Friday, May 13, 2011

Nuts and Bolts: Language

I have started this post about three times. I don't know where to start. And that's exactly how I feel about this language.

Let me introduce you to my worst nightmare... it's called "The Polish Language." I know Martin is going to want to veto this post the minute he reads that last sentence.

I have had a couple people tell me lately that moving to Poland is going to be really hard. This is a whole other topic I intend to address, but in the mean time... One of the reasons I assume they think it's going to be hard is the fact that I don't know how to speak the language. And they would be right.

It is going to be difficult. Just think about all the times you have difficulty making yourself understood now, in English, with the general public...

"No, I said NO PICKLES on my burger."
" So, I don't understand, can you help me or not, simple question?"
" What do you mean you are out of hammers, this is a hardware store!"
" Why are you towing my car, I have the paper in the window with the sticker side up and the time showing with the purple dot on the bottom left corner and the smiley face pointing up. Oh, the smiley face is supposed to be pointing down? So it looks like a sad face? I was just supposed to know that? Ok, I'll drop the $13 cash-only payment off at the 3rdwindow on the right between the hours of 9-11 on an odd numbered day of the next month that begins with the letter M. Thanks.... you have a nice day too."

You get my point. Having yourself understood, and understanding others, often has the actual use of language as the jumping off point. And folks. I don't even have a line to wait in to get to the jumping off point. It's sad.

It's sad because I've lived with a native speaker for 6 years and still don't know it. It's sad because there are times that Martin talks to the kids about regular old stuff and I have no idea what he just said. And it's sad because I have one year to catch up and it's going to be grueling.

Polish has been widely accepted as one of the hardest languages in the world to learn especially in terms of grammar.

They have words like "chrząszcz" (a class of insects). A word that was most likely written down at the beginning of "when things were being named" accidentally after someone sneezed and the guy writing things down thought it sounded cool.

All nouns, adjectives, and adverbs can be said in 7 different ways, and that's not even including gender and number variations.
Here's an example for you.

There is one way to say "two" in English...

English - 1. two

There are 17 different ways to say "two" in Polish.

Polish - 1. dwa
2. dwie
3. dwoje
4. dwóch (or dwu)
5. dwaj
6. dwiema
7. dwom (or dwóm)
8. dwoma
9. dwojga
10. dwojgu
11. dwojgiem
12. dwójka
13. dwójki
14. dwójkę
15. dwójką
16. dwójce
17. dwójko

And that doesn't include ways of saying "second" or "double" or "pair" or anything like that. That is just straight up how to say the number two 17 different ways.

I am in deep *insert expletive* ... for real.

To be fair to me. I have been busy with other things for the past 6 years. You know, kids and what not. And to be fair to me, I do speak very good "baby Polish." Meaning I can speak to the kids in Polish about kid stuff and instructions and commands like nobody's business. And to be fair to me, I can understand a lot more than I speak. But, I'll be honest... not much.

I get prideful sometimes and obstinate to learning the language. HE doesn't have to do anything. Martin loves when I say this. He pulls out the whole "work my whole life to support the family until I die" argument. As if that is anywhere close to the pain I feel whenever he corrects the way I say "go wash your hands" to my daughter. The nerve.

It's not fair that I should have to do something so hard on top of moving all the way across the world to a country I don't come from so that my kids can grow up speaking a language that's not mine.

BUT, it *is* mine, because it's Martin's. And I love Martin. And at some point in our wedding vows the priest said something about us becoming "one flesh" and whatnot.

So, I'm learning it. But with only a half smile on my face. So there.

And just for fun... this guy's accent is horrible, I am way better than this guy! (don't you love how I'm judging him after I just wrote a whole post about how I don't know any Polish?)


  1. Um, you see that my name is probably 8 our of those 17 ways to say "two"? You can be asking for "dwija pieces of Kielbasa" and "dwija perogies" and you'll always remember me...when you're in Poland... *sniff* *sniff*

    (p.s. I'm only a little sad, but mostly excited for you. Get Pimsleur CDs and play them ALL DAY!)

  2. Oh Dwija... I will probably just start laughing now every time I talk to some old Polish woman and need to say "dwa"... thanks!

  3. Good satirical overview of polish language:

    Jakże prawdziwe! :D

    1. “I hear hissing, rustling and hushing, and my ears are bleeding...”
      ~ Oscar Wilde on Polish language


  4. Famous Polish tongue twister (scene from old comedy):

    It have his own Wikipedia page:

    Also.. you can use positive attitude from this movie "theme song" as theme song of your move to Poland. It contains essence of Polish spirit:

    It's sings, that it will be good despite of difficulties. :)

    1. Thanks for the links. I'm gonna look at them tonight with Marcin so he can clue me in!

  5. I am also learning polish as my girlfriend is polish, to listen i understand alot (rozumiem bardzo) but to speak i generally stick to 2 or 3 word sentences haha.
    For me as soon as i learnt the alphabet, the endings "m" (czytam) meaning i'm doing something and "sz" (czytasz) someone else doing something. And then learning the "cz" (ch) "sz" (sh) "dz/dzi" (j as in jug) then everything slowly falls in place. Im now learning the "my" endings meaning "we are" for example "dziękujemy/jademy then its all falling in place. Time is hardest for me as 8 oclock isnt osiem its the other 8 lol

    1. Keep going and you will get there, i reccomend watching "czas honoru" its a series about WW2 but with english subtitles and i picked up alot :) hope this helps