Polish Language Course or Self-Study? Posted by on Apr 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

It’s official! I have the best readers in the world here. And this is no exaggeration. Your comments make my life so much easier. Not to mention – making my blog posts easier, too.

I wanted to thank all of you for taking the time to comment. Sometimes your comments are very extensive and contain more grammatical information than I’m willing to look for and provide. You know that I’m not fond of grammar. And teaching grammar is something that I always avoid, regardless of the language involved. That’s why I appreciate every single comment and explanation you provide.

I am very fortunate to have readers like you. And I am even more fortunate to have fabulous readers who are native Polish speakers as well. Poles, by and large, are very proud of their language’s grammar and like to demonstrate their expertise in this tough subject whenever possible. I am a very pitiful exception to this rule.

This became painfully apparent during my flight from Tokyo to Copenhagen yesterday. I was seated next to a young Japanese girl who lives in Ireland and has a Polish boyfriend there. Hi Kaori!!!

She is busy learning Polish in order to be able to communicate with her boyfriend’s family, who don’t speak English. Kaori is not attending any courses and is doing it entirely as a self-study program using her boyfriend and “Teach Yourself Polish”. And while she gets a lot of help from her guy, she says that this incomprehensible grammar of ours trips both of them up nearly every time.

So, here’s my question to you. How do you learn the language? Do you study alone? Or do you think that attending a Polish language course is a better option?

Personally, I firmly believe that a language course is indispensable. I wouldn’t attempt to learn a foreign language by myself. I know it’s not for me, because I’ve tried and failed miserably. The discipline is just not there.

I’d like to make a list of Polish language classes and courses for individual students (not university programs) all over the world. Yes, I know such a list would need to be constantly updated, but I am willing to give it a try. I think it would provide a great resource for those of us who want to learn Polish but need that extra help of a trained instructor. Because our amazing commenters and readers can only get us so far.

There are plenty of Polish language classes for foreigners in Poland, but what about those who want to learn our beautiful (if a bit incomprehensible) language in other countries? Any particular classes you’d like to recommend? In the coming days I’ll be calling to different places and trying to gather information. But in the meantime, if there are any classes/courses you are familiar with, please share the details with us! Thank you!

  • kurs językowy – language course (in general)
  • kurs języka polskiego – Polish language course
  • kurs (noun, masculine, plural: kursy) – course
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  1. Heidi:

    I work with a private tutor who is based in Poland (and I am in California) to study Polish, my husband’s language. We use skype as our communication tool which is fairly reliable. Only difficulty is the limited hours we have to schedule meetings due to the time difference.

    Also for grammar, I think Dana Bielec’s Basic Polish, Intermediate Polish, etc books are the best. Although I dont think I would find them as helpful without someone guiding me through the language.

    My tutor:

  2. spongebob:

    I found out about the imperatives!
    pages 73-74 there is good explanation how to make imperatives in this file:

    I know some polish speakers who help me with the language. I use byki, I watch TV a little, I read a bit on the internet, I watch You tube sometimes.

    I try to make my own sentances and have them corrected, I downloaded some grammer resources from

    I don’t know of any courses in my area.

  3. chris:

    I think self study is absolutely the best way to go until you get yourself to a near intermediate level, then getting a private tutor is worth it. Sucking down too much grammar is bad and will confuse you too much in the beginning, especially in a inflexive language like Poland. Listening and reading are the keys, listening and reading a lot…

  4. Deborah:

    let me first say, I love LOVE your blog!! Great info, great easy-going humorous
    way of communicating it!!! I have to recommend the Pimsleur language system.
    I have been using it to learn German and I love it. They claim that you don’t need
    any experience with the language, but being very visually oriented I need to see
    the words that I’m learning so I know how to pronounce them. So, I’m not sure how
    good they would be for someone like me to just start from the begninning
    without knowing ANY Polish. Since I had two semesters of German, I started in
    the Intermediate level of the Pimsleur and it is a wonderful wonderful
    language learning tool! They are expensive, but I check them out for free from my
    local public library!! Good Luck!! (I will be using the Polish version in June as I will
    be first in Munich for a month, then in Krakow for a few days and I really need to
    brush up on my Polish!!! so if I have time, I’ll update you on the Polish Pimsleur.)

  5. John:

    I studied formally studied for 2 years at the University of Pittsburgh and traveled to Poland every year. Classmates that didn’t do that never had a command of the language. So I would recommend both formal training and self teaching and, most importantly, placing yourself in situations where you have to speak Polish and people are kind enough to correct you. Since I live in the USA and only must speak when I travel to Poland every two years, I don’t speak it well but can get along in Poland.

  6. Kathy Gaudry:

    I live in Idaho and studied Polish by myself for about a year and struggled. I found a lady who is native Polish and she teaches me for about 2 hours a week–that has helped tremendously. Other aids that I use: where I have met some really great Polish people who conscientiously correct (kindly) my stumbling Polish; working through a myriad of Polish texts, the best of which is Teach Yourself Polish by Corbridge-Patkaniowska (out of print); listening to tons of Polish language cds and also Polish radio and tv (available by satellite). I don’t think anyone should underestimate the difficulty of Polish, but to me, it is worth the effort!
    I also look forward to the Polish Blog–you add such interest to grammar, the people, the culture, the lifestyle! Always fun and informative to read! I actually print out every one of them and add them to my Polish “library.” Thank you!

  7. russ:

    I took a year of Polish for foreigners at a university in Poland. I’m a left-brained visual-oriented geek who learns grammar more easily than most people, but my listening comprehension skills are much worse than most people’s. The classes were mostly about grammar and vocabulary, so I learned a lot of grammar and did well on tests and reading and writing, but I understood what people were saying the worst in my class, which was of course frustrating. I still often have trouble understanding ordinary conversation, even though I can speak somewhat competently. E.g. if I watch a Polish film, I understand very little, but if I watch a foreign film and read the Polish subtitles, I understand a lot more.

    Plus I can learn grammar just as well reading books at home. So I decided there was no point spending a fair amount of money for classes that weren’t addressing my major weakness as much as I needed. Nowadays I do self-study at home (including listening to radio and podcasts) and ordinary conversations with Poles to try to improve my listening comprehension, instead of paying for courses to do that.

    So anyway, I agree with you that a class can be very useful for getting the groundwork of a language, but also be sure you’re getting what you need out of the class once you’re past the basics.

  8. JohnH:

    I studied using CD-based courses for a couple of years, mainly listening on the train or whilst driving. Most practice was on people I met on the train and around town. By the time my wife and I visited Poland I was comfortable enough with the language to get by, which was very fortunate as we stayed places where only Polish (and a little Russian) was understood.

    Since then, I have had evening classes through Cactus ( or in London. The tutor I had (Anna Walczyńska) was very good indeed. I’ve stopped having lessons for the moment as I am simply too busy, but will go back for more later in the year. Note though, that for me, I found having classes and doing self-study difficult to do at the same time. For me, it seems to be one or the other at any time.

  9. James:

    I have been learning Polish for nearly 2 years through a combination of self study and a language class. I attend the Brasshouse Language Centre in Birmingham UK and cannot recommend the classes there highly enough. Thanks too Anna for these blogs. I find them very helpful.

  10. Patricia:

    I have taken a language course at my hometown University, and spent a month in Warsaw, taking the language course for foreigners at Warsaw University. Extra books: a lot! Many books with grammar, useful sentences, dialogues, etc. In Warsaw I bought a couple of books that my teacher used during class (Hurra! Po Polsku!).
    Taking the course absolutely improved my knowledge of the Polish language. Learning the language in the country where it is spoken most is an extra dimension for improvement!

  11. John:

    This is exactly what I implied. Taking classes will teach basics but going out and talking to real people is essential to learning a language. A favorite joke played on tourists are the purchasing of those books which people can ask questions as “where does the bus stop?” in the language of choice. But if the native responds with “walk three blocks and make a left, look for the bus stop sign and then wait for the 103 bus” you are lost in trying to figure out the answer to your question.
    Nothing forces you to learn the language of the people as necessity. Lose the interpretor, get lost or hungry, and you will learn!

  12. Chris:

    Hello 🙂

    I love reading your blog. I am currently in the level 100 Polish course at the University of Michigan. It has been very challenging, but I want to continue learning.

    My request here is a little different. I am also a student of the Japanese language and I have studied it for 5 years. I thought it was so cool that you met that Japanese girl Kaori with the Polish boyfriend. I would love to be in email contact, or some type of penpal system there since I think it would be a cool language connection!

    Do you mind introducing the two of us?

    I don’t know if my email will show but here it is again,

    I am on Facebook too ( I dont know if that makes a difference)

    Thank you for the great blog!


  13. Gabriel:

    I agree that a course is indispensable, because it’s useful to have a teacher who can explain and give examples for every concept, but also I think that self-study works well for those who can’t find a polish course – that’s my case, I don’t know where I can find a polish course here in Vitória (in Brazil).

    The best part in the self-study is the freedom we have to create and apply our own methods to learn.

  14. Raf:

    Keeping loading on the praise! 🙂

  15. David Honley:

    Hi Anna!
    I’m a bit late with my comment but here goes. I’ve been studying Polish for 4 years now. I live in SE England. Polish courses in a classroom environment are notoriously hard to come by in the UK (unless one lives close to London). 4 years ago I completed a 5-day intensive course in Northumberland – very good but expensive. I presently attend a corse in Windsor, evening class at East Berkshire College.
    I use books, CDs, the Internet, Rosetta Stone and anything else I can lay my hands on in the attempt to learn your beautiful but everso difficult language. Your Polish blog and the ‘Polish word of the day’ are great resources. Many thanks. Please see website addresses below re some course availability in the UK:
    1) (Recommended but expensive)


    NB – 1) and 2) go together



    Serdecznie pozdrawiam

  16. Thomas F. Westcott:

    Hello Anna,

    When available I would recomend a formal class setting. Last year I was able to attend Jan Matejko Polish Saturday School. I know that I benefited from the structured enviroment of the classroom. The discipline of meeting at the same time and place every week forced me to learn some. Completing assignments for class helped as well. is their website.

    Now I am limited to Self-Study as I now live in Mountain Home, Idaho (USA) whereas that school was in Wauconda, Illinois (the school has since moved to MacHenry, Illinois).

    In my opinion, one of the best ways to learn Polish or any other language is to have someone talking to you in that language everyday. With a native speaker one eventually gets the sound of the language. By frequent repition of common, everyday situations one developes a sense of the correct meaning. An example is greetings One can learn that cześź is different from dzień dobry because good will be used elsewhere in conversation as affirmative and that one can have a bad day or a ‘it’s not a good day’. The shake of one’s head while expressing it is not a good day conveys the negative meaning even if one does not understand all the vocabulary. The positive and negative aspect of day thus diferntiates good day from hello as a greeting. One then comes to understand the correct meaning of cześź as hello.
    Another example is proszę which is please. If someone hands you a cup of coffee every morning and says prosze, then one gets the meaning of here ( handing something to someone). The use of language in context with actions of a specific situation does carry meaning and that is cultural.

    So much of language is culturally based. That Is why I like your blog so much. 🙂 It helps me to understand the Polish culture.

    I can not over stress the importance of sound especially with associating sound with writting.
    To read phonetically is so very important because we often think with sounds. If that connection is not made early on then it is like learning two languages, one spoken and one written.

    Anna, it should be noted here that people learn differently. That is by seeing, by hearing, and by doing. So one method of learnig will be better for some but is not the best for all.

    Please keep blogging because: it helps me learn the language, it helps me understand relatives, it helps me to communicate, and it helps to bring people closer together.

    Thanks, Thomas.

  17. Donna Robinson:

    Super site! I have taken a first college level course in Polish and I have 2 interesting CDs of Polish learning software. I receive Polish TV and radio by satellite. I can understand most of what is said when reading and listening. My problem is that I would like to WRITE in Polish. The special accents pose a problem in sending email, etc if the software used to compose is not compatable with the receiver. My greatest problem is that when I go to write I can think of the words I want to use but not how to spell them. By the time I look them up, I’ve lost the urge to write. Any suggestions?

  18. John:

    I will be going to Poland in July for 2 months. I tell the people that I meet to please correct me when I speak. This time instead of just repeating the correct version I promise to write the correct version too. Maybe this way I can improve. However, I cannot still, after 33 years, understand Polish news or programs. I think it is because I know the words that I know and I don’t know the words they are using. I do listen in on conversations and try to understand. But I only get the gist. Zobaczimy co bedzie!

  19. Marlena Olechowska:

    bardzo interesujący blog. Jestem nauczycielką języka polskiego dla cudzoziemców od 6 lat. Bardzo się cieszę, że lubicie mój język