Polish Language Blog

Polish Grammar – what’s the best way to explain it? Posted by on Aug 16, 2009 in Grammar

Every so often I am being accused that my grammar explanations are too simplistic, too crude and too “for dummies.” That I don’t use proper linguistic, or grammatical, (or whatever those long and useless terms in “serious” grammar books are called) terminology in my blog posts and that basically, it looks like I mock the subject whenever possible. Eeegadz. Really?

Oddly enough, whenever such complaints come (via email normally, not in the comments section on this blog) they come from native Polish speakers. And boy, are those speakers furious!

So, I thought it might be time to address this issue. And of course, as always, to ask your (meaning ALL my readers, not just the Polish natives who read this blog) opinion, because if there are problems with how I explain grammar, then I better rectify this issue, and I better do it fast.

So let’s begin.

  • 1.    Do I mock grammar? Far from it, actually. Actually, I’m terrified of the thing. Really. If you’re terrified of something, you generally try to avoid any contact with it whenever possible. Just like you’d do with your neighbor’s rottweiler. If you try mocking it, you may lose an arm. That’s how I feel about grammar. Except that instead of an arm, I may lose the chance to write this blog. And I wouldn’t want that to happen.
  • 2.    The lack of proper terminology. Hmmm… If that’s what you want, then read Prof. Swan’s “Polish Grammar” book. He has that terminology bit covered. Trust me! I do try to smuggle proper names for things whenever possible, but I try to do it in such a way that wouldn’t scare too much a casual learner of the language (and reader of this blog). You know, the person who just wants to study it for fun and pleasure and to communicate with the cute Polish girl next door. Also, and it’s been my experience when learning a couple of other foreign languages, many people simply don’t know any proper grammar-book terminology at all. Not even in their native lingo.
  • 3.    And that brings us to my “too simplistic” approach and “for dummies” explanations. Oh yeah? It’s easy for you to say, native Poles, but do you realize that there is a difference in how grammar is taught to native and non-native speakers of the language? Also, another thing to consider are the levels of my readers. Some are advanced learners, or already speak Polish perfectly, and some are just starting out on their Polish language adventure. And of course, I want to keep everybody happy. And let’s be realistic – it’s Polish grammar we’re talking about here. Might as well try explaining quantum physics. Though incidentally, there are nice popular science books dealing with quantum physics, explaining it in a fun and easy to understand way. The fact that there aren’t any for Polish grammar should tell you something…

And now, of course, I want to know what I should do. Should I make my grammar posts more serious and sophisticated, use fancy terminology and treat them with the respect they deserve? Or should I keep them as they are, even if Polish natives will no doubt complain that they are “for dummies”? It’s entirely up to YOU!

PS. And just so we are perfectly clear how I feel about my neighbor’s rottweiler – I hate that beast.

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  1. russ:

    “there are nice popular science books dealing with quantum physics, explaining it in a fun and easy to understand way. The fact that there aren’t any for Polish grammar should tell you something…”

    Ha! Good one. I need to remember that quote… 🙂

    As for your approach to grammar – this blog seems intentionally informal and not into technical details. That’s your style, and I wouldn’t attempt to change to become more formal. You can’t please everyone, after all, no matter how you do it. So write your blog the way that is most enjoyable for you.

    For me, a mixture of learning approaches is useful, and indeed there are plenty of other sources for more comprehensive serious coverage of grammar, so I look at them when I’m in the mood for hardcore grammar info.

  2. inda:

    NO for serious and sophisticated grammar posts. If I want scientific expressions I have plenty books to check.
    I come here because of the informal style, because I consider that learning Polish is actually fun and all you need is good explanations and examples and not scientific language to it.
    I would like to thank you here for the good work so far and keep it up!

  3. Malin:

    I am currently struggling with Polish stylistics, a subject that I unfortunately find less than exciting. And sometimes, Polish grammar can make you very, very tired, regardless of whether you are familiar with all the fancy and sophisticated terminology. I visit this blog because I enjoy the informal and relaxed atmosphere and it’s nice to take a break from ‘hardcore grammar’, as russ so accurately put it 🙂

    As such, I agree with the above posters. And I also think that it takes way more skill and commitment to convey necessary information in a way that is both enjoyable and instructive, without indulging in terminology overkill. Your way of presenting information, or just blogging about aspects of Poland and its language and culture, is the reason why I keep coming back. Please keep up the good work!

  4. Basia:

    You have a lively, interactive blog with lots of followers who ask questions, post nice comments, and sometimes even interact with each other without you! What does this tell you? People like this blog and your style of commenting/instructing.

    You worry that perhaps your explanations are too simple and short. A concise (and funny) explanation is devilishly difficult to write and you do it wonderfully. Your anecdotes and funny examples help to cement certain grammatical facts in my head…. much more fun to remember your examples than Swan’s.

    Keep up the great job (and stop listening to the critics).


  5. Kuba:

    You always hear from the critics first. Many others just don’t respond. But I think the majority of the people who follow you appreciate the knowledge you pass on. And when you are dealing with beginners to experts it is a rough job to meet all their expectations. And you know the Poles,,,,,,,,


  6. Michael:

    I am happy with things as they are, I wouldn’t read this blog otherwise and it is growing as far as I can see.

    There are many linguistic books out there for people who are interested in languages and the technical parts of them.

    I am not sure if native Polish speakers like others learning their language.

  7. russ:

    “I am not sure if native Polish speakers like others learning their language.”

    Why would a native Polish speaker not like others learning Polish? I’ve never encountered such a negative attitude from a native Polish speaker.

  8. Michael:

    Not all Polish people are like this but there is a small minority.

    I better stop digging now! 🙁

  9. sila:

    i like things the way they are!

    you are funny and light and a pleasure to read!

    i like when you mix terms in polish in your text much more than when you try to teach us plain grammar;

    what to say about proper terminology?

    no way!

    be the way you are, please!

  10. Nan:

    I am so pleased that you are available to help a newbie like me. I never had the chance to really know grandpap. You give me a pleasant learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Don’t change.
    All the best wishes,

  11. Natasha_TLadmin:

    Dear angry Polish native speakers, we love Anna! Anna, don’t change a thing!

  12. Edward:

    I’m only a learner and am very happy with what you are providing, forget about the natives, keep up the good work.

  13. Emma:


    Please, please, please don’t change the way that you explain polish grammar! To a newbie polish learner like me you explanations make things easier to understand. I have looked at some explanations with all their technical grammar terms and they make me want to run away and hide…but yours make learning enjoyable and make me want to learn more!

    Emma x

  14. mandolinlady:

    No No!! Please stay as you are! I am learning Polish on my own, slowly, and I hope, surely. I don’t mind being a dummy. As we say in England-
    ” keep it simple….. stupid!”

  15. Marge:

    I am with the other folks who posted their comments. I thoroughly enjoy your style.

    If the natives want technical style let them start their own blog 🙂

  16. David Honley:

    Hi Anna!
    You do just fine re grammar explanations. If people require full-blown explanations then there are other resources available to fulfill such needs. Your blog is fun and informal – keep it that way! You never set out to be Oscar Swan whose work may be consulted whenever stringent grammar needs dictate. Your blog is great just the way it is. Many many thanks.

  17. Bonnie:

    Please don’t change the blog. I’m in my 50’s and trying to teach my grandchildren ( as I learn myself ) about their heritage, and expose them to new languages / challenge their minds.

    For me, I never was taught “Datative, etc ” in school, just past perfect, future imperfect, etc. I’m a visual learner, so more examples would benefit me, or link me to more of the fundamentals. I’ve downloaded Dr. Swan’s book from the net, and that’s a tough read without a formal instructor.

    Thanks for the time and effort you put into this blog site. It’s appreciated.


  18. anna:

    I can tell you, I am very content the way you explain the grammar of the Polish language.
    Certainly for foreigners who are trying to learn this difficult language, So I do not understand the criticism about your method of explaining the polish grammar.


  19. John:

    I wish I could remember a tenth of your explanations and I am happy I found this site. Keep it up, I like it the way you explain grammer.

  20. Tohamyelmasry:

    I am very happy with this, It’s very important for us.

    There are many linguistic books out there for people who are interested in languages and the technical parts of them.

    I am not sure if native Polish speakers like others learning their language.

  21. Gabriel:

    I don’t have any complaints about the way you focus on that crazy polska gramatyka, hehe. You’re doing a good job, keep on rocking!