Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Earlier this week, I told some friends that learning Polish makes me want to drink – EVERY DAY!

I’ve been taking intensive Polish classes for 2+ months now (which is why the blog has been a little more quiet lately) here in Warsaw. I thought Level 1 was alright as I learned some of the language basics, and I passed with flying colors.

But now, I’ve hit a major roadblock in Level 2.

Jestem zła!” (I am angry!)

I’ve even told my teacher and my private tutor this! Polish makes me angry!

Polish is by far the most difficult language I’ve had to learn so far in my expat life. (I also knew some Spanish, French and Italian before we moved abroad.) I thought learning Turkish was awful, but I was wrong. Turkish has a few rules and made sense once you understand those rules. As my Turkish teacher always said, Turkish is “çok ekonomik!” He was right!

But Polish has more rules than I can or want to understand! Just when I think I understand a little, the endings change and then they change again! Why?

And there’s like 6 different verbs to say I go. Why?

Don’t even get me started about the cases – nominative, accusative, dative, instrumental and genitive  – I don’t even know what the hell these things are in English!

I just want to learn enough Polish that will help me in my every day life just like I learned enough Turkish to help me when we lived in Istanbul. I want to be able to communicate!
Yesterday, I made my own Polish flashcards at home.
Polish also makes me angry because I just want to get it! I’ve always been a good student, so the fact that I can’t understand it makes me angry. I either want to cry or go have a drink!

I basically need to memorize the phrase in Polish and forget asking why.

At least, I have learned enough Polish so I can go to the market and not look like a foreign idiot anymore. Most Poles seem happy that I’m trying to speak Polish and will repeat something for me if I don’t understand, especially the numbers.

I’ll keep trying to learn Polish. Yavaş, yavaş.

At the end of the day, at least I can go to a bar and say “dwa duże piwo proszę.”

The bartender doesn’t care that I didn’t conjugate the endings correctly.

Thanks for listening to my rant!

NOTE: A huge thanks to the Polish website/forum called Inside-Poland for republishing my article about learning Polish! Here's the link to that article: 

Finding Polish a Difficult Language to Master? Don't Worry, You're Not Alone!

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kami said...

I don't think I can say anything to make you feel better as Polish is just damn difficult to learn... the grammar is insane, then there's the pronunciation that is even crazier! I have to struggle a little now when learning Czech and Russian as even if they are similar there're still all these damn rules and endings to learn. And I don't even know them in Polish, I just know how things go in this language and that's it...
That said I found English the easiest language to learn, ever! Don't understand people complaining about it!

BacktoBodrum said...

I'm with you on this - I'm learning Greek and the genders and way the verb changes completely with different tenses is soooo difficult to grasp.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i feel your pain. i am doing rosetta stone polish...eesh! and i am good with languages. i think it can only be done by spending lots of time around people speaking it. now you know why poles had such a bad time in america. we could all understand the irish and learn a few words of italian but no one picked up any polish. it made it harder for them to communicate and therefore got slammed with all the polish jokes. hang in there! it will take time.

Unknown said...

The plural in Nominative of "piwo" is "piwa". That's why you should say: "dwa (2) piwa, proszę". However, when you want more than four, the noun is in Genitive, so it is: "pięć (5) piw" :))
All the Slavic languages are difficult, because they're inflected ones. I think that Russian is more difficult than Polish because of its spelling and different accents in words.
Good luck! Have a nice learning! :)

Cuisine de Provence said...

Oh Joy, this doesn't sound easy at all! About time you come to France and relax a bit and we have great wine here, too!

Umbereen said...

no way- I actually think Turkish is super hard so wouldn't even want to try learning Polish. Although the good thing about Turkey is that you need to know how to say very few things to get around and get kudos from the locals for trying :)

Manya said...

I learned Russian in college and found it difficult, but doable. I was surprised when I visited Krakow in 2004 and was able to order a beer successfully in Polish! (but, my mom's family is Polish, and I had a slight leg up on this) That old saw about "practice,practice,practice" still applies; don't worry about the locals. They are just happy you make an attempt. I find they are always happy to help and correct you. If you can shop, ask directions, ask for help and order food, you are doing well!

Joy said...

@Kami, Thanks for your encouragement! ;-) I have a really tough time with the przy combo, dz, and sh and ch sounds.

Interesting to hear you say that about English, but maybe after learning Polish anything is possible! Hope to meet up soon!

@Annie, Good luck! Oh, Polish verbs have genders too. I forgot to mention that!

@Joyce, I used Rosetta Stone for Turkish and did find it useful. We didn't do it this time as we are spending more money on classes for me instead. Thanks for your encouragement too!

@Bartosz, Ha...thanks for the grammar lesson! I'll never get some of those things. :) I'm sure Russian, Korean and Chinese would be much more difficult to learn! But Polish is definitely up there for me!

@Barbara, Yes, we can't wait til June! I need to email you our dates that we will be in your neck of the woods soon!

@Umbereen, Trust me, I thought Turkish was difficult at first until the rules made sense. I love the fact that I could just tack endings onto one word to make an ENTIRE sentence. Indeed, cok ekonomik! The Poles also seem to appreciate the lil bit of Polish I've learned too.

@Manya, Happy to see your comments! It's been awhile! ;-) I'm striving for those exact things you mentioned...practical Polish. To say, today is sunny, the weather is beautiful, I'm hungry or I want 4 apples. I doubt I'll ever use the past tense of some of the verbs I've learned except for ja and wy forms!

Lois B said...

I'm making my second attempt to learn Polish; I feel your pain!

Unknown said...

I love the way you sound so angry!!!xxxx

Unknown said...

I totally get your frustration. I have lived in Poland for 10 years and still am nowhere near fluent. I speak quite well but I kind of gave up on understanding the why's and on getting things perfect. Sorry but there is no reason that numbers need so many forms. In English you have two forms of the number two in Polish there are: 1. dwa
2. dwie
3. dwoje
4. dvoch (or dwu)
5. dwaj
6. dwiema
7. dwom (or dwóm)
8. dwoma
9. dwojga
10. dwojgu
11. dwojgiem
12. dwójka
13. dwójki
14. dwójkę
15. dwójką
16. dwójce
17. dwójko

Ugh, I give up.

polonyadaturczynka said...

Learning Polish la not repeat words. People speak so fast or I have some problem with my ears.
I have book which name is Polish doesnt bite! hahha but it really bites!

Joy said...

@Lois, Good luck! I left today's class feeling so frustrated. The past and present tense of verbs are sooo irregular! I can't keep them straight! More pracy w domu to do instead I guess. :-(

@Danielle, Huge kudos to you for spending 10 years on learning Polish! Wow! I'm totally with you on why do the endings have to change so often? I don't get it, and I can't even imagine that many different ways to say "two."

Like you said, forget about getting things perfect, I just want to be able to converse in some basic Polish.

@Polonyada Turczynka, I also own Polish Doesn't Bite! I have found some good exercises in the book, but yes, Polish is very difficult language. Good luck!

Valentina VK said...

hello hello,,,im an expat in warsaw too since a year but as i blog in italian i ended up here just today by chance!im struggling too with language!

Joy said...

Cześć! Great to hear from you! I have a Belgian friend here married to an Italian. I'm sure she would love to read your blog. What is it?

And yes, I'm still struggling with Polish very much! :-(

Magda said...

I can't imagine learning Polish, you are really so brave. I can only recommend trying to get the rhythm, as I can't imagine learning all the conjugations and such. All Polish know that our language is really difficult, so just try. And listen and read as much as possible. Maybe start signing some Polish songs :)
Being perfectionist in languages is not useful. I would love to speak/write perfect English, but then I wouldn't talk at all.
Good luck.

Joy said...

@Magda, dziękuję bardzo! Again! Tak, I am trying and most Poles are pretty kind to me when they see I am trying. I go to Hala Mirowska 1-2 times a week and that's a great place to practice my Polish! :-)

All the different endings is what I'm having the most problems with, but at least I have a bunch of verbs and basic vocabulary that I've learned so far. :-)

Magda said...

Markets are really good to practice.
Don't worry about endings, I've been learning German and they have only 4 cases, no endings but articles were changing according to it. I wasn't able to process what case, what gender it is and then pick the right article, so I was just guessing hoping the one that feels good is good :)
Powodzenia i udanych zakupów w Hali Mirowskiej

Sara Louise said...

My head is exploding for you in solidarity! And this also makes me very thankful that my husband is French and not Polish ;)

Joy said...

@Sara Louise, even my French is better than my Polish. Well, at least my culinary French! :-)

Unknown said...

I can totally relate to it. I also do easy polish learning at and it was really hard for me at first.

Anonymous said...

My name is Frankie and I was in Poland when I was looking for job on holiday. During this period I decided to try to learn their language, what I thought couldn’t be easy. I went to school Polish language (called Prolog, if anyone of you need more information, you’ll find them here: and I started with no expectations (zero, really). But now I’m really glad that I did it. I met a lof of wonderful people (kind teachers and students from all over the world), I learned this language very quickly and that was amazing experience.