About “Hacking Polish”
I’m originally from Italy, but I’m currently living in Wrocław.
I don’t speak any Polish, but I’m trying to learn it. I try to study grammar by myself, + I somewhat seldomly see a language tutor. I’m not really a language nerd, although I did learn English by myself when I lived in Miami for a few years.
This is a website dedicated to my journey into learning the Polish language.
Why this blog
First of all, I’m writing this blog this for myself. Since I was little, the few times I studied something seriously I’d write down what I picked up after reading it, to really get it into my long-term memory and make sure I actually comprehended it (can’t explain it if you don’t understand it, right?).
Then, I noticed that there is a lot of stuff out there to learn Polish, but it’s–and possibly for good reasons–all created by people who are either Polish, or already know Polish extremely well.
I thought mine would be a different point of view on the whole thing, with a few differences (dare to say advantages?) over traditional learning tools:
- I can relate to not understanding what we’re talking about–I just learned this. This *might* allow me to explain things in simpler terms
- the pace of learning is just right, because the curriculum is based on what I was actually able to learn (and trust me–I’m no genius)
- I’m in Poland without knowing the language, I know what you need to survive and I’m starting from that. It’s the important parts, only/first
I’m not saying this is awesome (or even useful) to learn Polish, but if anything it’s another tool you can use to learn.
Understand how it actually works, and why
I’m obsessed with actually understanding things. My memory isn’t very good, so if I don’t understand _why_ things are the way they are, I won’t remember.
For this reason, you’ll see me break down the subject at hand until I actually understand why it’s the way it is, or at least how it relates to everything else.
Many language courses start with teaching you greetings, and happily continue showing you features of the language like it makes any sense to just memorize predefined sentences and repeat them like a parrot. That’s useless to me. I don’t need greetings, because I can just wave my hand as I enter a store (or whatever). I actually need to know how the different parts of a sentence work, so that I can make up my own sentences, and say the random things I want to say without being limited by my “library” of memorized predefined stuff.
Ranting apart (sorry about that), the point is to comprehend or even master as many features of the language as possible, so that you have the proficiency to use/bend them to your specific needs.
Learn things in order
Another thing with the material I found out there while trying to learn Polish that left me confused is that things are often explained in the wrong order.
What I mean is that they leave important stuff out, and then casually introduce it later on, even if it invalidates what you learned so far. For instance, you can learn how to conjugate verbs and you think you know verbs, and then chapters later they tell you about tenses, like “oh, but remember the thing we said about conjugating verbs? It’ not like that because you also have tenses”.
If I need to know X and Y in order to understand Z, I would think that X and Y come _before_ Z in the curriculum, so that you know how Z works. Instead, many times they tell you about Z, then Y, then X, and then they go back to Z again to fix the gaps you have because you didn’t know X.
With my tutor’s help, I made a list of all the stuff you _absolutely_ need to know to learn Polish, and grouped it into milestones. We then tried to sort milestones so that features of the language that depend on each other are introduced in the right order.
The goal is to make it so that we never encounter a language feature before all the ones it depends on. If you need to know genders in order to learn how adjectives work, you’ll learn genders first.
Learn only what you actually need
Another thing that I believe is important is to make sure you learn what you actually need _first_.
It’s already hard enough as it is, I don’t think we need to take time and energy away from important stuff to learn things we won’t use.
Since I’m in Poland without speaking the language–and I do get out of the house sometimes, I know what you might possibly need because I happened to need it and didn’t know it. In the curriculum you’ll find things you actually need, and–when possible–sorted by how important they are (nope, greetings are not first).
There’s always time to get better
So, not a lot of people either speak or want to speak English, here. I can’t afford to spend the next 2 years learning grammar.
I just want to kind of hack the language to be able to survive.
If it’s good enough for people to understand what I’m saying it’s good enough for me, and I’ll move on to the next thing.
For instance, there are about 20 (or maybe it just feels like) slightly different ways to pronounce
S. If I can reduce that to just 2 more noticeably different ways and people understand me, as far as I’m concerned there are only 2 ways to pronounce
Z. When I won’t feel like an idiot because I can’t ask for a bag at the grocery store anymore, I can think about the other 18.
There’s always time to get better 🙂