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The best ways how to learn Polish

Posted by Damian Novitzky on 22/06/2019
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Regarded as too challenging to learn, Polish is often overlooked by tourists and foreigners. People believe that pronouncing “przepraszam” or “poproszę” is beyond their possibilities, in case why they don’t learn Polish. But for those who are travelling through Poland or moved there, knowing necessary Polish help appreciate the country more. It also allows us to get deeper into the culture. So let’s get started and be wise – here are a few ways how to learn Polish!

I. Going back to school

As I see it, there are two ways of learning languages. First one is easy: go to school and let the professionals do their thing. Obviously, you will have to spend some money on it, but organizational issues will be fixed for you. There is a variety of Polish language schools in Poland. Just sign up for the level you’re interested in.

Of course, you can use Google Translate and smartphones, possibly everywhere these days. Its easily translate things, but things can get really confused, especially with Polish. Every translate app is still an app, and when the endings and inclinations of words are wrong, the device is hopeless. For this reason only, having a Polish teacher who can train you in detail about the language. Is not only necessary but also vital to learn without mistakes.

Find yourself language courses or one-on-one meetings with a private tutor and just go through coursebooks, readings, exercises and tests. You will have only to learn the material and pass the tests. In some cases, within prices of the courses, language schools provide an approach to the official examination. Which, by the way, isn’t exactly the cheapest thing. Well… “powodzenia”! (Good luck!)

II. Do it yourself!

The second option is more complicated but is way, way cheaper and pretty often… more effective than a language school. What option is this? Good old fashioned DIY. Yes, I genuinely believe that in the XXI century, everyone can learn any language in the world, mostly by himself. I know what you are thinking right now – it’s impossible to prepare yourself for professional and official exam basing on YouTube and the internet. And you’re right! Setting out your goals and expectations is the very first step of any learning process. If you plan to get to the University of economics or get some serious job in finance, look for a professional language school which focus on business aspects. Are you hoping for understanding more from culture and arts or directly better communicating with fellow students? There are plenty of ways how you can do it yourself!

Get Polish friends who want to learn English

A great way to learn Polish – or any language at that matter – for free is to meet people who want to learn English. One hour you teach them English, and the other, they teach you Polish. This way, you can exchange the learning experience! It’s also quite easy to find people in this situation. So get talking to locals anywhere you can – in bars, pubs, cafes and for sure you will new friends soon. Another benefit of this exercise is a fact that’s free. It won’t cost you any money, only your time and passion for improving your Polish.

Switch your phone, computer and especially social media language to Polish

That trick seems irrelevant, but in fact, it can have a significant impact on your skills. These days everyone regularly uses Facebook, multiple times per day. Switching your software from English, won’t immediately teach you Polish, but will activate your brain to subconscious translating. Up today you probably memorized whole page layout, so you won’t have to go through every, single function. Yet knowing key words, such as “Lubię to” (like) or “Strona Główna” (homepage) will prove awareness of the structure of the sentences. Do this in other social media, like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, as well as settings in your computer! Translate everything everywhere, and functioning in Poland will get easier.

Visit traditional restaurants with regional cuisine (Bar Mleczny)

Food is an essential part of the tradition. It also happens in the native language. Therefore, to learn, for example, you should explore regional cuisine and traditional restaurants. Hamburgers, pizzas or kebabs are well known and international food, and you won’t find any link between them and the Polish language. That’s why Bar Mlecznys (“Milk Bars”) is a place right for you. This is strictly a Polish institution where they rarely have in the menu, anything other than Polish food. Also, the staff are mostly Polish. It’s safe to say that everything there is… Polish. These are small, cheap restaurants, where you can order some “exotic” food. While other restaurants are racing in serving the most world food, at Bar Mlecznys you will know the meaning of such things, like “ogorki” (gherkins), “grzyby” (mushrooms) or “chleba” (bread). It’s also a perfect place to practice your everyday politeness and good manners, such as “poproszę” (please), “dziękuję bardzo” (thank you very much) and “do widzenia” (see you next time).

Avoid places strictly for foreigners

Globalization is also not helping in case of learning new languages. Big cities like Krakow or Warsaw are trendy for foreigners, and the side effects of it are internationalization. Places like Old Towns these days are a hang out space for foreigners. In fact, that process is so advanced that there is no fundamental difference between eating “traditional burger” in Warsaw and in New York City. I’m sure that out there are plenty of great bars and restaurants, but someone who seeks Polish it’s a trap. Even the menus and bar signs in such venues are written in English. When you find yourself in situations or places, where English is the first response, it’s hazardous that you will start speaking it to. Because you should challenge your skills and understanding of newly learned language, not ease them!

Watch Polish films at the Cinema

Yeah, that one of the obvious and possibly the easiest way to enhance your Polish. Come on, be bold, be brave and force yourself to listen (and understand) this linguistic torture for 90+ minutes. It doesn’t really matter if you gonna do it at home or at the Cinema. Look for your local Cinema (it’s called “kino”) and ask for the movies only in Polish, but with no other subtitles! I’m not going to lie – you probably won’t enjoy it, and there’s a high possibility it will be a challenging experience. But it’s really boosting your creativity and linguistic survival skills.

Attend Polish Football Matches

Another thing “completely polish” is watching live Polish football matches. A stadium filled with thousands of Poles, all the announcements and lively singing in Polish. Just pick up a local football match schedule, and soon you will be aware of how passionate Polish people are with football. Except for the energizing experience itself, such an event is perfect from a language perspective. This tip can also be applied to Speedway, Volleyball, Basketball and Handball. All of them are quite popular in Poland.

YouTube tutorials

The last one on the list is a bit tricky. I’m aware that the quality of self-proclaimed teachers on the internet may be disappointing or merely full of mistakes. But that might also be good… for you. After watching some videos or listening podcasts you catch few rasps or inconsistencies, that means your Polish is definitely improving! And if you get bored because of the level of difficulty, it clearly shows that it’s time for you to have a real trial. For example, go to the theatre or even classic opera. All in Polish, of course! But not to demonize Polish youtubers – there are some pretty good and exciting channels with lots of educational content. That will improve your listening skills, as well as vocabulary. Definitely worth trying and hey – it’s free.

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