Is Polish Too Hard to Learn?

By OptiLingo

When visiting or planning to move to another country, it’s common to want to learn the local language. For some, there’s even an expectation that you’ll at least make an effort to speak the language. However, sometimes that’s a bigger proposition than it seems on the surface, especially if that language is Polish. When considering how hard is to learn Polish, you might notice that even basic words that are used every day can appear rather complex. For example, a simple word like “hi” is “cześć”.

If you speak English, you’ll be delighted to know that most of the residents that you’ll encounter in the Polish tourist industry are either conversational or fluent in English. This means that you should be able to get around in major cities easily and communicate effectively with people in airports, hotels and restaurants. When visiting places that are off the beaten path, then you might have more of a problem if you don’t know how to speak Polish, which is why one of the common phrases spoken is Przepraszam, nie mówię po polsku’, which is translated ‘I’m sorry, I don’t speak Polish.’

Most people want to communicate in the native language of the place their visiting because they feel that it demonstrates a level of respect for the country and the people. Although it might seem as though everyone knows English wherever you go in the world, that’s not the case at all. Thankfully, there are tools and resources that can be used to help you speak Polish, such as Google Translate or small translation books that you can carry around with you. Learning how to speak Polish can make life a lot less complicated during your travels.

While many find learning to speak Polish difficult, it’s somewhat subjective and depends on the person. It might also depend on your first language. For instance, someone who speaks Spanish and wants to learn English might find it easier than learning French. As a West Slavic language, Polish can be grammatically complex, which makes it difficult to learn. Polish has similarities with Slovak and Czech, but the spelling system it uses is less transparent. For instance, if you speak Czech, you can listen to someone who speaks Polish and almost guess what they’re saying. On the other hand, it’s less similar to Russian, which is an East Slavic language that uses the Cyrillic alphabet.

When it comes to how hard is to learn Polish, there is actually a language ranking system established by the United States Foreign Service Institute that assigns a number to languages based on how much time it would take for native English speakers to become proficient in that language. With 1 being easy and 5 being very difficult, Polish is ranked 4. In comparison, French is ranked 1, because it’s considered a language that’s relatively easy to learn. Another language that ranked 4 is Arabic.

One of the reasons Polish is difficult is because there are three genders that include masculine, feminine and neuter, which is like German and other languages. In addition to having three genders, nouns can appear in multiple different forms, which depends on the grammatical function of the noun in the sentence. Similarly, completely different verbs are used to communicate the nature of an action, such as whether it is ongoing or has been completed. Translating verbs is an aspect of learning Polish and other Slavic languages that can be extremely difficult, and sometimes even frustrating. To further complicate things, there can be dozens of forms of numbers, which is also contingent upon the grammatical form.


Pronunciation in Polish

The difficulty of pronouncing words in Polish is partially because it distinguishes between three forms of ‘ch’, two forms of ‘j’ and two forms of ‘sh’. This distinction can be exceptionally difficult for people who speak English because there is no comparison in the English language. Another difficulty is the fact that there are a lot of words that are simply unfamiliar to English speakers and appear nearly impossible to pronounce because of the letter combination. For example, the word for man is ‘mężczyzna’, the word for girl is ‘dziewczyna’ and the word for blue is ‘niebieski’. Other ways in which Polish is different from English is that there are no articles and many times there is no subject pronoun.

Yet another reason why Polish is difficult is because, unlike some languages, it’s hard to look at Polish words and guess what they might mean since they don’t resemble any words in Western Europe. This is especially true when it comes to the different declensions. If you’re trying to recognize words, you probably won’t be able to – even when reading the days of the week. For example, Sunday in Polish is niedziela, which has absolutely no resemblance.


The Silver Lining

While there are many difficult aspects of learning to speak Polish, the good news is that the process becomes much easier after you have mastered the alphabet, as long as you understand that most Polish words are stressed on the penultimate syllable. It’s also worth noting that certain nouns have Latin roots. Something else that’s encouraging is that Poles tend to be forgiving when it comes to English speakers attempting to speak Polish since it’s something that is not very common. Actually, hearing you try to speak Polish will likely solicit an attempt at an English language response.


Getting Started

In order to get started on your journey to learn Polish, you might want to set a short-term goal that will get the ball rolling. You can use books or language learning software applications in order to become familiar with the native voice. Repetition has a way of advancing the achievement of your language goals, so consistency is key. You might also find online dictionaries helpful, although it might be difficult to select the proper declension from a book. There are resources online in the form of blogs and videos that you might find helpful. It might also be worthwhile to use social media as a way to connect with people with whom you can converse in Polish.

You might also find it worthwhile to locate a tutor who can assist you with tools and resources that have been proven to work in the past. Given the relative difficulty of learning Polish, why not get the help you need to simplify the process of achieving your goal? Whatever you do, keep practicing because practice really does make perfect when it comes to learning a new language.