L’article qui suit a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie. Une traduction en français suivra dans quelques jours. Vous êtes invité à présenter (sous la forme de « commentaires »), vos propositions de traduction, observations, etc. Il en sera tenu compte. Vous m'autorisez à utiliser vos contributions comme je l'entends, sur ce blog et ailleurs, en m'abstenant de mentionner votre nom.
Perhaps I should say trying to learn any language, but especially a rather “obscure” language (no offense intended to the 39 million Poles of course), but I just mean here that the majority of language learners focus on the “top five”, which give you the most mileage for your language learning efforts.
I started getting interested in trying, and I must insist on the importance of this verb, to learn Polish a few years ago when I first visited the north of Poland, through an exchange program that my little city here in France has with a city in Poland. One of my acquaintances had participated in this program as a member of our local city council, and came back with stories about a Polish wedding, the never-ending food on the tables, how hospitable the Poles were, the culture and beauty of the county, so when I got the chance to participate myself, I jumped at this opportunity. I promptly registered in an online Polish course, which provided me with a few basic vocabulary words that I remembered, plus helping me with that difficult pronunciation where you think “Why don’t these words have any vowels?” And “My tongue is just not limber enough to pronounce this.” I tried three online courses, bought a few do-it-yourself books and CDs, and had skype lessons with a Polish girl who was studying in France, so a few different kinds of supports.
And yes, being American, I’m not afraid of being ridiculous so I, of course, used my few words of Polish every time I had an opportunity, and though communication was very, very basic, communication there was, much more than with the other members of our French group.
But then, like in the Marines where when the going gets tough, the tough get going, things did get much more difficult, with grammar rules about the seven cases in Polish, words agreeing in case, gender and number to the noun they refer to, personal pronouns that are omitted because they are implicitly understood, and I never even got beyond the present tense! The cases, for me anyway, are extremely difficult to understand, as in English, I really don’t think that they cause any grammar changes so the concept is often mentally challenging. But as an anti-Alzheimer’s intellectual experience, not too much tops trying to get the hang of a foreign language, and the joy that you have when you actually understand something, and are able to reply.
By studying its language, you also get to know a bit more about the country, its geography, habits, customs, culture and food. Poland would never have been on my bucket list to visit, but it is such a beautiful and interesting country, a too well-hidden secret for many of us in Europe that the only advice I could give would be “try it, you’ll like it.”
A little anecdote which is quite funny and does not reflect my grasp of this language: the very first time I went to Poland, I was with my Polish sister and another Polish family, who accompanied their French family at that outing. Liliane, who came with me from France, had purchased a little stuffed animal, a cat with its eyes closed, as a gift for her Polish family’s little daughter. When I saw it, I said “Kot śpi,” which means ‘the kitty is sleeping.’ Everyone looked at me like, what the heck – she can speak Polish and didn’t tell us! Of course though, that was about my limit! But how often can you actually place a sentence like ‘the kitty is sleeping’ in an actual context and have it make sense. Not that often, but I did it! So from the trials and tribulations, I can add and would like to insist on the actual joy and fun, in learning and using a foreign language, whatever your level.