31 października 2010

Stara Praga

From a suggestion of one of my students, I decided to take a few pictures today during our walk in Old Praga and post them. I'll post a few with short explanations (yes, hopefully in Polish!) soon. Here a pre '89 milicja motorcycle. Photos taken in the Fabryka Wódek Koneser (vodka factory) on Ząbkowska. There is a small exhibition in an interior hall with antique vehicles of all sorts.

Są małe, kolorowe samochody. Czarne, żółte i kremowe.

The exhibition of antique cars was put on by the Muzeum Motoryzacje i Techniki, which we have not visited. We were impressed to find a black Volga lurking in the shadows . . .

Czarna wołga była złowroga . . . Weronika bała się!

I was about to write a detailed summary of our excursion in beautiful Polish, but Jarek woke up earlier than us this morning and posted a perfect summary in his comment below. Thanks Jarek!

27 października 2010

Kiedy byłem mały

Kiedy byłem mały w Kanadzie 'Halloween' nie był ważny dzień. Normalnie, miałbym na sobie coś głupiego albo strasznego. Popularny kostiumy był: czarownica, strach na wróble, duch, i tym podobne. Jeden rok, (jednego roku – but I don't know why) miałem na sobie niebieską sukienkę, i szarą perukę babci. Też miałem ślicznego naszyjnik i wysokie obcasy. Nie pamiętam jaki kolor były. (jakiego koloru były – but I don't know why) Zawsze najlepszy w Halloween był cukierek. Wszystkie dzieci poszły w dzielnice i mówili 'trick or treat' do sąsiedzi i dali cukierek.


25 października 2010


I'm not working very hard at learning Polish these days. Morale in the Polish department is low. Basically I've realised that if I am to make real progress in this language that I need to spend much, much more time working on it. If I continue with my current approach I may speak decent Polish in a few years. Not good enough!

As things are, I spend only two or three hours a week doing Polish homework (including time posting here, as you can tell from my recent post frequency). I do about two hours of great conversation with my teacher each week. The conversations are great for my morale and my teacher helps me say all those things I'm dying to say in Polish. I usually go in feeling a little scared, wondering what tough questions she will ask me, and feeling embarrassed when I ask the same stupid question the 100th time. I leave each week feeling like if I just keep it up that I will get there . . . but I know once a week is not enough. It's no surprise - unless you speak the language you're trying to learn every day, you're not giving yourself the best chance to learn.

I know it may sound bizarre that I don't speak Polish every day, living here in Warsaw. But it's true. I listen to the radio in Polish every day and sometimes have a pretty good idea what they are talking about. Other times I really have no clue. Listening to family conversations on topics and stories with with I'm already familiar I can follow along relatively well. Really, I miss most of what I hear. In new situations with new people and unfamiliar topics, I understand basically nothing. It's pretty hard on the morale, having been here for so long and to still have such rudimentary skills.

This week I'll seek out another (additional, not different!) teacher so I can speed my progress some in the next months. In January I'll get back into a group course . . . I've heard good reports (and seen some real results) from a friend of mine in Warsaw who has made fantastic progress in a short time. He studies . . . !

More posts in Polish coming soon. I know that's what you come here for - I'll do my best to deliver something this week!

14 października 2010

Basic Verbs of Motion II (Examples)

My recent foray into the blog world has caused me to be filled with admiration for you bloggers out there that are able to maintain their blogs with regularity. The thing that makes me glad is that, given my level of Polish, I am not going to run out of material worth writing about any time soon. The flip side is that, given my level, coming up with examples and explanations of this stuff is 1) exhausting and difficult, and 2) takes forever. I left off last post with a hint that I would post some examples using the basic verbs of motion I introduced last time. Here they are:

Iść: (to go on foot)
  • Już idę do domu. (Now I am going home.) - on foot
  • W piątek, idziemy na imprezę w centrum. (On Friday we are going to a party downtown.) In this case we are not strictly going on foot - we will probably take a tram, but we choose 'iść' because if we use jechać people will think we are traveling much further.
Chodzić: (to go on foot - regularly or frequently)
  • Zawsze chodzę na lekcje wcześnie. (I always go to my classes early.)
  • Rzadko chodzą do Włoskiej restauracji. (They rarely go to the Italian restaurant)
Jechać: (good for wheeled transport)
  • Jadę do Gdańska na spotkanie w weekend. (I am going to Gdańsk on the weekend.)
  • Jedziesz ze Stanisławem do Zakopanego na Święta? (Are you going with Stanisław to Zakopane for Chritsmas?)
Jeżdzi: (wheeled transport - regularly or frequently)
  • Często jeżdzę do Sopotu z Piotrem, ale wolę jeżdzić z psem. (I often travel to Sopot with Piotr, but I would rather travel with a dog.)
  • Weronika jeździ do Otwocka na zupę i kanapki dwa razy w miesiącu. (Weronika goes to Otwock for soup and sandwiches twice a month.)
Examples with pójść and pojechać coming. . . This is a slow process for me! My recent revelation was that by right clicking in the 'compose post' window, I can select a language from the list for the spell checker to use. Spell check in Polish and English! Great! Apparently this works in my Firefox wherever I am on the internet, but I hadn't noticed until now. The number of words in a Polish spell check dictionary must be immense (more than English, surely?) with all the possible endings/przypadki.

      11 października 2010

      Basic Verbs of Motion

      There's no part getting too far into other matters if I don't understand the basics. I absolutely need to master the basic verbs of motion in their imperfective and perfective forms. It is not as simple as learning the single verb 'to go.'

      The basic Polish verbs of motion:
      • to go on foot (non-vehicular)
        • iść (infrequently)
        • chodzić (repeated, frequently, or habitually)
        • to go go by car, train, etc. (vehicular)
          • jechać (infrequently)
          • jeździć (repeated or habitually)
        In the perfective form, the distinction between frequent and infrequent actions is lost. The perfective forms are as follows:
        • iść (imp.) and chodzić (imp.) --> pójść (perf.)
        • jechać (imp.) and jeździć (imp.) --> pojechać (perf.)
        In a post coming soon, I'll try a few examples which will hopefully also shine some light on the perfective/imperfective distinction.

          09 października 2010


          Dzień Dobry,

          Chcę pisać trochę o kolacja. Wczoraj zjadłem dobra kolacja w domu. Był warzywa z curry i orzechami nerkowca, jajka z masłem orzechowym, i ryż dziki. Piłem zimne mleko. Jajka z masłem orzechowym wyglądała troszkę nieprzyjemny ale miała dobra smak. Lubię tłusty mleko ale kilka ludzi myśli, że nie jest zdrowe. Zawsze piję mleko z butelka bo nie mamy krowy. Słucham, że świeży mleko jest bardzo smaczne. Macie krowę? Lubicie świeży mleko? Co zejście wczoraj?

          Myślę, że następnym razem będę pisać po angielsku bo teraz jestem wyczerpany.

          08 października 2010

          Świnka! Kwiczy!

          As mentioned in an earlier post, I am amused and interested by animals and the various names for animal sounds. It is entertaining to discover the differences in the words we use to describe animal sounds in different languages. Besides, animals are just plain fun to talk about. Easy vocabulary building. Knowing the nominative forms of animals, you can easily insult those around you by calling them various animal names. Mast of early first Polish statements were in some form related to "You are a/an X." / "Ty jesteś X." Careful with this!

          Today I'll list a few common (and uncommon) animals, along with a little discussion about how they sound. Let's start with some basics everyone ought to learn, along with my best guess of how we name their sound. The next level of entertainment would be how we actually vocalise their sounds. For example, we say in English that a dog barks, although if we imitate a bark we usually say something like 'woof,' or 'ruff.' Poles however, use the verb 'szczekać' for 'bark,' but might imitate the sound as 'how how.' Fun!
          • cow / krowa
            • moo / muczeć
          • horse / koń
            • whinny / rżeć
          • dog / pies
            • bark / szczekać
          • cat / kot
            • meow / miałczeć
          • mouse / mysz
            • squeak / piszczeć
          • lion / lew
            • roar / ryczeć
          • tiger / tygrys
            • roar / ryczeć
          • bear / niedźwiedź
            • roar / ryczeć
          • bird / ptak
            • chirp / ćwierkać
          • pig / świnia
            • squeal / kwiczać kwiczeć
            • oink / ??
            • snort / prychać or parskać (or the perfective forms prychnąć and parsknąć?). More about perfective and imperfective forms another day.
          Now, on to a few others:
          • snake / wąż
            • hiss / syczeć
          • badger / borsuk
            • ?? / ??
          • hamster / chomik
            • squeak / piszczeć
          • rat / szczur
            • squeak / piszczeć
          •  donkey / osioł
            • bray / ryczeć
          •  giraffe / żyrafa
            • ?? / ??
          •  zebra / zebra
            • whinny? / rżeć
          •  monkey / małpa
            • screech? / skrzeczeć
          • deer / jeleń
            • ?? / ??
          • frog / żaba
            • ribbit / kumkać
            • croak / rechotać - have I got these the right way around?
          Do you agree with my summary? What have I missed? I have left question marks on the ones I'm not sure about. I'll leave the discussion of the diminutive forms for later. Maybe I have chosen some remarkably silent animals. I'm interested in the similarity between ryczeć (from roar and bray) and rżeć for whinny. Of course, I don't expect to always find direct, literal translations and understand that gaps and differences do exist.

          Do donkeys and horses sound different? Tell me what your favourite animals are and I'll add them to another list. Help me fill out the chart by commenting below!

          07 października 2010

          Mini Breakthrough


          I am starting to realise a mini-breakthrough in my understanding of cases. I've been testing out basic sentences with my interlocutor in the past few days . . . testing getting the cases right in simple examples. It's just a different way of thinking of sentence construction. I'm far from having them all figured out.

          Successful examples from the morning (feel free to comment whether they are successful or not!):
          • Mam lekcje z Piotrem. (Piotr + Instrumental/Narzędnik)
            • I have a lesson with Piotr.
          • Lubię barszcz. (barszcz + Accusative/Biernik - in this example there is no change in the suffix)
            • I like barszcz.
          • Zjadłem ciasto z lodem lodami. (lody + Instrumantal/Narzędnik)
            • I ate cake with ice cream.
            • My interlocutor tells me that ice cream is always plural, unless it comes on a stick. If I ate cake and ice cream on a stick, I am apparently correct in saying 'zjadłem ciasto z lodem.'
          • To jest porftel Kolina. (Kolin + Genitive/Dopełniacz)
            • It is Kolin's wallet.
          Have I got it right? I know there are a thousand variations in the rules, but I need to start with a few examples that work. I feel like I'm starting to get someplace with this and now I understand why my teacher is making me learn them. Soon, I should write a chart of the various case endings, because I can't remember them all at once just yet.

          To make it more complicated, each case requires a different suffix (or sometimes none at all) depending on the noun's gender (male, female, or neuter), status (virile, non-virile), whether it is singular or plural, and on the spelling/sound of the nominative form. There are, of course, exceptions and irregularities. For example, masculine singular nouns almost always end with '-owi' in the Dative/Celownik, except for the following words:
          • ojciec --> ojcu (father)
          • pan --> panu (gentleman, man)
          • chłop --> chłopu (peasant, fellow)
          • brat --> bratu (brother)
          • pies --> psu (dog)
          • kot --> kotu (cat)
          • lew --> lwu (lion)
          • orzeł --> orłu (eagle)
          • świat --> światu (world)
          • Bóg --> Bogu (God)
          • diabeł --> diabłu (devil)
          As with exceptions in English grammar, I'm always curious to define what possible similarities the exceptions have. Sometimes you can tease a pattern out of the exceptions . . . just enough to make you think you have it figured out. I hope that after a certain period of practice, applying the cases properly can become a matter of intuition, because I'm not really keen on remembering all these rules in detail. I often tell my English students that there are no rules . . . there are only groups of exceptions!

          06 października 2010

          Cases / Przypadki

          Word order in Polish is less important than in English. The function of nouns in the sentence is determined by the 'case' the noun appears in. Cases are distinguished by the various suffixes applied to nouns, depending on their function in the sentence. I'll post a chart (or a link to one) of case endings shortly. This is a rudimentary snapshot of Polish cases and their uses, very much in progress. I, of course, don't understand all of this. There's a good chance I don't understand any of it. As my understanding grows I'll expand these notes.

          I also recognise that trying to master all seven cases in their myriad forms at this point is a little premature. It's just what I'm making notes on now because my teacher is making me learn them. 

          Here they are, with their English and Polish names, and questions that correspond to them.
          1. Nominative / Mianownik: Kto? Co?
          2. Genitive / Dopełniacz: Kogo? Czego?
          3. Dative / Celownik: Komu? Czemu?
          4. Accusative / Biernik: Kogo? Co?
          5. Instrumental / Narzędnik: z Kim? z Czym?
          6. Locative / Miejscownik: o Kim? o Czym?
          7. Vocative / Wołacz: O!
          Notes on case use:

          1. Nominative / Mianownik: Kto? Co?
          • subject of the sentence
          2. Genitive / Dopełniacz: Kogo? Czego? nie ma . . .
          • indicates possession, most senses of 'of'
          3. Dative / Celownik: Komu? Czemu? się przyglądam . . .
          • indicates indirect object (to or for something is done)
          4. Accusative / Biernik: Kogo? Co? widzę . . .
          • indicates direct object (thing perceived by or acted on by the subject)
          5. Instrumental / Narzędnik: z Kim? z Czym?
          • indicates means by which something is done (by tram, with a pen)
          6. Locative / Miejscownik: o Kim? o Czym?
          • used with certain prepositions
          7. Vocative / Wołacz: O!
          • direct address
          I have added this post to the 'reference' section on the right and will add to it as my understanding grows. I hope it is obvious that 1) I don't profess to be any kind of authority on these matters and 2) that I don't intend or expect that anyone will necessarily learn anything from these kinds of posts. For now it's mostly a public record of my notes.

          Topics to be visited soon: basic verbs, prepositions, and my favourite topic - animals and their sounds. Hroom Hroom! Any suggestions? What's your favourite animal (English or Polish)? More interestingly, what sound does it make? Moo? Meow? Oink? Think about it and leave a comment.

          Po Polsku!

          Cześć! To jest moja pierwszy list na blog po polsku. Nie wiem jak powiedzić duży, więc list będzie krótki. Dziś czuję się troche źly.  Nie wiem dlaczego bo byłem chory dwa tydzień temu. Kiedy jestem chory, potrzebuję spać długo i zjeść zupa. Bardzo lubię barszcz, ale zjadłem wszystko barszcz wczoraj. Dziśiaj na śnadania zjadłem płatki owsiane, nektarynka, i gruszka. Na obiad zjadłem kurczak z ziemniakem. Był mały wypadek - nie wiem jak (!) ale miałem keczup w moje oko. Proszę nie zapytać dlaczego!

          OK, that's exhausting. Now I need to do some other things, but I promised I would try to write a post in Polish. I absolutely used a dictionary, but I promise not to use google translate to write things for me. I know it's full of mistakes. Maybe once I fix the errors I'll post a corrected version.

          I welcome your comments, in any language!

          05 października 2010

          Borsuk na Pradze

          Borsuk na Pradze. A Badger in Praga. 'Praga,' very roughly speaking, is how Varsovians refer to the half of Warsaw on the Eastern bank of the Wisła: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Praga. I guess that makes me the badger. It's just a funny word in both languages, isn't it?

          Here I am, now over one year in Warsaw and still ever so slowly progressing in my quest to achieve some nominal ability in the Polish language. Fighting for every inch. . .

          My quest to learn Polish began some time in 2009. My first word was 'statek' (ship). Here I am, one year and two Polish courses later and I still feel like I have only the most basic, infantile ability in Polish. Everyone tells me that learning Polish is hard. I don't know how much harder it really is to learn than other languages, but it does seem to be rather harder than Spanish. I have some rudimentary Spanish that seems to have come to me quite easily. Polish is different. It just FEELS different. It's like a totally different language . . . Maybe I should have chosen Chinese.

          Recently I've enlisted the help of a private teacher. She's dragging me, willing or not, through polish cases, all seven. Mianownik, Dopełniacz . . . kto? co? czego? gdzie? huh? Nie rozumiem (I don't understand). We're both enthusiastic about it - she to teach and me to learn. Sometimes I think I know what's going on and other times it just sounds like she's . . . speaking some other language. And fast! We're getting there. I think. It's fun. I'm determined to not give up. I know I'm on a steep learning curve and there are great breakthroughs ahead.

          In line with my recent effort to boost my language ability, I decided today that I would blog about the experience. I'm almost a total beginner. I took the 'A0' (total beginner) course at IKO on Kopernika here in Warsaw back in January 2010. It was great fun and I really did learn a lot. I got halfway through the 'A1' course at the same school when I got bogged down and started missing classes . . . Now I'm getting back on track. Here, I intend to document my experience of learning Polish. As much as possible, I'm going to try to blog in English and in Polish when I can. I hope to post in detail about what I'm learning, what I understand, and what I don't. I'll try to relate how I study and elicit advice about good ways to overcome problems and expand my vocabulary and grammatical prowess. I'll try unapologetically to write something in Polish. I'll post links to resources that I find interesting or useful. Hopefully, eventually I'll be able to write and say something meaningful 'po polsku.' I see this blog as an opportunity to focus my efforts, to write a bit about my Polish experience, and to share what I can with those attempting similar challenges. Join me!

          In my next post I'll write something in Polish to establish the starting point. It won't be perfect! I have to start somewhere.

          Życzcie mi powodzenia. (Wish me luck.)