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!

11 thoughts on “HodgePodż

  1. Polish was already a hodgepodge a couple of centuries ago. There are thousand of words borrowed from different languages. It began in the middle ages with Latin, Greek and German, then French in the XVIII and XIX century and English in the XX and XXI w. I guess that’s how it is with every language used by a nation that didn’t live in isolation.

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  2. Hi, you are so funny… 🙂 There is not word for word weekend in Polish actually, no. There has been some quiz organised in late 20’s of the last century (I believe) in some newspaper (i\ve seen the screenshot on Polona: https://www.facebook.com/bnpolona/) of how to replace the weekend word. Ideas were hilarious (e.g. zapiątek as after friday time, that sounds just weird for natives) and as a result there is now word that would better describe the end of the week time in Polish. Weird, but hey, that’s the language we’re talking about 😀

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    • … and about this zapiątek time. It sounds a bit like zapiąć, which means to close/zip, this is at the same time a slang synonym for the intimate situation…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the link Agata. I saw the shortlist: zapiątek, sobniedż czy sobnielę…. I agree that zapiątek is the best of a bad bunch…and I like the concept of zipping up the week. It also fits with Murphy’s Law that the weather is worse at the weekend, and you need to zip up your coat!


  3. Its nice that u like zapiątek too… but at the same time, it sounds a bit oldfashioned in our modern language, still nothing better that old and well known weekend 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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