonać :) Podobnie jest ze związkami frazeologicznymi :) Już nie wspominając o tym, że nawet nasz nieszczęsny prezydent zrobił nam wstyd i wysłał list dyplomatyczny z dwoma błędami ortograficznymi w jednym zdaniu – komu jak komu, ale jemu nie wypadało.

    Cieszę się, że spodobał Ci się nasz język :)
    pozdrawiam
    Agnieszka :)

  • Kaveh_Aahangar

    Totally crap statement, nobody can speak English FLUENTLY in
    3 or 6 or 9 months or even in years. It needs tens of years of study because
    English is a very difficult language and every word has 10 or 100 different
    meanings

  • Sherry

    Hi David, I have to say that being a native English speaker and not knowing more than 10 words in Polish, you sound like a native Polish speaker to me! :) its amazing! I can not wait to be able to speak this language. I am very drawn to it (for some reason?) and have been watching You Tube videos for maybe two weeks now. I just feel like it is something I want to learn so wish me luck! Hopefully with enough practice over time I will be fluent! Have a great day and thank you for all of this wonderful information!
    Sherry

    • przyjemny

      you sound a lot like me Sherry; I too have fallen in love with Polish and have found it to be such a continuing source of pleasure as I learn more and more each day; I have also forgotten as much as I have learned as I live in England and do not get to practice much, except for reading, which I do a lot of.

  • DanCelt

    W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie – there is no foreigner who can pronounce that quote.

    • przyjemny

      I think I can! Pronunciation is not the most difficult thing in Polish because it is so phonetic.

  • Ashley

    Hi,
    I have been learning polish through the pimsluer language program and I finally finished it. I then started learning another books on tape program for polish but it was exactly the same thing. I am now stuck with reading and progressing as I only know so much. There was no real conversations within the program. I tried a more intermediate course but that literally threw me in the deep end. Not only can I not hold a full conversation but I am stuck with the several ways of saying; You, Them, They, I, etc. I’m not sure how to build further from here.
    Thanks

    • przyjemny

      try MrRealPolish; he sends out (ten euros a month) stories that are spoken (he has a very clean understandable voice and pronounces words individually so that you can hear where one ends and the next starts) and provides a transcript of the text so you can read along or speak along with him. It is a good way to advance past the early stages where you are just getting to grips with the awesome complexity of Polish.

  • Satisek

    You cant just say “This language is the hardest or easiest”, the difficulty mostly depends on your native language. Let’s talk about pronoucination, if you’re english speaking person it will be pretty much impossible for you to ever learn how to correctly pronounce japanese words even after 10 years of living in japan it will be obvious for natives that you’re not a native speaker, but if you’re polish speaking person you will be able to learn how to talk japanese with japanese accent in the matter of minutes, its so easy for us that when japanese hear you talk japanese they will get so confused that they might actually think that you’re native japanese speaker.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      This is the most ridiculously hilarious comment I think I’ve ever read on this site – especially if you are actually being serious. This is 5-star nonsense :D

  • Sebastian

    Bardzo dobry artykuł! Świetnie mówisz po Polsku

  • languagelearner

    Hi Benny,
    Thanks for this article, now I understand why my Polish husband speaks English the way he does. My husband is Polish and can only speak what I call broken/mixed up English. I speak fluent English and Chinese and a few words of Polish. I was confused why he speaks english in a way he did not care about the word order and it puzzled me when he spoke. Now I’ve decided to pick up Polish since I find the language so beautiful when he speaks it to me, as beautiful as French. Thanks for the tips, I am excited to learn and I am hoping I will know my husband more from an intelletual level vs just talking to him in basic elementary terms. Please let me know if there are other tips you know to make my learning easier. I’ve been listening to my husband speak to his family but really do not know what they are saying, hopefully listening to them will somehow help me. He is excited that I am willing to pick up this language and perhaps move to Europe. So other language will be on my radar such as Fench and German.

  • asiek

    Mówisz po polsku lepiej niż niejeden Polak. Gratuluje:) Muszę przyznać, że sami Polacy często go kaleczą więc do łatwych z pewnością nie należy. Co do odmiany słowa ”dwa” to rzeczywiście używamy chyba większości z tej 17-stki ale to nie znaczy, że trzeba posługiwać się nimi wszystkimi. Ja dobrze mówię po hiszpańsku, ale kilka rzeczy trudniejszych po prostu omijam i jest ok. Zmobilizowałam się teraz i muszę wziąć się za swój angielski. Pozdrawiam serdecznie:)

  • Szymon

    Nie jest trudny ?! :D Powodzenia przy nauce odmiany przez przypadki – “wasz cudowny” David Snopek nie odmienia słów jakoś szczególnie dobrze.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      Nauka się polskiego jest bardzo łatwe ;)

  • Domi

    The most difficult time I have is that when I speak to people in Poland (on Skype) – they do not agree on how to pronounce words – the correct words to use – the way that words are positioned in a statement/sentence, etc.
    I have searched the internet for a good site to use/help – and while there are many – none of them are great.
    Do not think of this as a negative statement – I am having a great time learning the language – it is great !!!

  • Jon Glass

    There are two aspects of Polish that make it difficult, in particular, for Americans, and English speakers in general. 1. Polish is an inflected language, which, like this post says, means that word order doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence, like English, which is syntactic. Reading Polish while learning the language is easy, but hearing it spoken, and grasping the meaning of the _sentence_ (vs. meanings of individual words). While studying Polish, I got 5s and 6s, and could read newspapers after a couple months, but I couldn’t carry on a conversation for a long time, and understanding others in conversation was impossible because of this. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. It took a short period if intensive immersive communication before it “clicked” and suddenly, it was like I could understand all the birds chirping around me.
    2. Pronunciation of Polish is most impossible. It’s hard to explain, but Polish vowels require the mouth to be much more open inside than English. I think that American English is probably the laziest language there is, which makes Polish all the more difficult. It took me weeks to pronounce words like „sprzedaż” and „Grzegorzecka”. A few sounds in particular, like the letter R. That sound is almost always a dead-giveaway that someone is an American, and it creeps in over time, even when the American tries to pronounce his Rs properly in Polish. Heck, even Poles living in America fall into the American R after a while, which can be heard when they speak Polish. ;-) Other sounds we just can’t hear the difference between, ś vs sz or ć vs cz, etc. One has to distinguish them by how they feel in the mouth, not by sound, which will come much later, and even then, mastery is still a long ways off.
    After 15 years, I still hear on occasion “You speak Polish very well”, to which they never add, but mean “for a foreigner”. ;-) And that’s the way it’ll always be.

    I should add, though, that I’ve studied French, German, Japanese and Polish, and only ever became fluent in Polish. It is my favorite language I’ve learned, and find it to be beautiful, and the Polish people to be beautiful as well.

    • przyjemny

      thanks for this insight; it comes at a good time for me. I have studied for many years, self-taught from a book (I am American but live in England) and love the Polish language, but sometimes despair at the difficulties, so I study what I please when I please, thus my vocabulary is heavy on nature and travel and geography and architecture.
      I find that the hardest thing is hearing Polish. I am nowhere near hearing it. I went on a language class for three weeks in Torun. I tested into the intermediate class (of five levels) and my classmates were mostly Russians, Ukrainians, Macedonians and Hungarians and they all seemed to hear the language just fine. Me, well, I don’t think I understood more than a word or two here and there for the entire three weeks (although I did all the tests and paperwork adequately enough.)
      I can speak quite adequately in Polish but definitely cannot understand the replies. So, conversation is totally impossible. I think I have a stone ear sometimes. The immersion thing you did sound like what I should do. How did you go about that and where did you do it. The language course in Torun was bad that way as at the breaks, with so many different students from so many different countries, the conversations were always in English, the great denominator. No one ever spoke Polish.
      I just will add that the other thing, besides the hearing problem I have, is the verbs. I just find the huge variations in the forms of the verbs such a struggle sometimes, like brac to wziac and wezme and wziety and cinac to tne and wciety and the list goes on on and on. Polish may have a vocabulary like any other language (they say that in English we use about 2000 works and that a well educated person has about 10,000 words at his command.) Well, that may be the same in Polish, but each word has so many variations and permutations that for the beginner it it nearly impossible to sort it all out as these words can never be found in the dictionary as they differ so substantially from the root form. Thus I spend the first five years of my self-teaching just familiarizing myself with the “possibilities” of word alterations and how to sleuth out the root word from the form presented to me. Now I see the patterns much more readily; but the verbs are a huge ask and so damned confusing if you are a really looking to have a grasp of the language.

    • przyjemny

      thanks for these thoughts and glad I am to hear that you are fluent now in Polish. I presume you had to live there to get fluent??? I wonder, did you grow up in a Polish family and were you exposed to Polish when you were young? I wish I had had some exposure to Polish when young. I think it would have helped me make sense of the complex mixtures of consonants in Polish words; consonants in combinations for which English speakers just have no equivalent. I have found particular difficulty in words beginning with z, ch, zw, wz, wstrz, wzw, zwz and on and on, there are just so many now that I think about it. I guess I don’t have such a problem with the vowels. Well, maybe I do and just do not know it yet. best regards, congratulations!

  • wholenewstrain

    Jibberish and/or gibberish. Polish is hard to learn and speak correctly period. The example with word ordering is silly. There is only one way to say it correctly depending on what you mean. Polish depends on context so much that you can say same things differently and different things the same. To summarize it is quite hard to pronounce, conjugate and spell in polish but it is doeable. However, it is 1000 times harder to pronounce it perfectly and use proper endings/words depending on the context/situation. Chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcine z powylamywanymi nogami a kaloryfer jest czasem wyrewolwerowany. Nazywam sie major Bien I mam stopien majora. Kopsnij szluga.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      That is true for ALL languages and Polish is not harder. But one can learn to speak it well enough to converse without much issue in two or three months.

    • Sarah Warren

      There’s nothing here that doesn’t apply equally to other languages. The aspects that make Polish hard are not unique to Polish, and it also has aspects which make it easier in some respects than other languages.

      Personally, I studied French for 7 years before I started learning Russian, another Slavic language, and never, ever got to grips with French the way I did with Russian. By contrast, after four years of Russian (in one of which I also studied Croatian), when I went to Poland for ten days it didn’t take me long to get to the point where I could have a conversation with anyone who was reasonably patient with me. Not a complex or deep conversation, but who expects that after ten days? 8 years total of French tuition gave me less confidence and knowledge in French than 4 years of Russian did in Russian, and I certainly couldn’t pick up conversations in other Romance languages despite having studied French for so long and visiting other Romance-language-speaking countries. Slavic languages just suit me better, it’s as simple as that!

      There’s no one most difficult language, and Polish isn’t inherently any more or less difficult than another language, and speaking/writing _perfectly_ is damn hard in _any_ language. Heck, I know native speakers of English who can’t write English perfectly. The fact that it’s hard to speak/write Polish with absolute perfection is something it has in common with basically every language in existence except possibly those that were designed to be easy. Very few people speak any language, even their own, with absolute precision. It’s not unique to Polish. That Polish is “the most difficult language” on any kind of objective measure is a myth.

  • Camryn

    Well I just recently wanted to start learning Polish my great grandmother is from Poland and I’m fascinated with how she sounds and how beautiful the language is. So I’m going to try to learn it. Hopes for the Best!

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      Czy teraz mówisz po polsku?

  • Trey Bee

    Polish people are polite, they will agree that your skills are good . well even if they arn’t

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      This is SO true. EVERY Pole tells me they are so impressed… I’m just like:
      “Mój polski jest bardzo zły” xD

      • Sarah Warren

        My Polish is next to none existent but thanks to a background in Russian and Croatian I have found that I can communicate with a lot of people who speak Slavonic languages. At the risk of a huge generalisation, most people I’ve ever spoken to who I’ve even tried to communicate with in even the most broken form of their language have been surprised, impressed, and deeply appreciative. They’re so unused to people bothering to try and learn (that old chestnut that Slavic languages are inherently more difficult) that even the smallest efforts don’t go unnoticed. It’s usually such a huge surprise and pleasure to them that someone is even trying, and that alone over the years has made me glad that I studied what I did!

  • Ania

    Mówisz perfekcyjnym językiem polskim! Gratuluję – czapki z głów!

  • KatieS

    Its been a while since you have written this post but i am trying to learn polish, i am 20 and studying at university at the moment so i havent got lots of time to practice but i try learn what i can in my spare time. My boyfriend is polish and i am really keen to learn the language so i can communicate with his parents and family amd friends better and also bring us closer by knowing abit of his culture and language. I only know the small basics ive picked up hello/how are you./what are you doing/awesome/some food amd drink.words.. and ive taught myself numbers(strongest up to 20 but i can go up to 99) and i also know the alphabet. I have recently purchased polish for dummies but it seems all grammar and i know its the foundations and in the long run i would love to be fluent but for now id.settle for holding a conversation amd understanding what people are saying to me. I feel so ignorant not speaking their language and relying on them to speak english to me. I also feel left out of.conversations which cant be helped obviously. But i just wondered do you have any tips or sites you know of to help me grasp conversations. I can say words but i just cant string a sentence. Ive been stopping and starting for a few months now.and i want to learn amd suprise my.boyfriend.
    Help?

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      Have you made any progress? I have been learning Polish for two months and I can communicate in the language without using any resources now (of course, not always good, but understandable). I wrote a comment (if sorted by “newest” it should be on top) in Polish without using anything but my memory. So I can give you some advice and help if you want ;-)

  • Andrew

    Wow, I saw your video and was most impressed (and shamed by it). I was born in England; my father was Polish, my mother Italian. We spoke first Italian, and then English at home. I tried to speak Polish, and my dear father tried to teach me, but it was all rather too difficult. Apart from a few words and phrases, I never learnt to speak it, much to my shame, as I would have loved to have done it. You appear to speak it very well. Your pronunciation seems very good, from how I remember my father speaking Polish. Congratulations! Incidentally, I agree with the main themes of your video. I speak a number of other languages: they each have their elements of difficulty and their elements of ease. Now if only I could convince myself….

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      You can do it! You commented this only two months ago. I am already communicating in Polish without using a dictionary or anything, and I started learning exactly 2 months ago

      • przyjemny

        yeah, but how do you understand what is said to you!!!

        • ivyespalier (Randy)

          What do you mean? Context is the most important. I moved to Poland two months ago. Sometimes I don’t understand what someone says, but based off of their actions and other signs, I can tell what they mean by context. I can say anything in Polish now. Certainly not fluently, but I can communicate whatever I need to say. If I spent more time learning the last 3 months, I would be far better.

          The easiest way to understand someone who speaks Polish is to find someone who doesn’t speak any English… Then you have no choice.

          I assume you are Polish, since your username is @przyjemny:disqus. I live in Warsaw.

          • przyjemny

            No, I am Polish (jestem Amerikananinen), from Buffalo on the sunny shores of Lake Erie! I have grown to love Poland from visits there since 2001; I take the ferry across from England where I live, drive through the night across Germany, then spend a week or two camping and enjoying Poland. I have not been to Warsaw. So far, my favourite places are Jelenia Gora, Wroclaw and Torun. I also love the Roztocze area and the San and Bug rivers.
            The Polish language became a fixation with me after I realised how very difficult it is to learn compared to the other languages I know (the usual French, German, Spanish.) But I slog along. I don’t know about the Benny method but will check it out one of these days. Right now I am into a web-based learning resource for 10Euro/month called MrRealPolish. I really love it. Mostly it is helping me learn to listen closely enough to hear the endings of the words. He tell stories to you in his lessons, you listen carefully. A transcript is also provided. He also asks questions about the stories and you can try to answer. The vocabulary is restricted and most of the words used are re-used several times over in the same lesson. He speaks slowly and methodically, which is absolutely the thing I need to have for comprehension (100% COMPREHANSION). I REALLY DO WANT TO UNDERSTAND! Now that I can read and write and speak in Polish I still cannot hear properly. I wish I had had Polish parents to expose me when I was young. I think my “tin” ear is my great liability. So many of the words have sound combinations my ears just do not “get.” Listen to a Polish toddler and the sounds they make. Nothing like what a young English or American kid makes at the age of two. I do enjoy it all so much though and the frustration makes me work harder.

          • przyjemny

            sorry, meant to say I am not Polish (my parents are both English, from Lancashire), jestem Amerikaninem

          • ivyespalier (Randy)

            But Polish isn’t harder than the other languages! The languages you mentioned are all similar to English, you simply knew more of those languages when you started. An English native speaker already knows 10,000 French words. I can read simple French and Spanish and never really studied either.

            You should use Learn With Text to read books and articles in Polish! Talk to people on Interpals in Polish! Use Lang-8! Don’t worry about understanding every word, try to understand the meaning behind the sentence, that is more important. Eventually you’ll pick up the other words.

          • przyjemny

            beg to differ but I believe Polish is harder than many other languages, including English

  • marlena

    Hey David,
    Swietne video. Jestem pod wrazeniem, choc wiadomo niektore slowa sprawily, ze chichotalam :) Zgadzam sie ze wszystkim, co powiedziales. Jezeli chodzi o spor dlaczego Polski jest bardzo trudnym jezykiem do uczenia sie, mysle, ze glownie chodzi tutaj o wymowe. Opiekuje sie dziecmi w polsko-amerykanskiej rodzinie i moim glownym zadaniem jest nauczenie ich jezyka polskiego. Jest to troch trudne zadanie zwazywszy na to, ze dzieci wychowuja sie w Stanach Zjenoczonych i rzadko maja kontakt z dzecmi, ktore mowia po polsku. Wszysc wiemy,ze dzieci najchetnie i najszybciej ucza sie jezyka swoich rowiesnikow, wiec wpajanie polskiego, ktory nie brzmi tak delikatnie i przyjaznie jak jezyk angielski jest czasem nie lada zadaniem. Z wlasnego doswiadczenia powiem, ze dzieci nie chca mowic po polsku. Rozumieja niemal wszystko i chetnie przerywaja konwersacje doroslych w jezyku polskim,aby skomentowac, ale odpowiadaj w jezyku angielskim. Dzieci sa bardzo szczere i kiedy prosze je aby uzywaly polskich slow, czesto odpowiadaja: “But this is too had,” wiec wnioskuje, ze polski sprawia im wieksza trudnosc niz jezyk angielski. Zgadzam sie z Toba, ze jako dzieci jestesmy w stanie nauczyc sie kazdego jezyka, ale widzac moje dziewczynki jak wykrzywiaja usta, wykrecaja jezyki i wpadaj we frustracje, kiedy probuja wymowic niektore z polskich slow, jestem sklonna uwierzyc, ze dla doroslych, ktorzy nie maja juz takich zdolnosci rozwoju fonetycznego jak dzieci, nauka jezyka polskiego moze byc zadaniem trudnym i zniechecajacym.

    • przyjemny

      precisely! dokladnie!

  • Graeme Lord

    Just wanted to write and say that I’ve stumbled across your article (coincidentally while in Zakopane) and there’s a lot to relate to as a newly Polish attempting, struggling English man from London. My new girlfriend is Polish and I’ve spent the past 3 months feeling like I’m working too hard without the right method to get to where I want to be at this stage. Like you’ve mentioned I never really thought I had any sort of knack for languages, having been put off by impatient teachers at school. I feel like I have made strong progress in overall vocabulary but not knowing how to go about learning the ‘rules’ or effectively transferring the words into cohesive, appropriate sentences. I’ll use the links posted above once I’m not holidaying in the Polish mountains but if you have any other guidance at all I would be eternally appreciative. Particularly as I don’t have time or money for classes at the moment and although my girlfriend would never say it, I’m fairly sure she is getting bored of me asking how to say something in Polish every 30 seconds and then having to explain why it is that way each time I don’t understand. I noticed the most recent replies here have been posted some time ago so if there is no response I would still like to state that your article has given me a lot of hope and encouragement to continue to persevere. Thanks.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      I have basically followed the Benny method, except not as well. One and a months in and I can communicate in Polish without using any resources. Before I used rosetta stone and hardly learned anything. Almost nothing.

      Here is what I did (Benny would probably have the best advice):
      I read Polish news articles first. Do that all day. It SUCKS horribly. It is very tedious and boring, but use this site:
      http://pl.bab.la/slownik/polski-angielski/

      Use the Polish English dictionary and read 3 or 4 news articles over and over again. Eventually you will understand it and start to pick up on words and basic sentence structure. Then go to Interpals.net and start messaging people using the Polish-English dictionary. It will take a LONG time. But after a week, you will memorize half the words you use. Just keep trying and youll get it. There is a lot of inflection but you can ignore all that and use the words in basic sentences at first. Or use Google Translate to learn some basic inflections. Once you get some of the vocabulary down, then youll realize how the inflections work. Present tense is very easy…

      The site also has some inflections listed. This is “być.” The root word for the Polish equivalent of will, did, to be, etc. It lists the proper inflection for the proper topic and tense. But you shouldn’t worry much about that yet.
      http://pl.bab.la/koniugacja/polski/by%C4%87

      NEVER go back to english. Use nothing but Polish. You will learn fast. Some people may stop replying, but if you try hard, you will find some friends who will keep replying. Dont be afraid to message them again if they stop though. You can use Google Translate to check yourself, it should somewhat come out correctly. If it says something completely different, try to write it in a different way.

      You can add me on the site if you want.

      • przyjemny

        yes, that sounds like a reasonable first bash

        • ivyespalier (Randy)

          First bash? What?

          • przyjemny

            my thoughts exactly -dokladnie moje mysle

          • przyjemny

            no, I didn’t mean to be disparaging and I know how much work goes into learning Polish. I like the way you went about it to get started. It is so difficult to learn if you insist on being a perfectionist and your method goes a long way towards getting started, thus my comments on “first bash.” I, myself, have taken years in getting to where I am and I am very proud of myself for sticking with it. Right now I am really trying hard to get to grips with the verbs, which I find the most difficult of all. I find that I just let them sort of dissolve into my brain by thinking about all the cases and forms. Much like I have learned the language in general. I use hundreds of books, everything from basic early education books, secondary school readers, novels, nature books, geography and travel books, photo travel guides as well as browsing websites all over Poland. Lots of the stuff I bring back from Poland when I visit I sit and read for hours and hours trying to get the perfect translation so that I know every word and its meaning in that context. Lots of fun and endless hours of amusement but, again, I just sort of digest and absorb it as I am in no hurry and I really enjoy the endless complexity of the language and its richness.

          • ivyespalier (Randy)

            I am now making flash cards for italki, random things usually. I had a hard time finding any word lists for Polish.

            Since my original comment, I have moved to Poland. I live in Warsaw now.

    • ivyespalier (Randy)

      If my other comment doesn’t post, I want you to see this!

      I have been learning Polish for two months and I can communicate in the language without using any resources now. Far from perfect, but understandable. So I can give you some advice and help out if you want.

      Benny is a genius. Listen to what he says. I failed to learn many languages before this. But ~1.4 months ago, I started the Benny method. Teraz mogę rozmawiać po polsku bez słownika!

    • przyjemny

      good luck! I predict it will take a lot of hard work for you to get to where you want to be. Get a good basic how to learn Polish book that gives you the complete introduction to the grammar. You won’t get anywhere without it except in a very limited way. It is all in the endings to the words.

  • ivyespalier (Randy)

    Uczę się polskiego sam od trzy marca. Jest dwa miesiące temu, dzisiaj. Piszę bez słownik polsko-angielski lub Google Tłumacz. Wiem, że polski nie jest najtrudniejszym językiem na świecie!

    Mieszkam w Stanach Zjednoczonych i nie znam ludzi, którzy mówią po polsku. Chcę rozmawiać w języka polskiego nie tylko pisać. Piszę cały dzień na Interpals ale nie mówię bardzo wiele. :( Lubię języka polskiego :) Nauka polskiego jest bardzo łatwa ;)

    Dziękuję Benny i “Fluent in 3 Months”

    Pisałem bez używać słownika ;-)

  • ivyespalier (Randy)

    Anyone else who is learning or wants to learn Polish, trust me, everything David says and everything Benny says is true. The comment I wrote below, I wrote without using any resources, only memory. I have been learning Polish for two months, only the last month and a half have I really made any progress. You can do it. And if you need some advice or something, then reply to this comment, or add me on interpals!

    And thank you Benny and David!

  • Sarah Warren

    It drives me nuts when anyone says X language is “the hardest”… Besides anything else, there’s so much that depends on the individual that it’s just ridiculous.

    I spent a total of about ten days in Poland, and by the end of my time there I could understand about fifty percent of what anyone said to me, and make myself understood. When I meet Poles (which in my part of the world happens a lot, agricultural area with a lot of immigrants) I can have a polite conversation, often I can help them if they’re having trouble, and when I meet Poles who can speak English, I can still usually tell they’re Polish (they’re often surprised at my accuracy!) not just “Eastern European”.

    How did I manage to get there in ten days? Because I’d just spent several years learning Russian and Croatian. Yes, that’s an extreme example, but it just goes to show that any kind of prior experience can make such a big difference to learning ANY language. That’s not even taking into account that some people seem to click with one language family over another.

    Speaking of which, I found Russian (one of those “hard” languages) made so much more sense to me than French. Romance languages don’t come naturally to me, but that doesn’t make them hard.

    • przyjemny

      depends on the level to which a language is learned; English is notoriously easy to get a beginners grasp; I have seen it said that only 50 words (that do not change) comprise some 48% of common spoken English. this is why English will become the language of the world. It is already happening. At my Polish course the coffee breaks were all in English, and my classmates were Japanese, Macedonian, Russian, Italian, American, German, Equadorian, etc. This was an intermediate level Polish class and the English spoken was of that level too. It is the complexity of the words in Polish that needs to be mastered. In English is is just that much more simple because the words aren’t always morphing. Especially the verbs.
      in Polish. You could read several paragraphs and not see the same word. And you can only find them in the dictionary if you have enough familiarity with the language to know how to interpret them (ie. figure out the root form.) I do agree with you that to get good at any language is hard.

      • Sarah Warren

        *sigh* I wrote out a long and hopefully informative response to this and then the page reloaded and I lost it.

        Short version is you’re comparing a language which almost everyone is exposed to in some way growing up, that is widely considered a lingua franca in business and pleasure, that is often required in business and in international affairs, etc, a language which a huge majority of non native speakers are desperately to learn/practise, to a language which many people never even hear, let alone try to learn, unless they are specifically going to use it. I live in a bit of the UK with a ton of Polish immigrants (the warning signs by the lake are trilingual English/Polish Chinese, and my tiny little down actually has a dedicated Polish food and supplies shop), and even then, 99% of the people around me don’t even know how to say hi in Polish, not because it’s too difficult, but because they don’t have to and it’s not an issue.

        You’re not comparing apples to oranges, you’re comparing chalk to bananas. It doesn’t work.

        I am too, tooooooo tired to start from scratch, so I’m just going to say that no, Polish is not that hard, and even though I’ve never studied it I can both understand a surprising amount of spoken Polish and simpler written Polish, understand or make myself understood in conversation (if inelegantly) to a Polish speaker on basic topics, and have no particular problem with the alphabet/orthography, which is in many ways considerably more sensible and consistent than it is in English.

        I wouldn’t attempt to write anything in Polish unless I was previously familiar with it – I would be stuck if you expected me to transliterate from spoken Polish to writing, even just little words – but besides that, I’m doing okay for someone with no actual time spent learning the language. The most embarrassing thing is because I can speak a little and my pronunciation is good, native speakers tend to assume I’m fluent, and then I have to explain that while I can often understand what they’re saying, I can’t actually reply in fluent Polish. Oops!

        The only letter I’d hate to have sprung on me in the context of “how do you say…?” is the ę which I still don’t understand, but then, as I say, I’ve never studied the language, I’ve spend a grand total of ten days in Poland, and I’ve occasionally given help to Polish people in terms of understanding English or making themselves understood to an English speaker, so that’s hardly surprising, to put it mildly.

        Besides that, nope, it isn’t that hard. Sorry. It just isn’t a magically or mysteriously hard language.

        FYI: personal experience –
        Hardest language I’ve ever attempted – Arabic
        Surprisingly user friendly languages – Russian, Croatian, Hebrew (even though it’s related to Arabic, go figure, I don’t get it either)
        Language where getting past the basics fried my brain – Japanese
        Language considered not hard which flummoxes me – French, despite having studied it academically for 8 years and being able to carry on a conversation, there are still aspects of the grammar (often aspects that aren’t considered especially hard) that I simply do not get, no matter how hard I try.

        These difficulties and preferences are unique to me, because of the way my brain is wired, the experiences I’ve had, the other languages I’ve learned, the passion (or lack of it) that I have for a given language/culture/whatever. They only apply to me, and my experience is not your experience is not that guy over there’s experience, and when we try and pretend those things are interchangeable, we do no one a service.

        • przyjemny

          I think you have some intrinsic “feel” for Slavic languagues; and your previous comprehension and work in Russian certainly would have helped with Polish; just the same as the David at the top of this blog that says he can speak Polish after just a few hours’ previous experience benefited enormously from his previous experience with the Czech language; it would certainly put him in a much better position to tackle Polish.

          • Sarah Warren

            Yup: it all comes down to what I said before, that there isn’t one most difficult language, that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and that our previous experience and the languages we already speak, etc, make way more difference than any perceived difficulty of a given language.

            I’m pretty much certain that I would have got on way better with German than French, if I’d kept it going. Unfortunately although I loved my first year of German (as a 13 year old, I was allowed to start it because I got into the top set for French), and did really well in my exams, my second year we had a teacher exchange with a German English teacher, who spent all year telling us how bad we were at German compared to how well kids our age in Germany could speak English. It was really off putting, and sadly at 14 I didn’t differentiate between “bad teacher” and “language I dislike”. Would also have been a good primer for Russian – I didn’t even know what a case was when I started Russian at 19! Oh well. Hindsight is 20/20!

      • Sarah Warren

        Oh, by the way, I actually spoke a little about my facility in Polish in a post above if you have any interest. There’s no way I could have picked up what I did in such a short time – even with a background in Slavonic languages – if the language was intrinsically “harder” unless I was some kind of language genius savant, which sadly I am not.

        • przyjemny

          yes, Sarah, I did read that and was astounded that you found Russian easier than French; although I find French completely baffling and foreign I found it a whole lot less so than Russian when I made my aborted attempt to learn that language at college. thank god for German, which was easy for me (well, easier than French or Russian). I love learning Polish, it is just an never ending series of confounding tangles for my mind!

  • Sarah Warren

    That list of languages is incredibly misleading – there are simply too many exceptions. The list is based on linguistic and cultural similarity, and hey, the foreign office and the like have to categorise the languages somehow (they’re bureaucrats, that’s what they do) but they’re very, very general, and they don’t “prove” anything.

    I am a native speaker of English. I studied French for 8 years, travelled there many times, read in French, you name it. There were still aspects I never did get my head around.

    I studied Russian for four years, and became fluent enough to get a 2:1 honours degree from a prestigious university. I studied Croatian also when I was in my final year. A couple of weeks after I graduated, I went to Poland for ten days. By the time I left, I could have a reasonable conversation with a reasonably patient Pole, and learned enough that I can still pick out a Polish accent (as opposed to other Eastern European accents) accurately, have had several conversations and even helped Poles back home who don’t speak any English. I couldn’t write it or have an in depth conversation, by any means, but I can recognise it in both spoken and written forms, read and understand some of it, sometimes even get the gist of an overheard phrase or conversation. And I have had absolutely no lessons or tuition or anything in the language, ever.

    Yes, I had a huge head start having good fluency in one Slavic language and a good foundation in another, but if Polish was intrinsically impossibly difficult to pick up, there’s no way that I would have been able to have conversations with Polish speaking, non English and non Russian and non Croatian people after less than a fortnight spent in the country unless I was some incredible genius/language savant, which I can assure you I’m not.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m claiming no fluency in the language. I’m just saying that the perception that it is more/most difficult is a fallacy.

  • Magda

    I admit that our language is difficult :) You have a lot simpler than our :)

  • Tomasz Antochów

    So from your point of view, what kind of langauge would Polish be?

  • 9167

    Czy odpowiednikiem nie mogło by być wtedy “I had been reading for two hours”?

  • Alex Weir

    I am learning polish, I am 16 and have polish friends, i have been gradually learning for about 7 years now it’s a beautiful language and although it’s hard and challenging i find it really enjoyable! I go to poland every summer and am faced with people my age who don’t speak any english at all! I am forced to communicate and learn from them, it may be hard to learn but i am determined to be fluent in years to come and thank-you for this post it was really interesting and so many valid points were made, i’ll continue on my journey of polish learning :-)

  • jasonowski

    Dzien dobry. Was glad to find this on the net. I am English and am currently learning Polish (slowly). I think the best way to learn is by living it. For me my girlfriend is polish so she helps and I get to practise every day. Of course I get lots of things wrong because there are different ways to say the same thing depending on who says what when and to whom. All very confusing. I have found however that some aspects of the language do seem to be simpler than in English, so it balances things out. I also work with many polish and generally they are pleased to hear an English guy attempt to learn their language. Even if it is spoken badly lol. Also if you get the chance try and experience Polish culture, food beer and of course vodka. The best place for this is a polish wedding. I have been to two and they were both awesome. After enough vodka i piwo language doesn’t matter anyway. Pa pa.

    • http://fluentin3months.com/ Brandon Rivington

      There are some things in Polish are indeed a little tricky. But if your girlfriend speaks Polish, keep using her as a resource! Don’t worry about mistakes. As you practice, you’ll keep improving! Have you ever seen the Univ. of Pittsburgh Polish lessons? (http://polish.slavic.pitt.edu/). It’s great and FREE!

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • dufus

    Je comprendre ce que vous dis, mais je ne peus pas respondez en
    francais: That is what many people say about learning French: c’est la
    prononciation ce que est tres dificil– “gutteral”, eau, ous, ieu, etc.

  • dufus

    AH!! Chicago, eh

  • John Tomaszewski

    witam! I just subscribed, im not polish obviously but my last name is tomaszewski so i am bias toward that part of my family backround. on my last deployment i sarted learning a little polish vocabulary, barely dipping my toes in it, but i deffinitly would like to learn, i hope this subscription can help!

    • http://fluentin3months.com/ Brandon Rivington

      Polish is a very fun language and there is a huge population of people that speak it around the world. Keep up with it and practice talking to natives whenever you can! iTalki.com is a great place to find people to practice with or teachers to help you learn. Keep up the good work i baw się dobrze! (Have fun!)

      –Brandon, the Fi3M Language Encourager

  • Ewelina

    If someone wants to help with the Polish language to invite me. My name is Ewelina I’m 26 years I m from Poland :) my mail zapalka469@interia.pl
    yeah

  • Jahongir Akbarov

    f u

  • melody

    love this site, makes me feel i can climb a mountain! and yes still grappling with polish and Russian is much easier for me……but poles speak English, so I can learn polish….

  • Sarah Warren

    Your written English is really very good, by the way!

    I applaud and agree with everything you wrote about the relative difficulty of languages. It’s so personal that trying to rank languages in terms of difficulty is nonsensical.

    I wish I had your facility with French – I learned it up to first year of university level, and I can have a conversation in it, but the grammar never made sense to me. Russian was my “wow I actually kinda get this” language!

  • Ivane

    Hmm… Nie wspomniałeś o tym, że w języku polskim jest:
    – 7 przypadków (w angielskim nie ma odmiany)
    – wiele wyjątków (dziwnych)
    – ortografia (możesz napisać ‘ch’ albo ‘h’, ‘ż’ albo ‘rz’, ‘ó’ albo ‘u’. + wiele wyjątków)
    – 16 form słowa ‘dwa’ (wspomniano o tym w filmie, ale ten mężczyzna zakwalifikował tę osobliwość do ‘niczego ważnego’. Jestem oburzona. Bez mówienia ‘dwóm’, ‘dwojgu’ etc. połowa wyrażeń z cyfrą ‘2’ po polsku będzie błędna.)
    – bardzo wiele trudnych zasad,
    – wiele możliwych konstrukcji zdań,
    – wiele synonimów (może nie aż tak wiele jak w języku malajskim, ale jednak- sporo).

    Poza tym pan mówiący w filmie ma totalnie złe podejście.
    ‘to nie jest ważne w tym języku’, ‘jeśli nie znasz wszystkich form, nic złego się nie stanie’.
    Błąd! W ogóle nie usłyszałam niczego o ortografii.
    Dodatkowo, bardzo wielu Polaków przykłada ogromną wagę do tego, aby wszystkie słowa, wyrażenia czy zdania pisano/ wymawiano/ konstruowano poprawnie.
    Ja na przykład nie cierpię, kiedy obcokrajowcy ‘kalają’ mój ojczysty język. Rozumiem, że tak samo może być w przypadku Polaków i np. języka chińskiego czy szwedzkiego, ale…
    Ujmę to inaczej: gryzie mnie każde źle wymówione słowo, każde źle napisane słowo (tak samo u Polaków, jak i u obcokrajowców) i każda zła konstrukcja zdania. Po prostu nie mogę czytać tekstów, których autor ‘uważa, że x oraz y nie jest ważne’. To mnie zwyczajnie irytuje (bez urazy dla pana mówiącego w wideo. Zresztą i tak większość moich rodaków pewnie ma inne zdanie na ten temat)
    To tyle. ^^
    Aha, i cieszę się, że wreszcie znalazłam bloga, którego autor pisze o języku polskim. ^^ Oczywiście nie tylko- jak widzę- ale miło, że w ogóle. :D

    • przyjemny

      nie mam cyfrow polskich na moim komputerze ale wolalbym ci komplementowac o twoim zdaniu ….. tysiac lat, niech zyje sie jezyk polski

  • Abhishek Jain

    Djein dobre..
    I went to poland for a small business trip and recently i have got an oppprtunity to go and work in poland for longer term.. my work may not require polish as the organisation is an MNC and english is the common language at work. But i will take my children also and for them learning language will be a must as they need to go to school and meet other children. So to make them learn the language i want to make sure i will learn it and use it in our regular conversation.
    Thanks for the motivational blog.

  • Alin

    SO motivated to learn Polish now! Just mover to Wroclaw and I have been a bit scared about opening my brand new Polish-English books… I’ve gained a whole lot of confidence now that I know that some things got easier.. I only want to speak it (if writing it comes along, well great!) Thanks for the heads up, hope I can write this in Polish in a few months :)