Polish Language Blog

Wredna gramatyka – evil grammar Posted by on Jul 16, 2009 in Grammar

When learning a new language, grammar is one of those hideous things that you’re stuck – with regardless of how much you may despise it (or not). Kind of like taxes, as my friend sometimes says.

And it seems that when it comes to foreign grammars, Polish rates quite high on the hate-o-meter. I’m not all that surprised. While it may come more or less intuitively to the natives (I mean grammar, not hate), even we tend to make plenty of embarrassing mistakes when speaking our mother language.

So, what’s a foreigner supposed to do? Olać gramatykę (literally: piss on grammar) and concentrate on memorizing as many words as possible hoping that somehow it will all get nicely sorted out in the end? I tried that approach once when learning another language and found out the hard way that it didn’t work. At all.

Which brings me to today’s question for you. How do YOU deal with grammar? Do you simply chain yourself down and slowly plow through the Swan book while drinking copious amounts of żubrówka to make the whole ordeal less traumatic? Or do you effortlessly memorize various declension tables or absorb that knowledge through osmosis? And if yes, then do you know when and how to apply it in your everyday conversations?

I know I’ve asked you before about how you learn Polish in general. But that was easy. What I want to know now is – how do you deal with Polish grammar?

This question is inspired in part by Barb’s confession about her own Polish learning experiences detailed in her guest entry on this blog. And in part by my own inability to master certain plural noun cases.

So I think that sharing what works and what doesn’t, plus other tips and advice, can be simply invaluable for us all. Yes, even for me.

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  1. michael:

    I have a lot of trouble with Polish grammer.

    I have two choices,
    1. Collect all the information on a topic like declensions, read it slowly and write out examples and have them corrected until I get it.
    2. Find a Polish person with a PHD in languages and teaching experience to give me lessons as I need them.

    Ideally 1& 2 should be done together, I will try 1 and maybe 2, chances of finding a Polish teacher with a PHD in languages are very slim even though many Poles have PHDs.

    I have tried to get two different Polish speakers to explain Polish grammar to me, one just said she couldn’t and another person tried but couldn’t. I don’t think that Polish speakers can explain Polish grammar to me just as I can’t explain English grammar to them, grammar is an extremely technical subject. I think that this is part of the problem for me, I don’t know Enlish grammar properly, Polish will be the first language that I am attempting to learn properly. I may need to learn some things about English grammar also.

  2. Elizabeth Sadus:

    I have learned Polish mostly by memorization. I am in a non-credit Polish class during the year. The teacher really hammers the grammar (hmm that rhymes). I’ve been studying for seven years and wish that I knew more. The problem is that if you don’t use it regularly, you lose it (guess I’m quite a poet today). After all the frustration, I do find myself instinctively using proper grammar (at times at least). It’s rough, there’s no doubt about that and no easy way to learn. I find myself re-learning English grammar, in order to understand Polish. I still have the hope of being fluent one day.

    As for Mr. Swan, I think he has drunk copious amounts of zubrowka while writting his books. His intermediate book is horrid. No explanations, examples or answers. His new grammar book does rock!

  3. Kuba:

    I just take it as it comes. If I need to I look up the word and try and keep it in my head. When I am speaking I just talk mistakes and all. The idea come across and if it is an ‘i’ or ‘y’ ending it is hard to discern. It is when the root word changes then I’m in trouble. Just keeping the nominative female, male and neuter are enough.
    And I heard Polish for 18 years. But never went to school. Not sure I’ll ever get it all unless I move back.

  4. Nerijus:

    Study grammar from the books, that aimed at native speakers. Have patience. Lots of it. Do not expect immediate results. Do it regularly. Support your wredna gramatyka studies with listening, reading and then writing. Write blog in Polish. Find out what best works for you. Bear in mind, this is valid only for those who want to master the grammar perfectly.
    I am of the opinion that for ordinary language learner there is no need to go on memorizing declension tables and other stuff of wredna nature. The feeling of getting inflections right comes with the time, naturally. Get yourself to know how it works and leave it out there. If you stay with language it will come to you.

    The funny thing of inflections is that they can vary depending on regional accents I believe.

  5. Michael:

    What is your advise on learning grammar Anna?
    Thanks, Michael.

  6. Maria Clara Soares Correia:

    I’ve been studying Polish for ages… Some day I’ll get it! In the meantime, I managed not to feel guilty to make lots of mistakes. That was a good start to getting into talking. (I made miracles to find Poles…) As to grammar, I can’t say I hate it but I wish I could use it properly without thinking too much. What I try is to make lots of exercises, step by step, and to memorize a few things. After all, we always make mistakes in our own language and have to learn it for the rest of our lives. That is the salt of it. Wouldn’t it be boring to know everything?
    Love you all and keep this blog alive, please!!
    Yours, Clara

  7. Michael:

    Is it an idea to get microsoft word with a Polish grammar and spelling checker so that writing stuff would be easier? Less checking of the dictionary etc. Has anyone done this?

  8. Kuba:

    My vacation was spent translating my cousin’s memoirs form Stutthof into English. Came out to be about 50 pages of text.
    I also wish there was a spell checker for the Macintosh. Lots ot time in the dictionary.

  9. Gabriel:

    Well, I think I’m one of those who absorb polish grammar through osmosis, although I took a lot of time to understand some concepts, like verbal nouns and the difference between imperfective and perfective.

    And, hey, I love polish gramamr, hehe. I don’t have any reason to hate it!

  10. Chad:

    I am just starting out learning Polish. I am a Rosetta Stone student of sorts… got my hands on the version 2 material and then took a chance and bought the new (version 3) courses. Their grammar lessons are extremely basic. There’s no explanation, just the situation w/ pictures and the sometimes-highlighted-in-blue word. Perhaps this is good for those just starting out. I have no idea whether it’s been worth the $550 for all three levels. Nevertheless, it has been good practice for practicing reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

    My girlfriend and landlord’s wife is Polish and so I practice with them.

  11. Agnieszka:

    Anna, thank you for great posts! I’m not a professional linguist but try to learn some languages, as well as teach Polish to those who ask me about help, since I’m native Polish speaker.
    I would like to ask you about two things, which I found difficult to explain to my ‘student’.

    1. What is the difference between verbs: PROSIC – POPROSIC. I know in some cases you just don’t use the second one, but is there any rule of it???

    2. Similar question in refer to verbs POMOC – POMAGAC.

    Thank you!!

  12. Agnieszka:

    Anna, thank you for great posts! Actually I would like to ask you two questions. What is the difference between PROSIC (v) – POPROSIC (v)and POMOC (v) – POMAGAC (v)?
    Thank you!

  13. pdogs:

    I like grammar because of the way I am learning Polish. I don’t get too bogged down in it but it is often the only way help to to understand how a sentence or word has been constructed. It won’t be everyone’s “cup of tea” but it helps the obsessional side of my personality.

    I think the more inputs one has the better. Listening, speaking, reading and writing all have their part to play and with reading then the more different books one reads the better because they all seem to come at the same things but from different angles.

    The internet has vast free resources and Google Translator has improved out of all recognition; not perfect of course but very useful.

  14. English Grammar:

    hi, i am just searching for good English grammar websites and suddenly struck to your blog. Well, after reading your blog post i also agree to your point that for holding command over any language grammar knowledge is must. So, here i want to make a request then in your next post include some good tips for learning English Grammar thoroughly. I will eagerly, wait for your next post. Thanks in advance.