Learning any new language is difficult. It requires time, patience, humour and the ability to be humble and know that you will make mistakes. So far I have picked up quite a few words but only one or two small sentences. One of the problems is I need to visualize a word, so I need to see how to spell it. This is just the start of the problem – try asking someone in Poland to spell a word – they just don’t do it! The other problem is when I do write it down I take one look at what is written and step back in horror – it’s ugly. Finally, I have come up with a strategy. When I encounter words or sentences I want to remember I will look them up in my dictionary, and write them down on some note cards. I will carry these cards everyday and try to study them whenever I have time. To make it easy I will also write down how I see/hear the pronunciation. I am determined to hold a conversation with Babcia as soon as possible….
In my book, I woke up this Morning…in Poland!!!, I deal quite a lot with the every day problems associated with a mixed cultural relationship, living in a foreign country, etc. and much of this relates to language. Here’s an extract of one of the first scenes I deal with language in the book..
“The domestic departure lounge at Warsaw Frederic Chopin airport is smaller than a single departure gate at Heathrow, with rows of those seats joined together atypical of airports, there is a small kiosk serving hot snacks, beer, crisps, lottery tickets, pictures of Pope John Paul the 2nd, and tickets for the Wifi hotspot which is apparently available in the lounge.
The lounge is very busy and incredibly hot with standing room only. There are 4 gates with departures for flights all over the country; to Gdansk, Krakow and places like Łodź (pronounced Woodj) and Rzeszow (pronounced Jeshov). I imagine the difficulties I’m sure to encounter trying to pronounce these new letters with all these squiggles, dots and tails on top, through and under them. In total there are 32 letters in the Polish alphabet. The Polish have so many different Z’s I’m going to fall asleep just trying to pronounce them. Words like please (proszę), sorry (przepraszam – in any language this is hard to say for a man but try it in Polish when you’re not a national, its kind of like pshehprahshahm – that’s right its nigh on impossible!). And then there is this is no ‘joke’ (żartujesz) and what about this particular Government Ministries web site http://www.zzpprzymz.pl? I dread to ask what they do. Some words even have 3 z’s in them like lucky which is szczesciarz and if you think that’s difficult, it gets worse. When verbs depend upon something such as ‘will you take’ zabierzesz and for example when you go to the doctors ‘will you take your clothes off?” is ‘rozbierzesz sie?’ and rz is pronounced sjz. So I hope I will never be sick or sorry while I’m in Poland.
So far my language efforts have been okay – I’ve already mastered the basics like Yes – Tak. No which is Nie. I love you (very useful to know) is kocham cie and when you meet someone the usual greeting for good day or hello is dzien dobry which sounds like “gin dobre” which is maybe something to do with Polish drinking habits!
There are no announcements in English so I have to pay particular attention to the screens as queues seem to be forming in many different directions and merging with one another.
‘Pardon’ forgetting I am no longer in France, ‘Sorry, excuse me is this the line for the flight to Katowice?’ I ask a man who is wearing an ill fitted suit and his collar so wide open I’ve no idea why he bothers to leave his tie on.
‘Katowice?’ he asks.
Other people are staring…
‘Tak, yes are you going to Katowice?’ at least I try a little Polish and I think I got the pronunciation of ‘Katovitsa’ right.
He thinks a while, his bottom lip slightly protruded as he slowly raises his finger to the brow of his head, squints and then looks up at the fan swirling around above us. His head moving in unison with the fan as if he has fixed his eye on one spot.
‘Katowice?’ he asks again..
‘Oui, Oui I mean Tak, Tak Katowice?’ I say a little frustrated.
‘Nie’ and he promptly turns away. No one else offers to help!
Then, just to confuse me Katowice drops off the screen of Gate 4.
I wait patiently”.
Read more of my twaddle over at DatBlog