Is it? I don’t think so…Although I’m aware that people everywhere say “Polish is the hardest language to learn”!
It is definitely not the easiest…I think that Polish is a beautiful and interesting language. I heard this from some of my friends – they say they love listening to me speaking Polish and it almost sounds like a music…Well, not music for everyone:) There are a lot of people who always wanted to learn Polish, but gave up after hearing from everyone that it is the hardest…!
What makes Polish so hard?
I’ve seen many reasons given, but almost all of them focus the number grammatical forms:
Nouns can have three genders (some linguists count five)
Each noun and adjective can appear in one of seven cases
Verbs conjugate for gender, person, mood and time (depending on how you count, this makes over 25 forms of every verb)
Verbs come in two aspects (English doesn’t have grammatical aspect)
If some aspect of the language is harder, than some other aspect is easier – or non-existent!
It’s true that there are lots of forms of each individual word in Polish. And it’s true that if you learn Polish, this will be a challenge for you. But many things that would be challenging in other languages AREN’T in Polish!
One of the most difficult pieces of grammar to learn in English, is when to use “the”, “a”, “an” or nothing at all. Unfortunately, for native speakers of English – when other languages also have articles, the rules for using them are frequently totally different!
In Polish, there are no articles! So, you don’t need to worry about them at all.
No word order
In English and many other languages, the order of the words in a sentence is very important to the meaning. “Jan loves Maria” means something different than “Maria loves Jan” and, of course, “loves Maria Jan” is gibberish.
When learning another language, you may encounter a word order different than that of your native language, providing you with an additional challenge.
In Polish, word order is mostly unimportant!
The following sentences all mean the same thing (“Jan loves Maria”):
Jan kocha Marię
Marię kocha Jan
kocha Jan Marię
Marię Jan kocha
You can simply speak as the words come to you and not worry about their order.
There are certain word orders that Poles would consider normal in a specific situation. But they are all understandable! This is used to great effect in music and poetry.
Few verb tenses
In English, we have very few verb forms (ie. the words don’t change much). For example, the verb “do” has only the following five forms: do, does, doing, did, done. But we have lots of verb tenses!
Present simple – I read everyday.
Present continuous – I am reading right now.
Present perfect – I have read this book before.
Present perfect continuous – I have been reading this book for two hours.
Future perfect continuous – At 5 o’clock I will have been reading this book for four hours.
Past simple – I read all day yesterday.
Past continuous – I was reading yesterday.
… and so on! In total, there are 16 tenses.
If you count tenses the same way in Polish, there are only 5! (Poles count them differently, they’d say there are 3 tenses and 2 aspects.) The following sentences: “I read”, “I am reading”, and “I have been reading” – would all be translated into Polish the same way: “czytam”.
So, forming the verb might be harder in Polish. But knowing when to use which tense, is actually a lot easier!
The alphabet is 95% phonetic!
In English, it can be difficult to know how to pronounce a word from it’s spelling. For example, compare the pronunciation of “oo” in the following words: book, soon, door, flood. It’s different in every word! And there’s no way to know that just from looking at them.
On the other hand, the Polish alphabet is almost entirely phonetic. Once you know the rules, you can look at any word and know how to pronounce it.
The opposite isn’t entirely true (hearing a word and knowing how to spell it) but it’s still a lot easier than in English!
Lots of vocabulary with Latin roots
Largely because of its relationship with the Roman Catholic Church, the Latin language has a long history in Poland. Because of this, many words of Latin origin have seeped into the language.
If you speak a language that has borrowed lots of words of Latin origin (like English!), there will be some familiar vocabulary.
For example, many words ending in -cja are directly related to English words ending in -tion:
motywacja – motivation
sytuacja – situation
promocja – promotion
… and many more!
I think these reasons will give you a lot to think about learning Polish:)
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)