There are very few languages in this world that i can say, ‘changed my life’. However, there is one language that i can sit and write about and say with confidence, changed my life for the better. Polish is definitely that language.
You’re probably wondering, “Polish? The Polish language changed his life?”, most likely in disbelief. Here is a very quick summary of what took place that lead to me learning Polish. It was 2015 and a friend and I were talking in the cantine at school about some of the languages i had been learning. My friend was Polish so naturally, asked me if i was studying Polish. I told him, ‘no’, and he looked at me in shock. Where i am from, we have a very large population of Polish citizens so we got talking about how it may be useful to learn just the tiniest amount of Polish. After some discussion and thought, i decided that in fact, this was a good idea and just days later, my Polish friend was teaching me from an Oxford dictionary. Looking back, this wasn’t the best way of learning a language but oh well, i was learning from a native speaker. He would teach me about how to pronounce words, order food and eventually, the biggest test i would face came. Yes, i met his parents. My friend had mentioned to his mum in particular that i had been learning Polish for fun. His mum was overjoyed and began speaking to me in Polish. I was able to introduce myself and ask how she was, which ultimately made my day and i could tell, it clearly made my friend’s mum very happy. After all, it’s not everyday that a Scottish person speaks Polish with a native Polish speaker. It was roughly at this point that i fell in love with the sounds of the language but still, i had no knowledge of Poland… at all. I very quickly became addicted to learning more and more Polish, compiling a collection of books for learning Polish and listening to the Michel Thomas course when i could.
After a month or so of learning Polish, i decided it was time to learn about Poland, a country i now consider to be a home away from home. I looked at the population, food, politics, capital city and began to look at other large cities like Krakow, Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw. This grabbed my attention like no other language had before. I became obsessed with the idea of travelling to Poland. Eventually, i found return flights from my city for only £23. So, of course myself and my step-dad decided to visit Krakow, Poland. By this point, i had studied Polish for a year and four months roughly so i could survive in Poland. This all became a reality in February 2017. During the month of February, i made the short flight to Poland, expecting it to be like any other country i had visited. I landed and immediately felt at ease.
I landed during the late evening so we just went to our hotel and slept before waking up in beautify, lively Poland. During our first day, i found myself exploring the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, but that’s a story for another day. After a full day, we bought tickets for a bus heading to the city centre. Long story short, this was when my real love for Poland came in. It was dark and the city was lit up in such a way that you wouldn’t want to leave. I remember walking into a restaurant and this is where my Polish really came handy. I ordered for the two of us in conversational Polish and even received very generous compliments from the server. I was overjoyed. After eating, i asked for the bill and we left. We began walking through the main square before taking a tram back to our hotel. Just having the language to help me while i was in the country gave me a sense of security, comfort and ease. My brain was now functioning in Polish, what could be better? This language that i had just been learning from books and YouTube videos was finally being put into practice.
I believe that to this day, if i didn’t have the language to help me, i wouldn’t appreciate Poland and its people in the way i do now. Over the coming days, i visited Wawel Castle, one of the most amazingly stunning buildings i have ever had the pleasure of seeing, the Salt Mines, attended many walking tours, explored museums, ate some of the most amazing food and met incredibly interesting individuals.
What i still love to this day is the fact that whenever i return to Poland, i feel at home. I connect with the people and have a deep appreciation for the culture. Having learnt the language to a conversational level, i feel comfortable speaking to natives or working my way around the country. In fact, most people are in awe that a foreigner is speaking Polish with a native and tend to thank me for taking the time to do so when in actual fact, the pleasure has been mine. However, Polish hasn’t just been useful in Poland, but also in Scotland, communicating with tourists, customers and Polish citizens who now call Scotland their home. In all honesty, it’s magical and i still get a huge buzz speaking Polish, almost four years later.
I can’t stop myself from returning to this truly fantastic country that has welcomed me with open arms and while i have had experiences where i felt uncomfortable or threatened, these are so uncommon and most people i have had the grand pleasure of meeting, have been so accommodating. However, i am very happy to let you know that over the years, my methods for learning Polish have improved and i would love to take some time to share some resources i have used to take me far.
Starting off, i love Michel Thomas and his method. I used Audible to listen to his recordings and learn a lot of basic language before leaving for Poland which enabled me to order food, ask for directions, introduce myself and others and much more. If you like having a physical book, like me, i love Colloquial Polish and the detail it contains. However, in all honesty, i wasn’t too keen on the Teach Yourself course which was disappointing as i am a frequent user and have Teach Yourself courses for thirteen languages including Greek, Turkish and Mandarin, Greek being my favourite. When i was looking for listening practice, i loved listening to Radio Krakow and keeping up with what was happening in the city when i wasn’t in town. I was very fortunate to be able to visit the building during my first trip to Poland and take some pictures.
I hope that with the resources i have suggested, you can get something out of them and perhaps progress in your Polish language learning. In short, Polish has changed my life and has enabled me to visit one of my favourite places on this earth with some of the best people. If you get a chance to visit Poland, please do because you will not regret it. Polish will also be a huge help that will assist you for sure.
I have such a powerful connection to Poland and its language so much that i want to keep on returning to Poland as much as possible and definitely spend a lot of time there in the future. This was one of the best decisions i have ever made.