It’s hard work learning Polish.
At school I had learned German, which was easier because a lot of the vocabulary is similar to English. For instance, I didn’t have to learn the words for buch, finden or fussball – it’s like I got those ones for free. In Polish, however, the equivalent words are książka, odnaleźć and piłka nożna! For an English speaker there are no freebies when you learn Polish. You have to work hard for every word.
And that’s usually one advantage of having English as your mother tongue. Over the past 1500 years English has evolved or borrowed from so many different languages that you can expect some freebies when you’re learning any foreign tongue…except for Polish.
There’s an English expression hodgepodge (originally borrowed from French) which means a confused mixture of different things. And that’s how I’d describe the English language.
English started as a Germanic language, adopted Norse grammatical structures, then borrowed loads of words from Latin and French. During colonial times, it adopted words from various British colonies around the world: pyjamas (India), tomato (Aztec/Mexcio), and totem (Native American). Indeed, English has borrowed so many words from French that in Paris there’s a saying that English is a language for stupid French people.
But, returning to the challenge of learning Polish, I must say that first impressions can be deceptive. As you listen to Polish more and more, you start to hear English words in Polish sentences:
- Dżinsy czy szorty? (jeans or shorts)
- On jest prawdziwym dżentelmenem (he’s a real gentleman)
- To jest mityng lekkoatletyczny (it’s an athletics meeting)
And when an English-speaker learns how to spell particular sounds in Polish, then suddenly the English language magically reappears:
- Dżungla…wait a second…is that the place where snakes and monkeys live?
- I’m supposed to do what? Click on ‘lajkować’…ah… you mean the thumbs-up symbol.
- A guy who rides a horse is a dżokej? Łał.
Previously I complained that there are no freebies when learning Polish…but that’s changing…and fast! Polish is acquiring English words at such a huge rate that in future a learner will only need to learn a few spelling rules to master the language!
Now I understand why Polish has borrowed words connected to modern technology – fejsbuk, hejter, smartfon – they’re new to English as well. But there are some words that Polish has borrowed from English that surprise me. Why did you borrow flirt, fair or weekend? Aren’t there Polish words for these?
Whatever the reason, like the English language, Polish is becoming a hodgepodge…or should that be a hodżpodż?
So, to add to the hodżpodż, I offer you the following hybrid verb, a combination of the Polish verb przesadzać and the English verb to exaggerate.
przesadzerate, verb – when a Pole pessimistically predicts the death of the Polish language due to the influx of English words
Władysław: Język polski umiera
Rajan: Don’t przesadzerate!