The Polish language: Twisting tongues since 1152

Ok, ok settle down. No talking in the back! Welcome back to Polish 101. If you remember that last time out, we covered some vocabulary. This time around, we’ll try some pronounciation.

So John, how do we say ‘Hello’ in an informal way in Polish? Czesc? Yes, very good… And now, how about the Polish for the number six…? Szesc! Yes! Can you hear the difference?

Ok, next up we’ll practice the z’s. I want to hear everyone… cz, ć, ci, and then sz, ś, si… next rz, zi, ż, ź. Good, that’s the warm-up sorted out. Now we’ll move on to the main exercise today. Please pronounce the following. Please bear in mind that they are not exaclty tongue twisters but I think they’ll twist your brain at very least.

  • W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie, że chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.
  • Czarna krowa w kropki bordo gryzła trawę kręcąc mordą
  • Leży Jerzy koło wieży, i nie wierzy, że na wieży leży gniazdo nietoperzy
  • Mama ma Mamałygę
  • Szedł Sasza suchą szosą, suszył sobie spodnie.
  • Pocztmistrz z Tczewa.
  • Wyrewolwerowany rewolwerowiec wyrewolwerował się
  • Gdy Pomorze nie pomoże, to pomoże może morze, a gdy morze nie pomoże to pomoże może Gdańsk
  • Żółte żaby żałośliwie żalą się żółwiowi, że żółtodzioby żuraw z Żywca zamiast żyta żaby żre.
  • Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami.
  • Wyindywidualizowałem się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.
  • Król Karol kupił Królowej Karolinie korale koloru koralowego
  • Wydrze wydrzę wydrze wydrze wydrze wydrzę


In the next class, we’ll translate these – but please be warned they are not as interesting as the Polish version!

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9 thoughts on “The Polish language: Twisting tongues since 1152

  1. iceteajunkie says:

    For advanced training, try this piece of poetry:
    Enjoy! :D

  2. Piotr says:


    two of my personal favorites, by Stanisław Barańczak, otherwise known for translating Shakespeare:

    Chrzęst szczęk pstrych krów wprządł w słuch
    Szept: “Trwasz wśród warstw łgarstw? Tchórz!
    Stwórz wpierw z przerw werw, w chwil skruch
    Strzęp chwalb – nerw ścierw czymś strwóż!”


    O, Aido! Woalami
    I aloesami wonna,
    Nie dbająca, co salami,
    Neon, Cohen i Madonna,
    Ego neo-elit, Mao…
    Oddalona o eony –
    O, idolu pieję ja o
    Tobie pean nieuczony!
    O, oazo, o, opoko
    Oka, ucha, ust i uda!
    O, omijaj ją epoko,
    Bo kto ufa, że się uda
    Naukowy opis – sto sond
    Dowód jemu jeno da,
    Że o sobie mylny osąd –
    A i o Aidzie – ma.

    Orignally written to demonstrate the possible balance between consonants and vowels. The first pushes it to the extreme one way, whereas the latter sets it somewhere near Italian (and makes it sound quite pleasing then).

  3. VLF says:

    How about Kasia and kasza…
    After a few years of exposure to Polish, my partner still can’t hear the difference.
    Trying to speak Polish she sounds like a toddler who went through some sort of traumatic experience involving being dropped on her head, but good on her for trying.
    On the opposite side, it took me years to properly hear the difference between sheet and shit, piece and peace, sheep and ship, off and of…

    Now, boys and girls, read the following out loud, try not to slow down:

    Dearest creature in creation,
    Study English pronunciation.
    I will teach you in my verse
    Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
    I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
    Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
    Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
    So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
    Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
    Dies and diet, lord and word,
    Sword and sward, retain and Britain. (Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
    Now I surely will not plague you
    With such words as plaque and argue.
    But be careful how you speak:
    Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
    Cloven, oven, how and low,
    Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
    Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
    Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
    Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
    Exiles, similes, and reviles;
    Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
    Solar, mica, war and far;
    One, anemone, Balmoral,
    Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
    Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
    Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
    Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
    Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
    Blood and flood are not like food,
    Nor is mould like should and would.
    Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
    Toward, to forward, to reward.
    And your pronunciation’s OK
    When you correctly say croquet,
    Rounded, wounded, grieve and sleeve,
    Friend and fiend, alive and live.
    Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
    And enamour rhyme with hammer.
    River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
    Doll and roll and some and home.
    Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
    Neither does devour with clangour.
    Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
    Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
    Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
    And then singer, ginger, linger,
    Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
    Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
    Query does not rhyme with very,
    Nor does fury sound like bury.
    Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
    Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
    Though the differences seem little,
    We say actual but victual.
    Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
    Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
    Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
    Dull, bull, and George ate late.
    Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
    Science, conscience, scientific.
    Liberty, library, heave and heaven, Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
    We say hallowed, but allowed,
    People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
    Mark the differences, moreover, between mover, cover, clover;
    Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
    Chalice, but police and lice;
    Camel, constable, unstable,
    Principle, disciple, label.
    Petal, panel, and canal,
    Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
    Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
    Senator, spectator, mayor.
    Tour, but our and succour, four.
    Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
    Sea, idea, Korea, area,
    Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
    Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
    Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
    Compare alien with Italian,
    Dandelion and battalion.
    Sally with ally, yea, ye,
    Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
    Say aver, but ever, fever,
    Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
    Heron, granary, canary.
    Crevice and device and aerie.
    Face, but preface, not efface.
    Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
    Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
    Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
    Ear, but earn and wear and tear.
    Do not rhyme with here but ere.
    Seven is right, but so is even,
    Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
    Monkey, donkey,
    Turk and jerk,
    Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
    Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
    Is a paling stout and spikey?
    Won’t it make you lose your wits,
    Writing groats and saying grits?
    It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
    Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
    Islington and Isle of Wight,
    Housewife, verdict and indict.
    Finally, which rhymes with enough — Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
    Hiccough has the sound of cup.
    My advice is to give up!!!

  4. adthelad says:


    Love it!

    p.s. Feoffer actually and not foeffer :)

  5. Wiktor says:


    There is no difference in pronunciation of “peace” and “piece”, they are homophones. There is a difference in use, yes, but one which you’d have to “understand”, rather than “hear”.


  6. VLF says:

    Boom! Wiktor, you got me! Feels good?
    I meant peace and piss but it turns out I can’t even type…

  7. Name says:

    nice one VLF!

  8. I know a nicer version of the Sasza one:

    “Samotny Sasza suchą szosą szedł”.

    The Kabaret OTTO’s song “Gdybym byłbym” is also worth listening to, if you can find it. Here are the lyrics:,39881.html

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