Polish vs Russian: a Detailed Comparison

By OptiLingo • 5 minutes read

Learn the difference between Polish vs Russian

Should You Learn Polish or Russian First?

Poland and Russia share a border and a complicated history. Since Polish and Russian are both Slavic languages, they’re fairly closely related. So, if your goal is to learn a popular Slavic language, it really comes down to these two. But, which one should you learn? Which one’s easier? Here’s a detailed comparison of Polish vs Russian to help you decide.

Polish vs Russian Key Facts

Polish is the national language of Poland, and around 40 million people speak it worldwide. Russian on the other hand is the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and it’s a lingua franca in Ukraine, and many former Soviet States. There are approximately 150 million native Russian speakers worldwide.

Cyrillic or Latin Letters in the Writing System?

Although both Polish vs Russian are Slavic languages, their writing systems are completely different. Polish uses Latin letters, just like English. So, when you’re learning the Polish alphabet, all you have to pay attention to are the special accents and the pronunciation. This makes Polish a much much easier language to learn than Russian.

Russian on the other hand uses the Cyrillic alphabet. These are 33 brand new symbols that you’d have to learn to read and speak Russian. While mastering the Cyrillic letters of Russian isn’t impossible, it’s definitely harder to learn than the Polish alphabet.

Cyrillic vs latin letters

Is Russian and Polish Mutually Intelligible?

Russian is East Slavonic and Polish is West Slavonic. While the two share a similar grammar system and some vocabulary words, Polish and Russian aren’t mutually intelligible. If a Russian person lands in Warsaw, nobody would understand him if he only spoke Russian.

Is Polish or Russian Closer to English?

Well, neither language is close to English. English is a Germanic language, so German and Danish are much more similar to it. But, thanks to its geography, Polish has a lot of loanwords and vocabulary from German. Sharing its entire Western border with Germany, there are plenty of German communities in Poland.

So, out of Poland and Russian, Polish is definitely closer to English. As you’re learning Polish, you’ll find a lot of loanwords very familiar. “Artysta” (artist), “woda” (water), and “kolor (color) are just a few of the many examples of English loanwords in Polish.

Which Slavic Language is Easier to Learn?

This question is closely tied with how long it takes to learn Russian or Polish? That’s because the harder a language is, the longer it takes to learn it. So, we can take a look at the US Foreign Service Institute’s calculations for how hard these two languages are, and how much time you have to spend on them.

Interestingly, both Russian and Polish are Category IV languages. This means that it would usually take 44 weeks or 1100 hours of study to reach fluency.

Now, there are a few reasons why these estimates are tricky. For one, the FSI doesn’t know how motivated and enthusiastic you are. You can definitely learn Polish or Russian faster if you put your mind to it.

Secondly, no language is hard with the right language learning methods. If a course makes you practice your speaking skills and gives you only the most common vocabulary, you’ll surely learn either of these languages easily.

But, if we have to decide which is harder to learn between Polish vs Russian, we’d rather go with Russian. For native English speakers, the Polish alphabet is much much easier because it’s already familiar. And thanks to the similar vocabulary because of German, Polish still wins over Russian in terms of ease.

Can I Learn Polish and Russian at the Same Time?

It’s possible to study two languages at the same time. But, it’s not recommended. One of two things can happen to you:

  1. It will take you double the time to learn both languages
  2. In the same time, you’ll only learn half of each language

Neither of these options sounds really good. But, even if you do decide to learn two languages at the same time, it’s best to study two completely unrelated languages. Russian and Spanish, or Polish with Chinese. If the two languages are from the same language family, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing which grammar rules and vocabulary applies to which language. 

So, overall, you can learn Polish and Russian at the same time. It’s possible. But, if you want to do it right, focus on one of them first, and then move on to the other. In that case, which language should you start with, Polish or Russian?

Russian dolls

Should I Learn Polish or Russian First?

Well, it depends on what you want. If you want to learn more than one Slavic language, it’s best to start with Polish. You’ll learn it faster than Russian, because of the Latin letters and English loanwords. And knowing Polish is a great base to start your Russian studies.

But, if you only want to speak one Slavic language, Russian is more widely spoken. You can travel and communicate with almost four times as many people in Russian than in Polish. Your goals should define what your priority is in terms of language learning.

Learn Them Both with the Best App

Regardless of which language you end up choosing, you need a reliable language learning method to reach fluency. You need a program that gives you the best vocabulary words and makes you speak the language. And the best app to learn Russian and/or Polish is OptiLingo.

Among the 20 languages featured on OptiLingo, you’ll find both Russian and Polish. You have a chance to study both with one app if you wish. Reaching fluency is all about using the right methods, and OptiLingo can definitely help you achieve language learning success with its course. Start learning Polish or Russian easily by downloading OptiLingo!

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