Polish for Expats

Category: General

„Stranger in the town….”

2010/09/30 9:53:00 Written by 

Stranger in the town…” – I do understand this feeling. I experienced it during my first trip abroad.  The first western European country I have visited was the UK.  Despite having English lessons beforehand, I was shocked at the airport, when I couldn’t understand even the shortest communicates.  Later on, it was even worse. I didn’t realise that the English I have heard at school were so different from the language the native speakers used.

I went to visit my English boyfriend,  so for the rest of my „holidays”, I was surrounded by the English language only. My boyfriend realised that my stay might cause difficulties and took me on a fantastic trip around the country. I was assimilating the language with the climate of the country, its history, arts, architecture, landscape and cuisine.  During one month I learned more than during 3 years of studying English at school!  During my trip, I discovered the secrets of successful learning a foreign language:

1. It must be thought in the country the people use it as a native language.   So if you are in Poland to it is an adventure of a lifetime.

2. Motivation. If you don’t want to feel like a „stranger” –  blind,  deaf and mute – and have a strong need for communication, it is enough to open your eyes, ears and mouth.

3. Attraction. The best way is to discover the language and the country at the same time. If you use the chance to associate language with landscape, taste, smell,  the town you live now,  people you like, the language will be absorbed together with the air you breathe.

4. Cultural context. Each language has its cultural code, which has been developed by generations, it’s history and social structure, so it is unique and invisible from the first glance. That is why most foreigners suffer from cultural shock.  The situations of misunderstanding are sometimes funny but might be painful and confusing as well.

As I still remember the feeling of being a stranger, I would like to be your guide on your way in discovering Poland and invite you to share your experience.    I believe that understanding is the only way to force the Babel Tower and break down the cultural and language barrier.

Contract abroad – adventure or hell?

2010/09/28 9:44:00 Written by 

Most people would say they love travelling. Those who can afford it, spend holidays abroad.  They come back home refreshed, with new ideas, observations and hundreds of pictures with the unique places they visited.  The experience of tasting the local food, birthing the air, looking at the new landscape and architecture, watching people and listening to their language approaches them to the visited country. Emotionally and mentally, it becomes a new territory belonging to “our world”. Sometimes we even miss it and want to come back.

The contract abroad seems to be a fantastic opportunity to make the desire for travel trough. If you have the spirit of discoverer your time spent in Poland will be an adventure. Each day you are facing diversity.

Did you notice that your Polish colleagues don’t always great you with “How are you?” If so, it means there is no time for conversation, and then we just say “Hi”.  In Polish, a question requires an answer and is an invitation for a conversation.  You probably already have heard an answer in this kind of situation. It could be either an unexpected “ritual complaining” or good news.

More diversity you notice, more cultural awareness you receive. It is the first step leading you to cultural competency. If the Polish partners behave in a different way from what you expected, it means there is something to discover. Usually, they are funny stories, as good as pictures from your holiday. If you enjoy learning diversity, spending weekends in new places, meeting people – your time in Poland will be a real adventure.

If you are not a traveller keen in all what is new, willing to learn, taste and discover,  then the contract abroad could be a hard experience, if not hell.

Do the expats speak Polish?

2010/09/26 9:48:00 Written by 

Why are the foreigners living in Poland often afraid of learning Polish?  There are several myths about Polish.

The first one says that it is one of the most difficult languages.  Polish is nearly on the top of the list; the higher position has only Chinese.  I have never expected Polish will be placed next to the language used by the majority of the population.  I must say – we are in a good company, especially that Chinese becomes more and more popular. The number of people learning Chinese increased dramatically during the last year. The reason is clear  –  it is the economy. The myth of the special difficulty of the language disappeared when the desire of speaking occurred.

The second myth says Polish is very difficult to pronounce. Is it really? Comparing to English, there is only one set of soft consonance (ś, ź, ć, dź) which has no equivalent in English.  All the other are similar to the English ones (pol. sz like Eng. Shower,  pol. cz like Eng. Chamber, pol. dż like Eng. Jazz, etc.). When spelling in Polish is regular, it is often unpredictable in English. Polish also has a stable accent, which makes the pronunciation much easier.

The third myth says that Polish grammar is very complicated. It is a trough that our language preserved the declination and conjugation system like the other Slavic language group when the German and Roman group of languages has reduced it. Although the cases and verb conjugation might be caused problems, we use only three tenses, when in English there are  „only’ then! And what about the 57 rules of using the definite and indefinite articles in English, when in Polish the problem doesn’t exist?

It seems that the criteria for considering the language as difficult are not based on our knowledge about its system. Placing so different systems as Polish and Chinese one next to the other on the ranking list indicates that both are not popular yet, and as unknown got the etiquette „most difficult”.

Running the Polish language school for foreigners for over 13 years, I must say that the ability to learn Polish depends not on the nationality or special talent, but motivation. Despite the difficulties caused by the cases, most of our students can communicate without a problem. It proves that Polish is not as horrible as it is presented.

Stereotypes live in language

2010/03/07 9:28:00 Written by 

Stereotypes are a social product. In spite of being „politically incorrect”, they exist and mirrors all hidden emotions and attitudes towards others.  Also, they discover how „others” are evaluated. The comparison between ‚self-portrait’ and the pictures of the other nations is very instructive. The diversity is based on the point of view and perspective. The mentality of the social group creating the stereotypes is expressed by the language in many ways: in common opinion, jokes, nicknames, etc.  The way we talk about other nations says a lot about us.

Have a look at the mapping stereotypes by the alpha designer.  Were you surprised by the way your country was viewed by the others? I think the author has a fantastic sense of humour.

Mapping Stereotypes  by alpha designer alphadesigner.com

Personal art project by visual artist, graphic designer and illustrator Yanko Tsvetkov

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