If any of you have been reading my blogfrom it’s early months, you might recall a post I wrote about all the
reasons why I’m learning Welsh
that I could come up with. It was a translated post from my previous, Polish blog, and I wrote it because pretty much every single person whom I mentioned it to would ask me this question as either the first, or the second one, right after “Isn’t it an English dialect?” 😀 and because, well, as you can see in that post, there are very many reasons.
I enjoyed writing that post and it got a lot more attention than I thought it would, so the next year I also wrote about
reasons why I’m learning Swedish
and last year
reasons why I’m learning English.
I haven’t started learning any new language since then (even though some people seem to believe that I start learning a new one every month, haha), and I think it’ll be a while yet until I do, but although my language bucket list is long, I’m not rushing anywhere. And, there’s still one language that I know that I think also deserves its own post, even though I’m not learning it. Well, I am technically, but since I’m a native, it’s a different kind of learning, of course. And obviously as you can figure out of the title, or even if you know about me, this language is Polish. I was a little hesitant about writing this post however, even though I was thinking from the beginning of this yearly language series that I should do it. Of course I love Polish, and in a way it’s a more special relationship than with any other of my languages, but, because it’s always been a part of my life and not really as a result of my own, conscious choice as is the case with the others, I thought it would be harder to come up with as many reasons. As someone who hates anything to do with math, I always tend to appreciate quality over quantity, but I wouldn’t like this post to stand out as the shortest of the whole series, that would be sad and unfair, even if just in my opinion.
I shared the dilemma with my Mum, who rightly noticed that it would be much more sad and unfair if I didn’t write it at all. And that perhaps the reasons as such will speak louder here than their amount would. That was a very fair point to me, so that’s why I am writing this post today, after all.
Here are all the reasons why I love Polish:
It is, like I said earlier, my mother tongue, so, in a way, I have even more of a connection with it than any other of my languages. It was the first language that sparked the love for language in my brain, I mean language in general, as a phenomenon, linguistics. It made me fall in love with words, my synaesthetic associations with them, it showed me how fun it is to play with words and expand your vocabulary. I love it because it’s the language in which I communicate with people I love – my family. – And because learning it made me more able and open to learn other languages later on.
Like all my languages. It is plain beautiful. While other Slavic languages aren’t among my most most most favourites (I do like them a lot, they are super cool and very charming but they aren’t in that MOST group), I strongly believe that even if it wasn’t my mother tongue, I’d still end up loving Polish, I don’t know how I could not.
While I’m not inclined to brag like some of us like to do that our language is the most difficult in the world (it depends on what you’re starting with, and there are much, much more complex languages out there), Polish does have a rather complex grammatical structure when compared to English, and – if you can ever be objective about such things – I’d say it’s also more complex phonetically than all the languages I’ve learnt so far. That makes me lucky, because the more difficult language you’re starting with, the easier you’ll likely find learning other languages, because you may be familiar with their trickier bits already from your mother tongue. I don’t have to be scared of languages with genuses or cases, for example, and arduously try to conceptualise them, because I already know what they are all about, now I just have to figure out how they apply to the language I’m learning and what differences there are compared to what I’m used to. And while picking up phonetics of foreign languages seems to be more of an individual trait, I think it does help me with it that, in my mother tongue, there are sounds which can hardly be differentiated from each other by a non-native even though they are different (see ś and sz, ć and cz etc.).
There is a lot of great Polish literature. I don’t know much about how much of it gets translated to other languages and which ones most often, but given that most countries are largely focused either on writing their own literature, or translating things from English, and the Anglophone world doesn’t seem to translate a lot, if I lived anywhere else and didn’t speak Polish, I probably wouldn’t get to know books by people who are now my favourite Polish authors.
Some of the swearwords and expletives are priceless. See my post
for example, if you want to learn more.
It has loads of amusing idioms. And lots of such that are very straightforward and to the point, and lots of such that I just love the sound of.
The archaic Polish language. While I think it’s very true that a language is alive as long as it’s changing, because we are always changing and the times are always changing so it would be weird if the language wouldn’t, hence I don’t understand people who are all against slang, loanwords and other such things, I think it would be fun if we talked more like we used to, used more of that vocabulary we no longer do. Or, why the heck did we stop using initial stress in words to replace it with a paroxytone stress? I guess only highlanders speak with an initial syllable stress now, and I like that because it makes them sound like Finns. 😀 Or I hate that we stopped using long and short vowels because that makes the prosody of a language feel more interesting. I love love love reading older Polish books where there are words that we no longer use, some that I don’t even really get and I love learning what they mean and feeling them. People used to have such a delicious way of writing, even at the beginning of the 20th century, not to mention earlier. I feel like it often gets lost now. I say delicious because one of the synaesthesias I have is lexical-gustatory and while words almost always have some sort of a taste and it’s not like the modern Polish language doesn’t and like there aren’t any delicious words in it (far from it), it’s just that more archaic Polish language tends to have something very specific about its taste as a whole, that I really like. My Mum has also always loved reading books written in an archaic or obsolete language, so I guess it must be genetic. She especially has a lot of prayer books from like even before WWI I guess, when even the spelling was different and we used y instead of j, or my grandma has a cook book from the end of 19th century. I just love things like these!
Dialects. You may perhaps remember from my post about English, that I wrote about Polish being a fairly unified language in terms of accent, especially when compared to English. However, there still are some slight variations to how people speak in different regions and it’s interesting to observe. There are also some dialects. I don’t necessarily have to love all of them as such in terms of whether they appeal to me aesthetically, but I love that the ones that exist still do, that we have some linguistic diversity (although I wish there was more or at least that it would be more pronounced), and although I myself don’t speak any dialect or don’t have a particularly distinguishable accent (despite being half-Kashub, and Kashubian is classified as a minority language but I can hardly understand it let alone speak it), I am very easily driven up the wall by people saying things like that it is not “elegant” to speak in a dialect, for example. I do think it’s a good skill to have to be able to speak your language in some universal, standard way that is often considered more formal, but being disapproving of someone speaking in a different way is not only discriminatory but also kind of smothering a person’s identity, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why it bothers me so much whenever I come across such an attitude.
Words that are untranslatable to other languages that I know. I am always interested in the concept of untranslatable words, in any language, and the ideas behind them, how you can express sometimes some incredibly complex ideas using one word in one language, but in another, one sentence may sometimes be too little. A very good example of a Polish word that is untranslatable to English is kombinować, which also happens to be a word that I really like and which, as many Poles think, reflects our resourcefulness as a nation. 😀 Yes, there is combine, and kombinować absolutely can mean combine, but it also has another definition. It is something you do when you have a problem that you need to resolve, but there’s no straight way out of it and it needs first a lot of thinking and then coming up with some unconventional work-around strategy, which sometimes may not be the most honest one. Both the thinking process and then carrying your idea out is what kombinować means. When it is dishonest, you could of course say it’s plain cheating but cheating feels a LOT more weighty and negative, and also kombinować is more colloquial, plus kombinować may, but doesn’t have to include, any cheating. It could be coming up with any creative, out-of-the-box solution or idea and then doing what you came up with. It is often translated as being up to something but it’s not the same.
Poglish, Ponglish, Pinglish or whatchamacallit. I’ve always said Ponglish, but a lot of people say Poglish and recently I came across Pinglish and I think Pinglish is best. Anyway, obviously you know what I’m talking about, the blend of Polish and English. It is often used by Polish diaspore in the US and the UK (like in Chicago I guess it’s quite a big thing) or by Polish young people in a slangy sort of way, or (voluntarily or not) by Polish speakers learning English/English speakers learning Polish when they’re dealing with language interference and/or nearly discharged/fried brains. It can be so freakishly amusing sometimes.
I often gravitate towards languages that are less popular and less heard off, if not obscure. Polish may not be as much as obscure, but, apart from Poland or places in other countries where there are a lot of Polish immigrants, you won’t hear it a lot, and there aren’t super many non-natives who would speak it. This small language factor is very appealing to me.
Because, whether it is the most difficult language in the world or not, it is viewed by many learners and natives as difficult, and I was lucky enough to not have to make a conscious effort of learning it. 😀 And the difficult factor is also appealing in itself. I like difficult languages, they are fascinating, kind of similarly to how complex human beings are.
What do you love your native language for, if you do, and if you don’t, why? 🙂