Polish for Expats

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

Cultural shock – fun or confusion?

2010/01/09 17:00:00 Written by 

Every foreigner living or working abroad is exposed to cultural shock.  Whether it will be a harrowing experience, fun, or just confusion depends on the individual’s ability to adapt to the new environment.

Do you think the effects of cultural shock have ever touched you?

Whenever you think that the local community is strange or is behaving weirdly, it is a typical symptom of experiencing cultural difference, which in effect could lead to a real shock.   It is an alarm bell proclaiming that you are different.

If an Englishman who is living abroad tried to drive on the left side of the road as is the custom in his country, it would be a disaster, and no doubt lead to a serious accident.

A cultural system like a language is a  social product and is assimilated from our environment while we are growing up.  It means that our lifestyle, our way of thinking, our value system, our communication strategy are assimilated as our natural codes from living in society.  Usually, we are not even aware of it, although it is the foundation of our identity.

Only the confrontation with a different social or ethnic group makes us conscious of the differences.  Naturally, behaviour different from our rules is considered strange.  While it is strange for us, it is equally strange for the other side.  While living among foreigners, we have the opportunity to conceptualize the differences and compare them with our system.  Awareness of the differences is the first step of adaptation.  The next one is to learn and understand the new system.  The final step is to adopt it and to follow it up.

If you have problems with team building in Poland or with developing proper relationships with your Polish staff or colleagues, I will be pleased to help.  However, to discuss the problem, I will need some information from you about your negative experiences.  What caused communication difficulties?  What kind of situation made you confused?  What do you find most irritating in the behavior of Polish people?  If you would like to share your experiences, I will try to explain the differences in the comments on my blog.

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