Saturday, 1 September 2012

Confusing parts of Polish language for an English-speaking learner

This open-ended blog is basically to help clarify bits of confusing bits of Polish language for an English-speaking learner. I'll try to cover a wide range of vocabulary and grammar - particularly in terms of meaning - that anyone from beginner to approximately upper-intermediate might want to get their head round.

I'm a native English speaker and have been learning Polish since 2006. I should point out that I'm not an advanced user, but with help from my Polish wife, friends and books, and having lived in Poland, I've got a reliable grasp of most of the common tricky bits. The explanations of meanings don't claim to be exactly accurate (semantics is a difficult enough topic within one language!), but they should convey a decent 'ball-park' meaning in a way which you can quickly assimilate and apply.

(The theory goes that once you have this rough but usable meaning in your head, following lots of input and practice, your brain will naturally chisel, polish and associate these phrases to reach a deeper meaning...)

If you have any questions, amendments or whatever, please comment below! :)

1. dopiero

  • It often roughly translates as 'only just':
    • dopiero + first event, gdy + second event shortly after
    • used for past or future (past, present of future perfect tense in English)
    • e.g. "I'd only just fallen asleep when my alarm went off!" ("Dopiero zasnąłem gdy budzik dzwonił.")
  • It also can translate as 'not until':
    • when something that is expected to happen actually happens later than thought:
    • e.g. "Einstein didn't start speaking until he was three." ("Einstein zaczął mówić dopiero gdy miał 3 lata.")
    • or to at least make a time of waiting sound drawn out:
    • e.g. A: "She's coming back in September." B: "Not until then?!" (A: "Ona wróci we wrześniu." B: "Dopiero?!")

2. Note about exclamation marks - they tend to be used less in Polish than in English (like in the above sentence). I'm told that they generally have a more striking effect than they do in our relatively desensitised English usage.


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