Goodbye Polish … or rather, goodness gracious! I can’t even explain how confused I was trying to read about this language, but I attempted.
SUMMARY: Polish is a West Slavic language spoken by over 50 million people. The first written record of Polish appeared in a papal bull in 1136 AD. Poland, the language’s birthplace, had a union with neighbor country Lithuania that lasted until the 1700s. After this union dissolved, Poland disappeared from European map for over 100 years, due to the paritions from Austria, Prussia and Russia. Poland gained independence in 1918, all the while retaining their language, but the nation was completely devastated during WWII with millions of people lost due to the Holocaust. But the country bounced back, rebuilt and has since become one of the most well-established places in central Europe.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: Before starting to read more closely about Polish, I used the lessons from fellow blogger, I Kind of Like Languages (whom I highly encourage you to check out). The lessons proved to be helpful and broke Polish down in a way that is very helpful for beginners and those curious about the language.
Now to the nitty gritty. How does Polish work? First, nouns can be masculine, feminine or neuter. Masculine nouns usually end in a consonant, feminine ones with “a” and neuter ones with -e or -o.
Polish is highly inflected; in other words, nouns decline (change endings) according to case, number (singular or plural) and gender. Polish has seven cases: nominative, genitive, accusative, dative, instrumentative, locative and vocative.
Here’s an example of how a masculine, feminine and neuter noun declines in the nominative case:
Chłopak – Boy
chłopak – masculine, singular, nominative
chłopaki – masculine, plural, nominative
chłopaka – masculine, singular, genitive
chłopaków – masculine, plural, genitive
chłopakowi – masculine, singular, dative
chłopakom – masculine, plural, dative
chłopaka – masculine, singular, accusative
chłopaków – masculine, plural, accusative
chłopakiem – masculine, singular, instrumenal
chłopakami – masculine, plural, instrumental
chłopaku – masculine, singular, locative
chłopakach – masculine, plural, locative
chłopaku – masculine, singular, vocative
chłopaki – masculine, plural, vocative
Dziewczyna – Girl
dziewczyna – feminine, singular, nominative
dziewczyny – feminine, plural, nominative
dziewczyny – feminine, singular, genitive
dziewczyn – feminine, plural, genitive
dziewczynie – feminine, singular, dative
dziewczynom – feminine, plural, dative
dziewczynę – feminine, singular, accusative
dziewczyny – feminine, plural, accusative
dziewczyną – feminine, singular, instrumental
dziewczynami – feminine, plural, instrumental
dziewczynie – feminine, singular, locative
dziewczynach – feminine, plural, locative
dziewczyno – feminine, singular, vocative
dziewczyny – feminine, plural, vocative
Piwo – Beer
piwo – neuter, singular, nominative
piwa – neuter, plural, nominative
piwa – neuter, singular, genitive
piw – neuter, plural, genitive
piwu – neuter, singular, dative
piwom – neuter, plural, dative
piwo – neuter, singular, accusative
piwa – neuter, plural, accusative
piwem – neuter, singular, instrumental
piwami – neuter, plural, instrumental
piwie – neuter, singular, locative
piwach – neuter, plural, locative
piwo – neuter, singular, vocative
piwa – neuter, plural, vocative
If you’ve noticed, some of the patterns are the same or resemble each other. There are exceptions to this, as some final hard consonants in words get an extra “i” or change to softer consonants.
Adjectives, just like nouns, decline according to case, number and gender. The declined adjectives must agree with the declined form of the noun. You can find a chart of the forms here.
Polish verbs inflect according to number and gender. Polish verbs also use a thing called “aspect,” which means they are imperfect or perfect (a verb is ongoing and a verb is complete or will be complete, respectively). This essentially means that the present tense is imperfect and that the past and future tenses are perfect. (I think this makes sense). The perfect form of a verb is generally created by adding a prefix to an imperfect verb (pije, drinks, vs. wypije, will drink).
For example, here’s how the verb czytać (to read) is conjugated (from Wiktionary):
Ja czytam (I read)
Ty czytasz (You read)
On/Ona/Ono czyta (He/She/It reads)
My czytamy (We read)
Wy czytacie (You all read)
Oni/One czytają (They read)
There aren’t different forms for masculine and feminine nouns in the present (simple) or future (simple) tense. But it becomes a factor for past tense and other more complex forms. Sentences seemed to be negated by adding nie (no) before the verb and objects seem to go in the middle of the sentence, after the subject.
Dominik, my friend from Poland, said the worst part of learning Polish would be the declinations. He also provided a lot of detail about the aspect. For example, with infinitives that mean to finish/complete there are different forms which include kończyć, (ongoing), skończyć (completed), zakończyć (completed), dokończyć (completed), dokańczać (ongoing), wykończyć (complete), wykańczać (ongoing).
Reading the orthography, he pointed out a lot of similarities between Russian and some of the other Slavic languages. Rzeka (river) is peка (transliterated as reka) in Russian and in Croatian/Serbian it’s rijeka. As a result, Dominik said he is able to understand a great deal of Czech and Russian, but that the southern Slavic languages were harder to understand. Bulgarian and Macedonian were the most difficult for him to comprehend without difficulty.
Regarding English, Dominik said he had a problem with its definite articles (a, an, the) as these do not exist in English. He also had difficulty with the tenses.
As for me, well … from listening to it, it sounds more nasally than the other Slavic languages I’ve looked at (a lot of “neeyeh/eeyeeh” sounds). I also heard “shh” a lot.
I literally got a headache from trying to understand all the case forms and how to conjugate a verb. For some reason, it seems more complicated than the other Slavic languages, but I can’t pinpoint why. It’s still not very clear to me. And what made it worse was that there seem to be exceptions, especially when declining nouns. However, Polish seems regular and is phonetic.
So, no Polish for me, thanks. But a relaxing song to end on a less frustrating note.
SOURCES USED IN THIS POST:
I Kind of Like Languages – Polish Lessons
Transparent Language – Polish Nouns: Gender
Wikipedia – Polish language
Wikibooks – Polish Adjectives
Wikibooks – Polish Verbs
Wiktionary: Polish language – verb conjugation – Class I
COMING UP: Lao