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I've been fascinated by Poland ever since visiting Kraków. I'd quite like to live there someday, so I've decided to take the leap of faith and learn the language.
Polish has long been considered the hardest European language to learn, due to its nine unique letters (ć, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż, ą, ę, ł) that make pronunciation extremely intimidating. Its extremely confusing combinations of consonants can scare off even the ablest of polyglots (for example, the famous tongue twister: W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie, which in English, means 'In Szczebrzeszyn, a beetle buzzes in the reed')
Despite the initial fear and challenges that come with embracing the Polish language, I have just begun my journey that I plan to document on here. I believe that Polish is actually one of the best languages to learn, especially for a native English speaker, and here are some reasons why:
- Word order
Having been used to the strict word order of the English language, you quickly come to realize that Polish has much more freedom! Though there is still a basic word order to ensure that the sentence actually makes sense, the odd words can be moved around without any detriment to the sentence, meaning that when you are learning to speak or write, there is much less pressure to write everything in a perfect order, as there is with English!
Though the diacritics and letter combinations appear intimidating, once you have mastered the basic pronunciation of Polish sounds, you are ready to hit the road! Unlike English words that can vary in pronunciation often without reason (lead/lead, read/read), Polish is much more consistent in its pronunciation, so once you know the rules and exceptions, you can master just about anything.
- It is the second most-spoken language in the UK
Though it is fairly rare to find fluent non-polish speakers living outside of Poland, Polish is actually the second most-spoken language in the UK (Behind English of course), due to the large Polish communities living there. On top of this, Polish supermarkets have sprung up everywhere, so even if you haven't quite mastered the language yet, you can still appreciate a small aspect of the culture without leaving your city!
Quite simply, Polish doesn't include articles, (such as 'a', 'an', 'the' for example), other than when having to explicitly specify something ('this one, that one'). Instead of saying 'I have an apple', you say 'mam jabłko', which translates into English as 'I have apple'. This is why you often hear native Polish speakers missing out articles when learning other languages; it simply isn't a necessary part of Polish, so that eliminates at least one thing you have to master while attempting the language.
- English words!
Though Polish can often seem worlds apart from English, there are many familiar words that native Polish speakers have simply kept in English for one reason or another. 'Lunch' and 'weekend' are just two examples; though pronounced differently, the words are the same as in English, and mean the same thing. The reason for this is mainly that they are quite English things. Many European countries don't tend to eat "lunch" as a midday meal for example, and so Poland has simply kept the word as it is, making it easier for native English speakers to recognize when faced with a Polish sentence.
- Expanding horizons (and impressing the natives...)
Quite simply, learning any language is a great use of time, be it Polish or not! Being able to speak more than just your mother tongue looks great on your CV, not to mention it definitely helps when you're on holiday. Locals really appreciate tourists that put in the effort to learn the language of the country they're visiting, so it is a sign of respect as well as a great skill to have.
If you do choose to learn Polish, powodzenia! (good luck!)