Main page The first lesson


Temat: Jak uczyć się polskiego?

Preface. Subject: How to learn Polish?

Sorry for errors in my English that I will probably make… As I have learnt the standard, British language only, I will use it on my site.

You can only find very few texts on the Polish language on the Net, and that is why I have written this course for you, as well as a site on the Polish grammar. On the other site you can also find some links that could be interesting for you if you like Polish. Most of the material is available in English – go there and take a look.

My course is rather detailed. My aim is to teach you my native language and I do not think that it would be a good idea to start with Polish phrases or text immediately – we will start with them only in further lessons. Polish sounds are so different compared to English ones that if you tried to read Polish words using your own articulational base, it is possible that you will not be understood by Poles. It is widely enough known that Polish has a fairly great number of fricative and nasal sounds, frequent in the Polish speech but not present in most “occidental” languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish). Polish, like all Slavic languages, has many phonetic features “exotic” for people who speak English as their mother tongue (and the same if it is German, French etc.) That is why my explanations are so long and detailed. I am convinced they should be so detailed. So, prior to saying Polish phrases, you really should become skilful in Polish pronunciation. If you think my course is too detailed and you do not need all those long explanations, there are some shorter courses on the Net for you. But I cannot guarantee that anybody will understand you if you manage to have learnt using only such short lessons without having trained your tongue first. On the other hand, they could also be helpful for you, so my advice is that you should get to know them as well.

Before continuing with the lessons, make sure you can see Polish characters properly. Look at the word dotycz±ce. Can you see a character a with a tail between z and c? If yes, your operating system is probably able to help you in learning Polish. If no, your computer seems to be a little out of date. Please upgrade it (see below) and make it truly international in our times of the Internet! You can also contact me, please, for any reasons.

Look at all the special Polish characters now. They are: ć, ń, ó, ¶, Ľ (c, n, o, s, z with small oblique lines (strokes) over them); ±, ę (a, e with tails); ł (l crossed out with an oblique line (slash)); ż (z with a dot over it). What do they mean? Do not be so impatient! You will learn it soon.

How do you type those letters on your computer? I can help you only if you have a PC with Windows OS installed (if not, ask your dealer or find help on Internet sites on your computer system). Firstly, you must have added “Multilingual Support” (Start Menu – Settings – Control Panel – Add/Remove Programs – Windows Installer). Restart your Windows now and you will be able to see a new application that should appear in your Systray (right bottom corner) – the square dark blue icon with a letter (or two letters) being the shortening of the language you use in your system. Click it using the right mouse button and you will see a menu. Choose “Properties” now (using the left mouse botton). You are on the page named “Language”.

If, for any reason, you cannot see the blue box in the Systray, use Start Menu – Settings – Control Panel – Keyboard and switch to the “Language” bookmark. Now click “Add” (the left button) and find “Polish”. A new item should appear in the list. Mark “Polish” with the left mouse button. And now – what is VERY important – having marked “Polish” in the window, click “Properties” (the middle button) and find “Polish (programmer’s)”. It will be especially comfortable for you if you have an English keyboard QWERTY. Do not use just “Polish” (or “Polish (typist’s)”) unless you have a German keyboard QWERTZ. Remark: the above description is based on Windows 98 Second Edition and may be inaccurate if your Windows version is different.

Anytime you will want to write Polish characters, you must use a font that contains the “Central European” glyphs. Most of the standard Windows fonts (like Times New Roman, Courier New or Arial) have them. You should also switch your application (a text editor, a mail program) into the proper codepage. On the Internet (www, mail), “proper” means ISO 8859-2 (or Central European ISO) – use that if you want to send a letter with Polish characters. Outlook Express or Outlook will let you do it easily but you must be careful about some other mail programs. If you want to write a simple text in a Windows editor (Notepad, Wordpad, Works, Word), you will use another codepage called Windows-1250 or Central European Windows (you should use the proper language – Polish, or/and a font marked “CE” – depending on the application, its version etc.). It is important to choose the proper codepage (and the other features) or you will not be able to see Polish characters even if you choose a right font and if you use the right keyboard driver.

How to use your “Polish (programmer’s)” keyboard driver? You have “normal” (true Latin) characters on their positions like in US keyboard, ie. QWERTYUIOP, ASDFGHJKL, ZXCVBNM. You can achieve a Polish character using the right Alt button (not the left one – press it and hold when pressing another button). The “Right Alt + a” combination gives you “±”, if you want a capital, press and hold “Shift” at the same time like always (so, “Right Alt + Shift + a” gives “ˇ”). Now try the combinations of the right Alt and C, E, L, N, O, S. Note that “Right Alt + z” gives “ż” while “Right Alt + x” gives “Ľ”.

REMARK: you are also welcome on my other page (bilingual) with more details and – maybe – with solutions for some of your problems. Please visit the page also if you are searching for more features for your keyboard. Some parts (but not all parts) of the text you will find there are like the description above, sorry (it is for the readers not interested in learning Polish).

If you have a Polish dictionary, you need to know the Polish alphabet. Here it is: a, ±, b, c, ć, d, e, ę, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ł, m, n, ń, o, ó, p, q, r, s, ¶, t, u, v, w, x, y, z, Ľ, ż (I will tell you the names of the letters later). All those special Polish symbols with dots, tails or lines are true letters, not just varieties of the characters without them (contrary to French accented letters or German umlauted ones). So, you should search ładny after lud in your dictionary, because ł always goes after l.

Polish words never begin with the letters ±, ę, ń; the letter y can be found at the beginning of only very few borrowings (like yeti). The characters q, v, x are, as a rule, not used in Polish at all (but there exist some borrowed words spelt with them).

Remember that Polish words are generally spelt just like you pronounce them, so you will be able to read Polish text easily as soon as you learn some rules of the Polish spelling and pronunciation. Polish is not like English!

To present the pronunciation in the simplest way, in those instances when I need, I will use square brackets, e.g. yeti [jeti]. It is not a sort of real transcription system, I use “normal” Polish characters in it. Do not write Polish texts in such a way! Never try to read such recordings in English–like manner! I will clarify the matter to you later.

There are links under some Polish words in this course. They lead to audio files with recorded pronunciation of these words. Links under do the same.

Grzegorz Jagodziński

Main page The first lesson