17 lutego 2011

Dictionary Discoveries: Translated

Yesterday I posted about discovering that the Polish/English dictionary has a history feature, which keeps an effective log of the words I needed in my travels. Scroll down and read that post, 'Dictionary Discoveries' first if you haven't already.

I said that upon first inspection that I could only remember the translation or definition of 18 of the 48 recorded words. I hope you're following along and learning vocabulary too. This list is equally valuable for learners of Polish or English. Here's the list again, this time with translations. Do you know them all?

I have chosen the only the meaning and part of speech I was interested in at the time. There are, of course, many other possibilities.
  1. food / jedzenie (n.)
  2. meldunek / registration (n.)
  3. przyszłość / future (n.)
  4. airmail / pocztą lotniczą (n.)
  5. pillowcase / poszewka (n.)
  6. single / pojedynczy (adj.)
  7. good / grzeczny (adj., in this case meaning 'well behaved')
  8. help / pomoc (n.)
  9. patience / cierpliwość (n.)
  10. odbierać / to pick up (v.)
  11. czegoś / something (pronoun, genitive case)
  12. anything / coś (pronoun)
  13. something / coś (pronoun)
  14. płyn / liquid or fluid (n.)
  15. bleach / wybielacz (n.)
  16. comfortable / wygodny (n., in this case of a chair, a bed, glasses . . . )
  17. wide / szeroki (adj.)
  18. shiny / błyszczący (adj.)
  19. makler / (stock)broker (n.)
  20. walk / chodzić piechotą (v.)
  21. ratusz / town hall (n.)
  22. change / reszta (n.)
  23. ring / pierścionek (n.)
  24. forget / zapominać (v.)
  25. celny / customs (adj. 'what kind of officer?')
  26. służba / service (n.)
  27. graniczny / border (adj.)
  28. młodzież / youth(s) (n.)
  29. march / maszerować (v.)
  30. March / marzec (n.)
  31. galop / gallop (n. I love these ones! Free word!)
  32. dopiero / only (adv.)
  33. begin / po pierwsze (v. 'To begin with, I'd like to know . . . )
  34. when / kiedy (adv.)
  35. try / starać się (v. to make an effort)
  36. salmon / łosoś (n.)
  37. happy / szczęśliwy (adj.)
  38. ławka / bench (n.)
  39. orchid / orchidea (n.)
  40. stoic / stoik (n.)
  41. zboczony / perverted (adj.)
  42. zbocze / slope (n.)
  43. spleen / śledziona (n.)
  44. stukot / clatter (n.)
  45. żal / regret (n.)
  46. grudzień / December (n.)
  47. obowiązujący / valid (adj.)
  48. loyal / lojalny (adj.)
So, how many did you know? How many did you learn?

    16 lutego 2011

    Dictionary Discoveries

    Tonight while riding the #24 home to Grochów, I, like many others on the tram, was playing with my cellphone. That's 'mobile' to you international English speakers. I have a great Polish/English dictionary in my phone that I use many times a day. While trying to compose a text message in Polish, I was looking hopelessly for the 'copy and paste' feature in the dictionary - a sorely lacking feature. Trying to flip back and forth between an SMS and the dictionary page displaying 'food.' It's hard to remember how to spell 'żywność,' which didn't seem to me to be the correct word for food. My wife tells me that the word I was looking for was 'jedzenie.' Of course. Apparently 'żywność' is too scientific, and 'pokarm' is a little too biological in meaning. Great, now how do I remember that?

    While searching for the copy and paste feature, I stumbled across 'history.' Low and behold my dictionary has, unbeknownst to me, been collecting my search history and building a list of words to study! Perfect. It's great to have a dictionary at your fingertips but when it is that easy to find the right word, sometimes it is a little difficult to remember.

    Without further delay, I present you with the list of my last 48 dictionary searches in Polish or English, in reverse chronological order:
    1. food
    2. meldunek
    3. przyszłość
    4. airmail
    5. pillowcase
    6. single
    7. good
    8. help
    9. patience
    10. odbierać
    11. czegoś
    12. anything
    13. something
    14. płyn
    15. bleach
    16. comfortable
    17. wide
    18. shiny
    19. makler
    20. walk
    21. ratusz
    22. change
    23. ring
    24. forget
    25. celny
    26. służba
    27. graniczny
    28. młodzież
    29. march
    30. March
    31. galop
    32. dopiero
    33. begin
    34. when
    35. try
    36. salmon
    37. happy
    38. ławka
    39. orchid
    40. stoic
    41. zboczony
    42. zbocze
    43. spleen
    44. stukot
    45. żal
    46. grudzień
    47. obowiązujący
    48. loyal
    This is a fantastic resource; It is the perfect list of the words I needed in the real world. Moreover, I certainly don't remember all of them, so it is a great study list. Of 48 words, I only just now remember the translation or meaning for 18 of them.

    Now for the fun part - I can remember what I was doing when I was looking up most of these words! I seem to come back to this idea again and again - finding a way to make each small lesson memorable in some way can be the key to putting it into long term memory. I find any tactic useful that helps hold something in short term memory long enough so I can use it enough times for it to settle into a more permanent place.

    Now, on with the word list, and where applicable, a note on why the word was relevant in my day:
    1. food: riding home on the tram tonight, hungry
    2. meldunek: waiting in the urząd for my new zameldowanie
    3. przyszłość:
    4. airmail: mailing a letter home to Canada. We found out the hard way that letters can take months when sent by regular mail. A letter we mailed to Australia on September 27 finally arrived in Sydney LAST WEEK!
    5. pillowcase: shopping for pillowcases
    6. single: thinking about espresso: 'pojedyńcze czy podwójne?'
    7. good: likely a good dog in the street
    8. help: wondering if a bleeding man near my apartment needed help
    9. patience: thanking the optical shop sales clerk for helping me in Polish
    10. odbierać: picking up my new glasses
    11. czegoś: shopping for glasses
    12. anything: looking for glasses
    13. something: looking for glasses
    14. płyn: reading labels in the shop, looking for denatured alcohol
    15. bleach: more labels, still looking for denatured alcohol
    16. comfortable: glasses shopping
    17. wide: glasses . . .
    18. shiny: you guessed it . . .
    19. makler: a student was looking for this word in a lesson
    20. walk
    21. ratusz: getting off the metro at Ratusz Arsenał
    22. change
    23. ring
    24. forget: returning something my brother 'borrowed' from a restaurant
    25. celny: in the airport reading a worker's jacket crest
    26. służba: in the airport, reading same jacket crest
    27. graniczny: still at the airport . . .
    28. młodzież: talking about Polish sail training ships
    29. march
    30. March
    31. galop: talking (rather, listening) about horses with my wife?
    32. dopiero: listening to TOK FM on the tram
    33. begin
    34. when
    35. try
    36. salmon: buying a salad at Cafe Colombia on Nowy Świat
    37. happy
    38. ławka: sitting on a bench with friends in Łazienki Park
    39. orchid: buying orchid mix on Waszyngtona
    40. stoic
    41. zboczony: no idea what I was looking for!
    42. zbocze
    43. spleen
    44. stukot: talking about workplace noises with a student
    45. żal
    46. grudzień
    47. obowiązujący
    48. loyal
    I'll be revisiting this topic, and checking in with more vocabulary lists. I'll have to quiz myself with these words. My dictionary also has a 'learning' feature, where it will provide either a random word, or a 'word of the day.' I discover enough words each day that I don't see the use of this feature for now.

    Quiz yourself - how many of these words do you know? I'll post the translations/answers in my next post.

    What were the last 5 Polish or English words you learned? To my students reading this, extra points for adding your comments below!

    11 lutego 2011

    Gratifying Language Lessons II: Practice

    Last post I talked about a simple method I had employed to work on specific topics in language learning. My quest was to find a pair of glasses in Warsaw. I outlined my method, but didn't write about the specific language I learned and practised. Time for that now.

    Anyone learning from dialogues in textbooks knows how predictable 'textbook' conversations are. It may seem obvious but one needs to remember that the person you are talking to (unless they're in the classrom!) won't follow scripted dialogue like in the language textbooks. Don't be surprised when people don't 'know their lines' in real life.

    Glasses / okulary are, as in English, plural. They are also of neuter gender in Polish. Here are some of the words and phrases I armed myself with for the day (in no particular order):
    • Szukam okularów / I'm looking for glasses
    • okulary / glasses
    • oprawki / frames
    • soczewki / lenses
    • klasyczne / classic
    • Moja recepta jest minus pięć i minus pięć i pół. / My prescription is minus five and minus five and a half.
    • proste zauszniki / simple arms
    • raczej metalowe / ~more metal than otherwise
    • jake firme soczewki? / Which company makes the lenses?
    • można? / may I?
    • za duże / too big
    • za małe / too small
    • nieźle / not bad
    • przęmyslę / I'll think about it
    • może / maybe
    • niewygodne / uncomfortable
    • wrocę / I'll be back
    • wrocę z żoną / I'll be back with my wife
    • proszę odłożyć / please hold
    • za ciężkie / too heavy (weight or appearance)
    • te są najleprze / these are the best
    • za bardzo kanciaste / too angular
    • pocieniane / thin (lenses)
    I kept my ears open for new words and picked up a couple I remember. I have to write them down quickly or I forget them nearly instantaneously. I got the sales staff to help me write a couple of them down. As I've said before, they always seemed very happy to take a moment to help me out.
    • matowe / matte (colour)
    • za szeroki / too wide
    • za bardzo błyszczące / too shiny
    After day one, I went home and learned some more phrases I had discovered I was missing:
    • Noszę okulary codziennie przez cały dzień. / I wear glasses all day, every day.
    • Często oglądam telewisję na leżąco. / I often watch TV laying down. (whilst demonstrating sideways TV viewing posture)
    • Czy są takie czarne? / Do you have these in black?
    Of course my conversations were riddled with errors, but I seemed to get what I wanted in the end. I quickly learned it is unnecessary to repeat the apologetic "Niestety nie mowię dobrze po polsku" / "Unfortunately I don't speak Polish well." Speak like I do and people know that right away! Also, this sentence serves as an invitation to those capable in English to deal in English, which I was trying to avoid. After visiting probably 10-15 shops, I only dealt with one woman in English. A pretty fair average. With one woman, when I ran out of Polish words I just spoke English. She seemed to understand me well enough and spoke to me in Polish. This sounds very strange but was more or less functional.

    Mistakes? All day I had been saying "Moja recepta jest minus pięć i minus pięć i po." I should have been saying "pół." What else did I get wrong? What other phrases would you have told me to write down on my cheat sheet?

    I found a lot of good shops. I also found a few that I wouldn't even go into. Like many other types of shops in the city, it is amazing how some really feel like stepping twenty years back in time. There are a few shops I would return to if shopping for glasses again:
    • Duo Optyk
    •  Firma Optyczna Marek Jakubowiczul
    • Bogdan Tuszyński Optyk
      • Al. Jana Pawła II 26
      • dobryoptyk@wp.pl
      • helpful staff, had just what I was looking for
    I ended up buying some frames in 'Flexon' material from the shop on Jana Pawła II. It's surprising how fast they were ready (one day), but one must remember that in all the shops I visited, you are buying the actual frames you try on. The only thing that needs to be delivered and cut is the lenses. In Canada, it seems to be pretty standard that you wait about 5 days for a new frame to be delivered to match the demo frame you tried on. This way you can custom order colours, temple sizes, etc. In Poland you just have to be careful of the condition of the frames you're buying - some have been on the wall a while and have taken a bit of a beating. I'm still getting used to the fit of my new frames but I'm happy so far.

    When it came to choosing lens options, I brought in my wife to help. The salesperson was helpful but spoke too quickly for me to take chances misunderstanding her. A good translator comes in handy! I ended up getting quality frames and quality high index lenses with all the coatings for about one third to one half of what I would expect to pay in Canada.

    While out exploring, I found another good English bookstore, where I picked up what looked to be the last copy of "301 Polish Verbs." Check out Księgarnia Co-Liber, Pl. Bankowy 4 (www.coliber.waw.pl). More on my new book another day.

    01 lutego 2011

    Gratifying Language Lessons I: Method

    I'm finally back to Warsaw and settling into normal life again after an extended and very busy time home in Alberta for the holidays. While in Canada I admit I didn't work on my Polish at all. As you noticed I have also been neglecting the blog! Unfortunately, now my main computer is in pieces and waiting for a replacement fan so I'm working on a backup system for the time being. A good reminder to all to back up your data.

    Family parties in December and January provided great opportunities for both sides to practice both English and Polish. My Polish family visited Canada for Christmas and New Years, and my Canadian family came to Warsaw for 10 days in January. The jovial spirit of our gatherings fostered an atmosphere free of fear and hesitation. More important than a lesson in vocabulary or grammar, I learned a lesson in courage. If my Polish family can speak to me in English then I can certainly grow the courage and confidence to do my best in Polish. It's an inspiration to learn more. Attempts at communication are perfectly demonstrative in exposing those gaps in language one wants to develop. Who wants to learn the language they teach you in schools?

    I know lots of people need language skills to book appointments, meet friends, exchange business information, etc. However, I always think it's rather silly to teach 'business' language skills at a beginner level. Making appointments, planning conferences, etc. is deadly boring, and more importantly, these aren't the skills most needed by beginners. I think beginners need to make basic introductions, buy things with confidence in markets, shops, and restaurants, and so on.  Beginners need to learn to gossip, not how to negotiate a mortgage or buy a car. Serious things like this are best done with a translator!

    I have had some incredibly gratifying language lessons here in Warsaw over the last few days. My recent mission has been shopping for new glasses. Most people think they don't know how to teach language, but my interlocutor has proven to be a very effective teacher! She provided me with a phrasebook type template of useful sentence fragments to use while out shopping.

    The method is simple and it is a great way to learn vocabulary and 'chunks' of useful language. I interviewed my interlocutor over lunch for some phrases I expected to use, and wrote them down on a slip of paper (in my experience, pen and paper is better for memory than a computer keyboard!). Writing the words yourself seems to be critical in remembering them. Next, vocabulary. Whatever words suit the topic. Keep the list short . . . some research shows that our short term memories are only really effective at remembering 6-10 things at a time. My limit is considerably less! Take this opportunity to test your pronunciation of the word/phrase list and emulate your teacher. Keep the interview short and sweet and don't abuse your interview privileges.

    Using this simple process you can turn any willing participant into a language teacher. Keep the phrases simple and don't overwhelm them with never-ending grammar questions. In my experience, Poles don't know their grammar any better than we English speakers know ours, and it makes them uncomfortable when they can't answer your grammar queries. Save the grammar interrogation for expert teachers and research in textbooks.

    Armed with your slip of phrases and vocabulary - go for it. You have to practice this stuff if you want to remember it. I went to the first optical store with my interlocutor and let her speak for me. I listened carefully. Next, I got rid of her! Today in the city I was completely on my own - no English speaking translator and no opportunity to chicken out. I still feel a little nervous speaking Polish in public with my interlocutor (ok, ok, she's my wife!), so going it alone solves this problem.

    Every single salesperson today was extremely gracious, patient, and helpful with my attempts to shop in Polish. I never asked if they spoke English. Instead, I fumbled and forged ahead in Polish the best I could. Keep that slip of paper handy, take your time, and remind yourself the words you have forgotten whenever you need. If you catch a new word or hear one you don't understand, ASK the salesperson what it means! ('Proszę powtórzyć' and 'Proszę mowić wolniej' come in handy). Remember, anyone can be your teacher. These lessons conducted completely in Polish are the best way for me to remember bits and pieces. I remember the shop, the smell, the setting, and I remember looking at W-I-D-E glasses when I learned to say 'too wide' ('za szeroki').

    By the end of the day, I still hadn't found the glasses I wanted, but I had practiced my Polish in countless shops and my confidence and proficiency grew at every step. By the end of the day I even went into two shops I didn't think would have good glasses just to practice and reinforce my new skills. It's really gratifying! One small lesson at a time - keep those slips of paper and build topic after topic. I had a blast doing it today!

    Next post, I'll share my notes from glasses shopping. What phrases did I carry for the day and what vocabulary did I use? What did I learn on the spot and what did I screw up? I'll tell you in detail tomorrow. It feels good to blog again after such a long break.

    I want your comments. What real world topic should I practice next in Warsaw? What do I need to learn to say? I will make a list of future topics to work on in the city. No more picking oranges from baskets at Społem - I have to go to the market and talk to real people. They really are patient and kind when they see you trying your best in their language and they're invariably happy to help.

    What topics do you suggest? Choosing a tie? Buying fruit or meat? Going to the post office? Add your comments below.