Meeting someone new…what to say?

Posted on 11. Aug, 2012 by in Culture, Grammar, Languages, Phrases, Polish Language

Polish uses both formal and informal structures, and it is wise to observe them and try to use them correctly. The informal form of “you” — ty — should only be reserved for friends, and it is always best to use the polite forms pani (Madam) and pan (Sir) when addressing strangers, particularly if they are older than you. It is also a good idea to wait to be invited before addressing anyone senior by his or her first name.

Poland still maintains some customs that have fizzled out elsewhere. “Ladies first” is still the rule in most social situations, and women are usually introduced by a third party before men. Poles take hospitality seriously and will treat any guests with great honor, particularly if they have invited them into their home. While many Poles still hold to social formalities, the Polish also have a great sense of conviviality and are very easygoing in the right environment. You will find that once the ice is broken people are keen to chat, particularly in bars and pubs!

English is widely spoken in the cities and among younger people, but few visitors bother to speak the native tongue, so most Poles will be impressed with those brave enough to speak their complex language!

 Here are some helpful phrases for you:

  Dzień dobry Hello
  Dobry wieczor Good evening  
  Jestem… I am…  
  Jak masz na imię? What is your name? (first name; informal)  
  Jak ma pan/pani na imię? What is your name? (first name; formal; pan if addressing a man; pani if addressing a woman)  
  Jak masz na nazwisko? What is your name? (surname; informal)  
  Jak ma pan/pani na nazwisko? What is your name? (surname; formal; pan if addressing a man; pani if addressing a woman)  
  Jak się nazywasz? What is your name? (full name; informal)  
  Jak się pan/pani nazywa? What is your name? (full name formal; pan if addressing a man; pani if addressing a woman)  
  Mam na imię… My name is… (first name)  
  Mam na nazwisko… My name is… (surname)  
  Nazywam się… My name is… (full name)  
  Miło mi cię poznać Nice to meet you  
  Mnie również Nice to meet you too  
  To jest pan/pani… May I introduce… (pan if a man; pani if a woman)  
  Jak się masz? How are you?  
  U mnie w porządku, dziękuję. I am well, thank you.  
  Dobrze Fine  
  Tak sobie So so  
  Źle/ niedobrze Not so good  
  A pan/pani/ty? And you? (pan if addressing a man; pani if addressing a woman (both formal); ty for either gender informally)  
  Czy pan/pani mówi po angielsku? Do you speak English? (pan if addressing a man; pani if addressing a woman)  
  Mówię po angielsku. I speak English.  
  Proszę powtórzyć? Could you repeat that?  
  Co to znaczy? What does this mean?  
  Jestem Amerykaninem/Amerykanką. I am American. (masculine/feminine)  
  Jestem Kanadyjczykiem/Kanadyjką. I am Canadian. (masculine/feminine)  
  Pan Gentleman/Sir  
  Pani Lady/Madam  
  Ty You  
  Przepraszam Excuse me/Sorry  
  Proszę Please  
  Dziękuję Thank you  
  Do zobaczenia! See you!  
  Na razie See you soon  
  Do widzenia Goodbye  
  Dobranoc Good night
 Cześć                                             Hi/Bye (informal)
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Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

History of the Polish language

Posted on 10. Aug, 2012 by in Grammar, History, Polish Language

As a Slavic language, Polish is part of a different family than English and the Romance languages. Even though Latin has been a significant influence on Polish, it is not at its foundation as it is for many Western European languages. This means that much of the vocabulary, grammatical constructions and sounds are profoundly different than anything English-speakers are used to.

The Polish language could be viewed as having suffered through frequent historical changes of the country’s borders and decades of rule by foreign empires. However, these pressures on Polish nationhood have reinvigorated the language as it became one of the few means of expressing Polishness. Today, Polish literary heroes are honored as guardians of Polish culture and language, and you will find statues of the nineteenth-century poet Adam Mickiewicz on many Polish streets.

Poland adopted Christianity in 966, and the embracing of the Church saw its language of Latin. Additionally, the lingua franca of Western Europe became an influence in Poland. The Old Polish (język staropolski) was the national language, and it took on some words from Latin. In the twelfth century, the Latin alphabet was adopted. However, diacritics (the ogonek (‘little tail’) on ę and ą; the kropka on ż; the kreska on ć, ń, ó, ś, ź; the stroke on ł) were gradually added to the Latin characters in order to denote certain sounds that the western alphabet could not represent, thus retaining a distinctively Polish flavor.

As well as the Church, Poland’s western neighbors also exerted an influence on the language, with Czech an important influence in the tenth century and the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries. A number of words were taken from Czech, like sejm (the name for the lower house of the Polish parliament) and brama (gate). German would also have an impact on the language from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. There were large German populations in some areas of Poland, and the fair measure of cultural interaction between the two countries resulted in some linguistic exchanges.

The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw the beginnings of a consolidation of the Polish language. The Holy Cross Sermons (kazania świętokrzyskie) are the oldest prose texts in Polish that are still in existence, and they are named after the monastery where they were housed. Saint Florian’s Psalter (psałterz floriański), which contains the psalms in Latin, German and Polish, is now in the National Library of Poland, both from the earlier period. Efforts to standardize the language were made in 1440 by Jakub Parkoszowic of the Kraków Academy, who wrote the first Polish orthographic study—the writing of words with standardized letters in a standardized style.

The printing of the first Digest of Polish Law in Kraków in 1488 also signaled that the vernacular language, not just Latin, was being used in official contexts and was taking on a standardized form. 1569 saw the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth established, properly uniting the country and ensuring further moves toward a more standardized Polish. However, the influences of other languages persisted, with the Italian wife of Sigismund of Poland (king from 1506-48) bringing many linguistic and cultural influences to her husband’s realm. (The Polish word for tomato, pomidor, is clearly influenced by the Italian pomodoro, for example.)

Hungarian also had an influence during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, particularly in the southern regions nearest to Hungary. There was the interaction with Ottoman Turkey in the seventeenth century, including the Polish-Ottoman War of 1633-34, and an extensive trading contact during what was Poland’s mercantile golden age saw Turkish words like filiżanka (cup) and dywan (carpet) come into use in Poland.

The troubled history of the Polish state in the eighteenth century has cast a long shadow over the county’s linguistic history. The three successive partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between the rival forces of the Kingdom of Prussia, the Russian Empire, and Habsburg Austria in this century meant that Poland ceased to be an independent state in 1795. With the German-speaking Prussian and Habsburg imperial powers dominating the west of the country, this had an inevitable impact in accelerating the influence that German always had on the Polish language. However, despite the Russian Empire controlling the whole east of the country, Polish remained remarkably untouched by the Russian language. But, there were also other outside influences in this period.

As Napoleon’s expansionist ambitions and the power of the French state in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe grew, French words became part of Polish vocabulary. The words of domestic luxury in particular came from French, like meble (meuble –furniture); abażur (abat-jour – lamp shade); fotel (fauteuil – armchair) and walizka (valise – suitcase). The early part of the nineteenth century also saw the first major Polish dictionary (Dictionary of the Polish Language – Słownik języka polskiego). This dictionary was published in six volumes between 1807-1814, and compiled by Samuel Bogumił Linde, a lexicographer at Warsaw’s Załuski Library—one of the first public libraries in Europe and a mark of Poland’s vibrant eighteenth-century Enlightenment.

During the last two hundred years Poland has only existed as a homogenous state for four decades. After the eighteenth century partitions, Poland didn’t exist at all until the First World War saw the downfall of the occupying powers (Poland as a country emerged after 11/11/1918). This long history of occupation may have influenced the development of a number of different Polish dialects, which still reflect the earlier partitions to some extent, with Silesian spoken in the formerly Austrian southwest, Greater Polish in the west (formerly Prussian), Mazovian in central and eastern Poland (annexed by Russia), and Lesser Polish in the Austrian and Russian-annexed south and southeast.

Surprisingly, these dialects are not very strong and are simply inflections of standard Polish, perhaps a sign of the importance of maintaining a “pure” Polish to the Poles who were living under foreign powers. Modern Polish (współczesny język polski) became an important focus of national identity in 1918 after the Second Polish Republic was destroyed by the Nazis and the Soviet invasions of the Second World War, and then the creation of the Soviet satellite state of the People’s Republic of Poland.

As the communist regime sought to suppress some aspects of Polish culture and taught Russian as a compulsory subject in schools, the power of Polish was increased as a symbol of hope for freedom, and the over forty millions Polish speakers in the world today can be proud of their language, which has survived with its integrity intact against the odds.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Jaka jest pogoda?

Posted on 09. Aug, 2012 by in Calendar, Geography, Grammar, Nature, Phrases, Polish Language

Poland enjoys the full gamut of weather conditions, from hot summers to snowy winters. The Polish weather is known for its changes, so it is best to prepare for all seasons when you pack for your trip! For those looking to explore on foot, May to September is the best time to visit and the best chance of good weather. Many open-air events are held at this time of the year, although the beautiful, colorful fall in Poland, known as the Golden Polish Autumn (Złota Polska Jesień), has many outdoor cultural festivals that also take place later in the year.

Poland is known for its harsh winters, and in some places there is snow on the ground from November to March. This period is also the skiing season, and the resort of Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains offers slopes for taking advantage of the snowy conditions. For those who aren’t interested in winter sports, the winter can still be a great time to visit Poland — the temperatures may be subzero, but the scenery becomes truly magical under a blanket of snow.

Here is a little helpful “weather vocabulary”

Jaka dziś jest pogoda? What’s the weather like today?
Dobra pogoda Nice weather
Zła pogoda Bad weather
Gorąco Hot
Zimno Cold
Ciepło Warm
Słonecznie Sunny
Deszczowo Rainy
Chmura Cloud
Mgła Fog
Błyskawica Lightning
Burza Thunderstorm
Deszcz Rain
Wiatr Wind
Śnieg Snow
Lód Ice
Mróz Frost
Pada deszcz It’s raining
Pada śnieg It’s snowing
Parasol Umbrella
Nieprzemakalny Waterproof
Wilgotny Wet
Suchy Dry
Temperatura Temperature
Mapa pogodowa Weather map
Prognoza pogody Weather forecast
Północ North
Południe South
Wschód East
Zachód West
Wiosna Spring
Lato Summer
Jesień Autumn
Zima Winter


Jest mi zimno I’m cold
Jaki śliczny dzień! What a gorgeous day!
Będzie burza. There’s going to be a storm.
Zmiana pogody na gorszą. A bad turn in the weather.
Piękna/okropna pogoda, prawda? Nice/awful weather, isn’t it?
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Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)