Why is Polish considered one of the most difficult languages in the world?

Published by Aneta on

a man looking at his computer with headphones

Why is Polish considered one of the most difficult languages in the world?

a man looking at his computer with headphones

Let’s start with a certain fact check: Polish is not the most difficult language in the world. It’s not even on the podium;) The notion that Polish is one of the most difficult languages in the world comes from a subjective list of languages that can prove difficult for native English speakers who speak no foreign languages. This means that if you’re not an English speaker, or you speak any foreign language, the level of difficulty for learning Polish drops drastically. Does it mean that learning Polish is a piece of cake, or, as we say in Polish, bread with butter (bułka z masłem)? By no means;) My students of Polish are my personal heroes since they embark on this challenging language journey that learning Polish is, and that’s for several reasons:

1. Pronunciation

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie, i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie… While all world languages possess an arsenal of tongue twisters, Polish seems to have gone the extra mile. What turns out to be especially challenging for students of Polish are the initial consonant clusters, like, for example: “skrzypce” (a violin), “pstryknąć” (to snap, i.e. one’s fingers), “mknąć” (to rush, to scamper) or the infamous “Szczebrzeszyn”, which is an actual name of an actually lovely town in Poland.

Are many Polish words hard to pronounce? Surely. Will it take time and effort to master the pronunciation? Du-uh. Is it worth it when you are, at last, able to pronounce all the ę’s and ą’s, ź’s and rz’s? You bet!

If you ever struggle with Polish pronunciation (who doesn’t?), you can make sure you’re in good company – take a look at this hilarious Buzzfeed video with people trying to pronounce Polish city names.

2. Grammar

Learning grammar is a touchy subject for many language learners (even for native speakers of that language, for that matter). Polish grammar can make you dizzy with its verb conjugations, noun declinations and grammatical cases. Whereas many world languages share some of the characteristics of Polish grammar, many more don’t, and that creates confusion and puzzled looks on my students’ faces. Solution? Learn it by heart and accept that life, God, and grammar sometimes work in mysterious ways.

3. All'em words

You have to level up your vocab game if you want to speak Polish on a communicative level. Learning vocabulary is not a challenge peculiar to the Polish language, but it can get a tad overwhelming to see how many words you have to learn in a language to be able to actually speak it. Golden tip? Find your favorite learning technique, or a favorite vocab app (you can download a free list of most useful learning materials here), and stick with it! Commit to learning every day for at least 15 minutes and you should see the results of your hard work after 4-12 weeks.

4. Pace of speaking

Poles are by no means winning the “world fastest speech rate” contest, but we can certainly speak quite fast. That’s why the most sensible (and self-caring) thing you can do when faced with learning Polish (or any language in general) is to learn how to say the following phrase in Polish by heart:

“could you speak more slowly, please?”,

 which translates as

“czy może Pan (for a man) / Pani (when addressing a lady) mówić wolniej?”.

Add a big smile, mastered in front of the mirror to perfection, and you’re good to go! Go ahead and practice it right now – you’ll thank yourself for that later.

Any other challenges you encountered on your Polish language journey? Let me know in the comment section below!

Take a look at my article about why learning Polish might be the best idea you’ll ever have.