English-Polish Translations

Want to Learn Polish?

Here follows some advice for native speakers of English who are interested in learning Polish.

First off, don't waste your time going to a language school. Get a private Polish teacher with whom you can learn at your own pace with all the attention on you. A bit more expensive but worth it.

It is often said that the best teacher of a language is a native speaker of that language, but I would not completely agree with such a statement. In Poland there is still a snobbish fashion for a having a native speaker teacher or even a native speaker boyfriend for that matter. "Hey look, here's my native speaker teacher/boyfriend, he matches my couch". But I daresay that eventually the Poles will realise that just because someone is a native speaker of English, does not necessarily mean that they will automatically be a good teacher. On the contrary. In Holland there is hardly a native speaker of English to be seen in schools but the Dutch have outstanding mastery of the language. Ever met a Dutch person who doesn't speak perfect English?

Learn Polish Language

I often feel that someone like myself - a native speaker of English who has learned Polish is in the best position to teach the language. Such a person has come at the language not as a new born child with all their language acquisition capacities but as an adult whose brain has matured beyond the language acquisition capacities it possessed in its infancy. Therefore the Polish language has to be approached externally as a system of rules that need to be mastered since these rules won't be picked up automatically anymore as they could have been when the learner was a child.

So, at first, find yourself a native speaker of English as a teacher of Polish because they will know where you are coming from linguistically and can use their own valuable experience as an adult language learner to relate better to a learner who shares the same native tongue. A native speaker can better explain the rules of Polish grammar because he/she herself has approached them "from the outside" as a system of consciously learned rules.

The Polish person, on the other hand, is so ingrained in their own language that they can't always see the wood for the trees. They are not conscious of the amazingly complex system of rules that is governing their intelligible utterances. The ability to do this is even more impressive when you consider that they can still do it after x tumblers of vodka! I would hear a shopkeeper say something and ask them about the grammar rules behind what they've said only to be met with a blank stare. Unless you're a linguist, you're probably the same. Do you know what the present perfect tense or a non-defining clause is? Could you explain why you can say both "I've lived in Poland for 7 years" and "I've been living in Poland for 7 years" or elucidate as to the subtle differences between these two sentences? Probably not, but a Polish person who had studied English may well be in a better position to do so.

At the beginning of this article related to English-Polish Translations and Learning, I said that I didn't completely agree that a native speaker as a teacher would be better. This is because when a certainly level of mastery has been reached, it would be better to switch to a native speaker as a teacher. At an advanced level, you would want a native speaker teacher to help you perfect your pronunciation and is better suited for conversation practice.

Of course you should also try to read and listen to Polish as much as possible and use the language as often as you can. Of course the best way would be to go and live in Poland as I did but this is not everybody's cup of tea.

So to summarize - Go private. Get a native speaker of English who knows Polish to provide you with the foundation and then move on to a Polish native teacher at an upper-intermediate/advanced level. That's my advice.