Coming from Poland to the UK at the tender age of five was a culture shock, and I have since become accustomed to the differences between my home language and the one of my adopted home. English is beautiful in it’s simplicity- it is extremely applicable in all forms, whether that is in literature, spoken language or in song. With Polish, there are difficulties- there are different versions of different words depending on certain extremes, like ‘słodki’, ‘słodziutki’, ‘najsłodzszy’ (sweet, very sweet, sweetest), which usually have a similar structural pattern.
The alphabet includes accents, like in French, although I am sure you have no idea how to pronounce ‘ł’ (like the ‘w’ in ‘ew’), three types of ‘z’ accents ( ‘ź’, ‘ż’, ‘rz’, pronounced ‘zi’, and two types of ‘j’, like in the French ‘janvier’), and others. When learning the Polish language, the alphabet is relatively easy- unlike Cyrillic or Japanese; it does not have a completely different set of symbols.
Today, the Polish language looks and sounds very different when compared to its past forms. There was a time when it would have been impossible for people from one side of the country to understand the other. Although this isn’t the case today, in modern Polish dialects still do exist and are mostly defined through certain border regions- the Kaszub dialect and the Silesian among others. Taking into account the multiple wars, country divides and different rulers, the Polish language is a melting pot of borrowed words and old-time cultural habits, resulting in a beautiful language that is on the list of top ten hardest languages to learn.
To understand the variety in association that would be unheard of in English, you have to look at particular Polish language groups. Idioms are an interesting topic in Polish, and many idioms that appear in Polish may sound funny to English-speakers. ‘Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu (to drill a hole in someone’s belly) means that you pester someone relentlessly.
‘Rzucać grochem o ściane’ (To throw beans at the wall) would translate as ‘falling on deaf ears’, or that a pursuit is pointless and won’t achieve anything. Another fun one is ‘wypchać się sianem’ (to stuff yourself with hay) which usually gets shorted to ‘get stuffed’, or in other words, get lost.
The Polish language does have some weird expressions and metaphors also. To ‘grow like yeast (‘rosnać jak na drożdzach’) means to grow quickly and is usually applied to children, while ‘to run away to where the crabs spend their winter’ (‘uciekać gdzie raki zimuja’) means to run away very far. To ‘look like a jumping pig’ (‘wyglada z boku jak świnia w skoku’) may not be the most polite way of talking about someone’s appearance but you do have to admit that it adds a certain originality to a text, especially since in Polish it rhymes.
Although Polish is hard, it is by no means impossible to learn. Adam Mickiewicz, a Romantic, was a wordsmith of Polish verse and likened the language to Shakespeare in musicality and expression. Many great Polish writers are widely recognised around the world for their contributions to literature, so why not turn away from the famous French translations and turn to Polish instead?