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Top tips to learn any Slavic language (including Polish)

Published by Aneta on

learning people with laptops

Top tips to learn any Slavic language (including Polish)

learning people with laptops

As some of you know, apart from speaking Polish, which is my native tongue, I also speak Russian. In fact, I am a Russian philologist! Many people ask me if it was easy for me to learn Russian. Well, it was, because it is so close to my mother tongue! From my experience of learning Russian, and teaching Polish, I comprised a list of top tips to learn any Slavic language.

1. Focus on sounds.

For real. Sounds are an absolute base to learn ANY language, especially so in Slavic languages. We’re famous for producing the “snake-tongue-from-Harry-Potter” kinds of sounds. Make sure you master them so that you’re able to actually HEAR the language.

Some of the most challenging sounds are the so-called fricative and affricate sounds, such as sz, ż, ś, ź, s, z, ć, dz, dź, dż and cz. If you want to test your Polish pronunciation skills, try pronouncing these three words:

Kasa (meaning “cash” in Polish)

Kasia (Kate)

Kasza (groats)

If you feel any difference in sound and can actually pronounce the words distinctly, congratulations – you’ve mastered the Polish pronunciation! Ninety percent of beginner students of Polish cannot distinguish among the s – ś – sz sounds at all. You get better with practice though!

2. Open your mind…

a man looking at a field

…to possibilities you never dreamed of. Three genders? Seven cases? What do you mean, you have to use gender INSIDE the verbs? Objects have gender, too?? Hold my beer, here I come, Polish language!

Many Polish language students get discouraged during those first, initial stages of learning because they simply refuse to accept other (grammatical or lexical) ways of expressing oneself in a different language. Not to say it’s easy to grasp a totally different way of using the language, but you should be very tolerant towards any changes in your linguistic mentality that are inevitably going to happen. If your approach resembles the one of: “Slavic grammar doesn’t make sense” or “the cases are just too hard to comprehend”, stick the red flag in your thinking and get yourself a good language trainer before you get totally discouraged. Which takes us to the third point which is…

3. Find yourself a good language trainer.

Not trying to sell anything here, guys, just being honest. The brutal truth is, if you:

  • have never learned any foreign language, and / or
  • do not speak any other Slavic language, and / or
  • don’t have the time and patience to go through grammar books alone,

it’s better for your linguistic and mental health to seek a professional, like myself 😉 

To use a metaphor, your Polish learning project is an elephant. Yes, learning a language requires time and effort. Yes, it can get tough sometimes. What a skilled language trainer will do is they will SLICE the elephant for you (metaphorically!), bit by bit. Don’t get me wrong – YOU will have to do all the chewing! It gets much more pleasant and manageable to eat your elephant (for clarity, the elephant represents your language skills) when someone knows how to slice it and what bites to give you to chew first. Trust me, I’ve seen dozens of linguistic elephants in my life 😉

4. Get familiar with the Slavic culture.

No language functions in a vacuum – all languages are HEAVILY influenced by the culture of their speakers, be it native or non-native (as is the case with English, for example). By making sure you understand the mentality, the wants and the dreams of the people, you ensure better understanding of the language itself.

Curious about Polish? Take a look at this article, where I explain why it’s (mistakenly!) considered one of the most difficult languages in the world. Or go to my booking page and start learning Polish today!

Have you ever learned any Slavic language? Did you find the tips useful? Let me know in the comments!