Learn Polish – normal person’s guide to the language

I interviewed one of my friends who learned Polish. He studied Polish as an adult and learned it to the fluency level.
In his posts he tells you what he did to learn Polish. Further he tells you why some people do not learn a language and lastly gives some advice on how to learn a language.

Polish for hacks
99.99 % of people are language hacks, if you are one like me, just take a different tack, that is memorize words and do not listen to all the arrogant good-toe shoes “linguistics experts”.

Here is the web address of my other site which has this interview in four parts. The first part is the most boring and you can skip to the second part of the interview if you would like, which is the meat of the interview.

claritaslux.com/how-i-learned-a-language/

After reading this interview please come back and leave your impression on it.  Also let me know how you personally learned Polish if you have already.

If you are starting to  learning Polish

If you are just starting out learning Polish, take heart, you can speak the language.  It just take a little bit of motivation and the right method.

I personally moved to  Poland and speak Polish now. I learned it myself.  I think my friend in the interview speaks Polish much better than I.  I am more the cobbler who wears the worst shoes.  That is not true, but he is at a higher level.  I speak Polish all day long, watch movies and read books in Polish and write in Polish, it’s just that I have to improve my grammar a bit. I want to sound like Adam Mickiewicz, but in Polish talk more like Arthur Fonzarelli, which is not bad.

OK read the Interview with a Polish speaker and let me know what you think.

Update: On how a normal person can learn the language of the Poles

I moved back to the USA after living Poland for many years and my passion for the language or people have not decreased. It is a funny thing, even though I am not great with languages it has stuck in my brain. I have not forgotten it. I think people who learn it with rules and the proper way to not retain the information as well when they stop using it. People who use unconventional methods I think are more prone to losing it.

7 Tricks to learn Polish

  1. Learn words and memorizes them by drilling them with repetitive listing to mp3s.
  2. Listen to these Mp3s on your sofa or when falling a sleep, let them sink in.
  3. Focus on words or just pieces of words and see what happens after that. Break the words up into small bits. One Polish word is like three English words.
  4. Use mnemonics to help the words stick to your memory. Draw the words with your figure in the air or in your imagination anything that words.
  5. Poles are not used to foreigners speaking their language so do not be intimidated by their mocks on you, keep a straight face and keep talking.
  6. Do not regress and let them practice English with you.
  7. Watch YouTube for Polish songs and try to get the rhythm of the language.

If you have questions just ask.

41 Replies to “Learn Polish – normal person’s guide to the language”

  1. hello,I’m Miriam and I’m very much interested in learning Polish! i think it is a fascinating language and i need to learn it because I’m thinking of moving to Poland in a few years. The grammar its really hard for me but I’ve been told that my accent and pronunciation of words its perfect,maybe due to the fact that my first language is Portuguese! anyway I found this website very helpful. 🙂

    1. Thanks about my Polish grammar site. I am looking foward to developing it more. If you have good pronuciation in the Polish language I am very impressed.

    2. Miriam, let me know how you do with Polish and again I am very impressed as I think Polish pronunciation is the hardest.

    3. Hi Miriam,
      I hope you still like Polish and that you you have learnt a lot since you posted that comment. I just wanted to tell you what my theory on your pronunciation is: I guess it’s good for two reasons:
      1. You’re talented
      2. Portuguese pronunciation is quite similar to Polish.

  2. Hello, I’m brazilian and I descend from Poles. Actually, I’m studying Polish and I’ll probably go to Poland and make a trip around the country in 2011. My pronounciation is very good according to my teachers, who lived in Poland, and I’m working hard on the grammar, so I guess I’ll be OK when I go there. Thank you for the site, it’s awesome and it’s helping me a lot.

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words. If you have any questions about living in Poland ask, I know it is just a visit but if you have Polish roots you can get a green card no problem of course.

  3. I’m portuguese and I’ve been studying by myself for 2 years already, but I don’t study everyday, just occasionally. Sometimes I get too frustrated with the language, sometimes I feel great when I have those “clicks” in my head and I understand stuff. 🙂

    I have a big notion of grammar already, but I still lack a lot of vocabulary and other things, such as speaking. I can’t practice speaking where I am, so my accent is just awful and if I had to talk with someone my brain just wouldn’t be able to. It would process Polish way too slow.

    What I’m doing to learn polish is by writing a lot and reading too. When I write I have a couple of polish friends to check on it and they correct the mistakes + teach me what’s wrong about them, that way I learn a bit more.

    Still.. I have a tough time learning alone since I can’t pay for a course yet. I’d like to give a shot at flash cards, is there anything you would recommend? 🙂

    1. I am setting up a few things including programs with mp3. I can not wait, as once I get some technical aspects of some sites I am working on it will help you a lot. What about gutenberg.org they have free mp3 with Polish books. Also there is Polish TV via the Internet tvpolonia.com – I will set up as mentioned some Polish language exchanges sites, which will be very helpful. I can not wait until this is going. I work day and night on these projects and have a family so I am so sorry it takes time.

    2. Polish is a great language and I am really happy you are learning it. By the way Portugul is a dreamy place to live.

  4. Thank you for the reply! 🙂 It’s okay and perfectly understandable that you don’t have much time to complete your projects faster. I’m already happy by being able to read this website~ There’s no need to rush. I’m going to check the sites you recommended above! I hope I can manage to get out of this ‘hole’ I’m in soon!

    And yes, Portugal is a very beautiful place! 🙂

    Thank you once again and I’ll be waiting patiently for new updates on the projects!

  5. I also find the Polish language fascinating. I, Like Miriam have good pronunciation, but my difficulties lie with the conjugation and declination side of things.
    I first learned some Polish the hard way. I was invited by a friend to visit her home and stay with her family for a while. None of her family spoke a single word of English, and as I was the guest, I considered it only polite to persevere without just saying nierozumiem all the time. My friend’s mother just talked at me constantly, and to begin with, I nodded and smiled politely. It was only when I thought about things, I realised that I was possibly nodding, when I should be replying in the negative. This made me more determined to learn. That was back in 1995. I was very surprised how much I retained, when returning to Poland recently, to be with my Polish girlfriend. Now, as I intend to live and work in Poland, I am trying to find the right method. I am fortunate in some ways, that I have previous basic knowledge, as it helps me when relatives of my girlfriend visit us and talk to me, but I feel that now is the time to knuckle down and learn more on the grammar side. It is not the easiest of languages, it’s true; but it is a polite and interesting language to learn. I will keep you posted on my progress.

    1. Very interesting personal history, I am very curious about your progress.

  6. Dzien dobry ! Jestem studentka polonistyke. Studiuje jezyk polski. But I have no things to study it. Finally I found your blog out. Thanks a lot. If i become the one who can speaks Polish well, I’ll write a comment for you again. Dzienkuje serdecznie 😀

    1. Hi Rachel, Thanks for the kind words about my Polish grammar site. Where are you studying Polish?

  7. I’m studying Polish in Korea. Do you know ‘Hankuk University of Foreign Studies’? This is my university. We have the department of Poland only in Korea. That is Poland is not familiar country in here. So it’s hard to find some textbooks or tests for studying Polish. I hope my skills to be developed.

    1. That is very interesting. I did not know that. I think it is great when people study the Polish language from all over the world, because there are a lot of cross cultural benefits for both cultures. I also think in the future there are economic benefits.

  8. Mark: my boyfriend had similar story as you… when he were in Poland and stay with my family, the only he used was “nie rozumiem” smiling and kind, but now he is understanding more and more.. and he is learning very fast – has a great memory! I want to say it`s great to see some people are interesting to learn my language.. 🙂 Actually I`m looking for some ideas how to learn my language the love of my life.. i hope i could help him with the grammar, because for me is easy, but for someone foreign people i know is more difficult!
    You have a great site. 🙂

    1. Hi Gosia! I think the best way to learn Polish is to use flashcards. He has to drill the words into his head. Calculate the rate per day of new words. Lets say his goal is 5000 words. Well that means if he learns 15 new words a day he can do it in a year or so. he has to learn high frequency words. Individual Polish words not long Polish sentences. He has to drill them all the time with you.
      Look my name is Biernat like the famous Biernat z Lublina (Polish author) but I had to work very hard to get to the critical level of vocabulary in the Polish language. Then once he has 1000s of words it will all come together.

  9. I accidently came across this website and I found it really good thanks. I was looking for some information about Polish grammar. I have only started learning Polish about a month ago at local college where they do very basic level, but still good because I can see I’ve learnt quite a bit now. Well, quite a bit for a beginner. I really want to be able to have a basic conversation. The only problem probably is the motivation, but after reading your interview I actually think I can do this and think to take it very seriously.
    I am a Russian speaking Estonian myself, living in England and I find it quite easy to learn and pronounce Polish words because of the similarities with Russian. The only thing is an accent lol I speak soft because of the Estonian and Russian languages, but maybe it’s a good thing to have your own accent 🙂 Oh yeah, and whilst living in England I also met my Polish friends that I practice my Polish with. They always laugh at my soft pronunciation though. I am just wondering if it is possible to learn Polish to a conversation level without living in this country. Well maybe with help of friends 🙂 Anyway, I hope I will get there in the end!!!

    1. Thank you for the comment Tatyana. Yes you can learn Polish no problem without ever stepping foot in Poland. Many people do. It is all a matter of desire. The famous polyglot (he mastered 27 languages +) Cardinal Mezzofanti did. He never left Rome. When he first met a Polish traveler the traveler recorded in his notebook that he spoke reasonable Polish. Three years latter he met another Polish traveler who recorded in his notebook that he spoke Polish almost like a native with almost no detectable accent. Mezzofanti was of good intellect but experts on the brain think he was not a genius in the Mozart sense, rather he just worked hard. So you can learn Polish without ever living or going to Poland.

  10. Hi, I have been learning Polish for a couple of years and I love the language and polish people. I don’t always have time to study as much as I would like and it is hard to keep motivation, but it’s the challenge of polish being one of the hardest languages that keeps me going. I started using the Pimsleur language course and I must say that this has been so far my favorite method of learning the language. I have used other branded courses on audio, but Pimsleur stands head and shoulders above them all and really helps you get the correct pronunciation. Now I am trying to master verb endings, prepositions and the complex case system, I think I will stick with increasing my vocabulary. I have been to Poland twice, it is very beautiful, but I really want to go again to get to grips with listening and understanding the polish language. Any tips would be gratefully received.

    1. The best tip is really to just drill them. Either with flashcards or a tutor. She can not be easy on you, but must be a stern taskmaster, drilling you with repetition until the endings flow out naturally.

  11. Thanks Mark, I think you are right, I really need to be hard on myself. This is a great site by the way 🙂

    1. I believe in the hard way to learn a language. But once you say that it is not really that hard, just a matter, of patience.

  12. Hello! I’m Thyago and I’m brazilian as well! (There are some many brazilians visiting this website! Outstanding!
    So, I really want to learn polish ‘cuz it is a beautiful language…
    I would like to know how I can starting learning and where I can download some polish books…
    This website is helpful!

    Thanks in advance!

    Bye for now!

    1. Polish books for reading or learning? For reading you can go to Gutenberg project for example. For learning, I will come out with a lot of learning material one of these days soon.

  13. I am English and have been studying Polish for three years. My Polish friends tell me that my pronunciation is good. As part of my religeon I have been supporting Polish speaking meetings and have learned to read it. We sing at out meetings and its a great way to practise vocabulary. I have read that we process language with the same part of our brains as we do music. Also on my computer I can listen to Polish childrens television the programmes include little songs. I have found your site really helpful as most programmes for learning any language do not go into the grammer. I realise that grammer is a large part of learning Polish and admit I am rubbish at it. So thank you for all your hard work you may even get through to a sixty year old whos best quality is determination. I also live in an area were many Polish people have come to work and live and I want to make them feel welcome and understand their language.

  14. Hej, jestem Polką z krwi i kości i strasznie się ucieszyłam, kiedy zobaczyłam Wasze komentarze. To miłe, że tyle osób uczy się polskiego. Tym bardziej, że większość osób uważa mój narodowy język za niemożliwy do nauczenia się. Nigdy nie sądziłam, że tak dużo ludzi się go uczy. Co do naszego kraju, to naprawdę jest piękny – tak jak słynna wieś opisywana w Panu Tadeuszu przez Mickiewicza, czy też namalowana przez Chełmońskiego. Nawet w głosowaniu na najlepszą polską rzecz z okazji polskiego przewodnictwa w Unii Europejskiej wygrały polskie krajobrazy. Zapraszam Was na wycieczkę do Polski. Łatwo przyjechać, ale wyjechać trudniej… 😉

    Do you understand me ? 😉

    1. I think this is a good warning to people coming to Poland and learning Polish. You might just love Poland, especially the countryside so much, you might not want to leave. I did not. I have lived here a reasonable part of my live after coming from America.

  15. I have been searching a lot about the Polish language. I first felled in love with the Polish language when I talked with a Pole who spoke nothing but Polish. Everything about that person was amazing. I’m deeply in love with the people, history, and language. I’m planning to head there in about 2 or 3 years from now so I have to learn it. So far, I have a pdf book with voice recordings my Polish friend gave me to study so I hope it is a nice road for this language I’m studying:)

    1. I am there with you. I have had a life long love of Polish culture, language and history. Poland is an unusual country in a beautiful way. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask

      1. When exactly you reached fluency in Polish ? What was your learning Techniques in learning Polish?

        1. The main trick is to learn about 4000 words and use mnemonics or repetition, sleep learning anything you need to get the words in then learn the grammar.

  16. Hi Mark,
    I would argue with you on your technique. What I found the most effective in learning foreign languages are the following four rules:

    1. Depending on the level, to read interesting text, but the whole sentences, not just words (contextual meaning is very important). Apart from the fact that both Polish and English are full of idiomatic expression, almost any word takes some different meaning in different context.

    2. When you have grasped the particular text of your daily session and you are sure you understand it properly, then go to writing it down without checking on original. It is the moment you memorize.
    We do not memorize so much when reading or listening, as we do when trying to recall – this is when deep printing in your brain takes place. The most crucial moment. After some poor or better attempts you will find it possible to write down very substantial parts of text without checking on it even once.
    Adopting such technique, we learn not only the meaning of single words but the whole grammar or syntax, as well as subtle nature of particular language (all exclusions from grammar rules).
    3. When you are able to write down the block of text without looking, then you go to asking questions: first person question, second, third, plural first, plural second, plural third.
    Then you try to ask question in Past Tense, Future Tense (no more in Polish).

    4. After these three stages you go and find a devoted listener to tell him or her about very interesting thing which you have just read about in Polish.

    Try this. I spent many years teaching English and found it the golden 4 steps to learn any foreign language.

    Of course it is laborious technique. What comes easy worth nothing.
    However, you are the one to decide how big blocks of text to handle each time. My suggestion is rather too small then too big.

    It would be interesting to learn how many of the readers will try that and with what results. So, waiting for some feedback.

    Marek (Polish)

    1. I appreciation this language learning technique. I love it when people write in with techniques to learn languages. I, by the way, believe in the laborious methods sometimes. I mean everyone wants to learn a language by just speaking it, but the the reality is you need a critical level of words and sentences to be able to pull out to achieve a conversational level. To achieve this it is a little work. But not that bad as something in the brain rewards people who learn languages with pleasure and satisfaction.

  17. O rany, co za strona. Nie wiedziałam, że ktoś chce się uczyć polskiego albo dobrowolnie się tu przeprowadzać. Ja się uczę angielskiego i w tym celu czytam co cudzoziemcy piszą o Polakach i Polsce, więc tak tu trafiłam. Nie ma o Polsce zbyt dużo, bo Polska nie jest specjalnie interesującym krajem, ale na obecne czasy, może to i dobrze. Jeśli to kogoś pocieszy, to nawet wykształceni Polacy robią błędy, bo język polski jest trudny nawet dla Polaków. Mało kto potrafi stawiać przecinki w odpowiednich miejscach, fora internetowe są pełne błędów. Polska ortografia jest zmorą dla dzieci w szkole (ach te dyktanda), a ludzie mówią i piszą w sposób, który przyprawia polonistów i językoznawców o ból głowy. Ale łatwo jest ustalić, czy coś jest poprawne czy nie, bo mamy Radę Języka Polskiego, która decyduje o kształcie naszego języka – o tym co jest poprawne, a co nie.

    1. Good to know, Ewa, I feel a bit more comforted now at trying to learn Polish and knowing that some natives may have the same problems with the language that I have. I know it is like that with English.

  18. I’m Polish, living in the UK. My ex-wife who’s English laughs that all she can hear when I speak Polish is ‘ shnink, shnink, shnink ‘ 🙂

  19. Dziekuje for your great website Mark! Marek, love your language learning technique and I will add that to what I am already doing as I love to read and I think getting Polish to stick in my head will be easier with this method. Dziekuje!

    1. You are very welcome and thank you for the positive feedback.

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