The Importance of Everyday Language

After I had spent a year in France, I could say a lot of stuff in French. For example, I could talk about la libre circulation des marchandises (the free movement of goods). Also, I could explain the role of La Cour internationale de Justice (The International Court of Justice) within Public International Law.

I couldn’t, however, say things like “hey, your shoe strings are untied!” or “I could really go for some crêpes right now!”.
In other words, I hadn’t learned the more colloquial, everyday French – the part of the language that allows you to understand people on the street. Sure, I was still able to somewhat express myself in French – but all within narrow limits.

I realized that I didn’t want that to happen with Polish.

Which is why I keep putting emphasis on colloquial Polish. Before I invest time and energy in learning some vocabulary, I make sure that I can really need the stuff in everyday life.
I do this by choosing my language sources accordingly.

I don’t hesitate to buy and read lowbrow magazines. A weekly like “Polityka” will provide you with a lot of eloquent expressions, but if you restrict yourself to intellectual stuff, you will inevitably sound awkward in ordinary social situations.

A lot of Polish Expressions and everyday conversations can be found online. I compiled a list of different sources that I found to be both entertaining and helpful: – One of the first results if you type the words “dla kobiet” into Google. Has some articles of the kind that you would expect from a women’s magazine, along with some self-tests. – I learned a great deal of English by reading, and I don’t see why this wouldn’t work with Polish, too. Especially since it contains highlights like these:

<sacrum_profanum> kurwa jak pomysle ze mam wstawac w niedziele o 6 rano to chuj mnie strzela normalnie
<Ja> a po co tak rano?
<sacrum_profanum> do roboty kurwa
<Ja> a gdzie pracujesz?
<sacrum_profanum> ksiedzem jestem

( – As you might already know, foreign movies don’t really get dubbed into Polish. Instead, they invented the use of a “Lektor”. This basically means that one guy will read all the dialogues in Polish while you can still faintly hear the original sound in the background. In other words, avoid this stuff at all costs (especially all love scenes) if you cling to your sanity.

However, there are also subtitles in Polish that allow you to just read the translations of films and series you probably already know. One resource for this is the above-mentioned link. If you want to try a Google search, go for “napisy po polsku“.

There are also some genuinely Polish series and films. A Google search for “scenariusze” (“scenariusz” means “script”) gives you some results for classical Polish films such as “Rejs” or “Seksmisja“.
There is also a quite popular “serial” called “Świat według Kiepskich“. It is a sitcom centered around a somewhat dysfunctional family that lives in Wrocław. The setting is thus quite similar to “Married… with children” (in Polish “Świat według Bundych“). You will find some memorable quotes at Wikiquote and in the according forum: –  Everyday wisdom in the form of Polish demotivationals. – A Polish forum with discussions about just everything. – A satirical site with a wide range of subjects.

And, if you are a linux user: here is a collection of Polish fortunes.

All those links are great sources for Khatzumoto’s ‘10,000 sentences’ system which he explains in great detail here.

Published in: on July 11, 2011 at 4:37 pm  Comments (1)  

Udawaj, że jesteś native speakerem!*

(* Pretend that you’re a native speaker!)

Some time ago I chatted with a guy from Poland. After some time chatting in Polish he asked me something that really made me smile:

“Długo mieszkasz w Niemczech?”

He actually thought that I was originally from Poland. No need to make a big deal out of this though, since it doesn’t tell so much about my language skills than about the fact that only very few people bother learning Polish as a foreign language. After all, it comes down to probability. Plus, he could only assess my written Polish; my accent still gives me clearly away as a non-native.

Nevertheless, I really like it when people assume that I’m a native speaker of their language.

I like it because certain facts tend to cloud the judgment of other people. They tend to adjust themselves when they are aware that they’re talking to a non-native speaker, all the more if that non-native speaker happens to be from a country they don’t like.
(And this is the very same reason why I post in some forums with a gender-neutral nick…)

Also, it poses kind of a challenge for me: how long can I pretend in a conversation/or a chat that I’m a native? I’ll be more attentive to mistakes I may make, and that in turn helps my concentration – kind of fake it till you make it. Oooh, and don’t forget the secret agent-feeling.

And finally, I guess it’s also a matter of identification – though I’m not sure to what extent this issue applies to other people. Some people just love a certain culture and its language so much that they just want to pretend that they’re (already) part of it – and no longer a foreigner.

The question “Why lie about being a native speaker” is being discussed in the HTLAL-Forum; the according thread can be found here.

Published in: on July 5, 2011 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment