If you have always wanted to learn Polish, you’re nowhere near alone; tens of thousands of people study the language every day around the world. And it’s no wonder! Polish is a language that captures a rich and complex culture and history. The language can take you many places, especially around Eastern Europe.
But you might have a lot of questions about why you should learn Polish or what it takes to get started — or why it’s even worthwhile at all. The good news is you can rest assured that learning the Polish language is an effort worth undertaking. With the right tools and technology to guide you in your journey, you’ll see your efforts pay off in so many ways.
Why Learn Polish?
Learning any new tongue is a challenge that can open up your mind to new perspectives and help you connect with all types of people across boundaries of land and language. When it comes to learning Polish, these reasons are especially true.
To start, if you know the Polish language, you open yourself up to a world of Polish speakers. There are more than 40 million people on Earth who speak Polish as a first language, and many who speak it to some degree as a second or third language.
You’ll obviously find Polish all over Poland (it's home to the vast majority of the language’s native speakers), but did you know that there are whole populations of Polish speakers throughout Eastern Europe in places like the Czech Republic, Belarus, Ukraine, Lituania, Hungary and Slovakia? And because of historical waves of migration, there are pockets of Polish speakers in the United States and Canada, too, as well as even in places like Russia, Israel, Brazil and England. You might not know that Polish is actually the second most spoken language in the United Kingdom behind English! Clearly, learning Polish means you can talk to millions of people worldwide.
You might want to learn Polish for its links to other world languages. Polish, a West Slavic language, is closely related to all of the other languages in the same family, especially its cousins in the West Slavic branch like Ukrainian and Czech. And a little less closely related but still similar is Russian, another Slavic language. Behind Russian, Polish is the world’s second-most spoken Slavic language and the most spoken West Slavic one. If you ever want to learn the other Slavic languages, there’s no doubt that if you learn Polish, you’ll have a learning advantage right from the start!
Benefits Of Learning Polish
Picking up a new skill can help you express your creativity, stimulate your mind, and discover new sides of yourself along the way. Learning a new language like Polish is no exception! Here are just a few of the many ways you can make a positive impact on your life if you learn Polish.
- Learn Polish For Travel — When the spirit of adventure strikes, don’t let language barriers hold you back. When you have Polish in your back pocket, you have a passport to many new corners of the world. Learning Polish not only means you’ll be able to navigate new cities by reading road signs, menus, and train tickets; it also lets you connect with the new people you meet there. It’s often said that the best way to explore a new place is through the eyes of a local, and learning Polish lets you branch out of tourist hotspots and into the real world as the native speakers see it. Whether it’s the streets of Warsaw, a castle in Kraków or one of Poland’s beautiful national parks, you’ll be more equipped to venture off the beaten path and explore all the Polish-speaking world has to offer when you have Polish in your linguistic repertoire.
- Live The Polish Language Abroad — Whether you’re looking to enroll at a foreign university and have a more alternative college experience, find a job at a hostel that lets you hit the tourist hotspots by day and work at night, or retire in a place with a slower pace of life, living abroad is hands down the best hands-on approach to getting the most immersive language experience possible. By placing yourself in an environment where you’re obligated to speak Polish, you’ll fast-track your journey to fluency. Your life can take on new twists and turns when you move to an unfamiliar place, and there’s so much of the Polish-speaking world to explore. When you learn Polish, you open up a gateway to a robust, colorful, and novel life adventure!
- Build Your Business Polish Skills — Today the world is more connected economically than ever before. The sweeping tides of globalization mean that companies and organizations today are operating across international borders and boundaries. If you’re a professional looking for ways to stay competitive and current in the global market, learning Polish is a no-brainer for success. Eastern Europe is an emerging market full of opportunity for businesses. Learning the Polish language is a fantastic way to connect with colleagues in other countries, score new clients, build strong relationships with Polish-speaking partners and investors, and to show off the multicultural, international, and inclusive nature of your brand.
- Use Language To Train Your Brain — Building any new skill is a surefire way to expand your intellectual horizons. Learning Polish is an especially sound way to keep your brain flexible and nimble, especially as you grow older. Picking up a new language involves making connections between words and what they represent, taking apart and putting together grammatical structures, spontaneously speaking and thinking on your feet, sticking with a challenge when it’s frustrating and confusing, and a whole lot of active listening. There are few better ways to exercise your mental muscles than by learning Polish.
- Immerse Yourself In Polish Culture, Unfiltered — Learning Polish opens you up not only to a better understanding of the language itself but also of the arts and culture of the world that speaks it. To read the literature of decorated Polish-speaking writers like the science fiction satirist Stanisław Lem and Nobel Laureates like Olga Tokarczuk, Czesław Miłosz and Henryk Sienkiewicz is to engage with the language in some of its most beautiful, melancholic and colorful expressions. Through the lens of Polish you get a more active immersion in more contemporary Polish-language media like podcasts, radio shows, audiobooks, and TV shows. The stories and recipes of culinary creations like kluski ´śląskie, the dialogue of famous Polish films including recent Oscar winning movie Ida, and the lyrics of classic Polish songs all become accessible to you when you learn the Polish language. And if you’re from a family with Polish-speaking elders and ancestors but you don’t know the language yourself, learning Polish is an excellent way to connect with your heritage.
Learn Polish Basics: Polish Lesson For Beginners
Learning The Polish Alphabet, Polish Spelling And Polish Pronunciation
When you look at Polish spelling, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. All those consonant clusters in a word like zmartwychwstanie, for example, can seem very daunting! But luckily, Polish pronunciation isn't as hard as it seems.
There are no silent letters in Polish, and each letter is pronounced one and only one way, meaning that reading Polish is very phonetic, unlike English. (Think about how a non-English speaker might struggle with words like “cough,” “colonel” and “knight.”) But it can be tricky to grasp pronunciation when you’re just starting out, as there are 32 letters in the Polish alphabet, and several of them won’t be familiar to English speakers.
When it comes to speaking Polish, you’ll want to sound like a native speaker by mastering Polish pronunciation. Learning to pronounce words in Polish means mastering the more nasalized vowels Ę and Ą, learning how to articulate letters like Ć, Ś and Ź with accent marks over them and more elements that will factor into play in your Polish pronunciation learning journey. But you’ll find that pronouncing Polish isn’t all that hard! For example, many double-combinations of consonants actually only make a single sound. So, the letters cz together are pronounced like the English “ch” sound, sz like “sh” and ch like “h,” to name a few.
Don’t worry if you can’t master Polish spelling, a typical Polish accent or the trickiest of Polish pronunciations right away; it takes time and practice! The best way to remember these rules is just to practice over and over, especially by reading texts out loud. Watching Polish TV, movies or YouTube videos or listening to Polish-language podcasts, radio and film can certainly help you master Polish pronunciation and sound like a native Polish speaker.
Because Polish and English belong to different language families, there isn’t a lot of overlap in their vocabularies. This means you’re going to have to learn a lot of new words that have Slavic roots, and it might take some extra time and practice.
But that’s not to say you’ll be completely on your own; in fact, there are some words in Polish that share very ancient Indo-European roots with words in English, like nos (“nose”) and woda (“water”), making them easy to recognize! And because Polish has borrowed loanwords from other languages, you’ll find there are a lot of Polish words and phrases that are similar enough to English terms you already know. It should be pretty easy to guess the English equivalents of words like dokument, satelita, student and komputer at first glance.
When it comes to unfamiliar Polish vocabulary words you will need to learn, there’s no wrong way to master them. Some people prefer to use flashcards to learn vocabulary. Others find success with the sticky note method, asking a friend to quiz them on a list of words or something else entirely. It’s up to you!
Basics Of Polish Grammar
Polish Verbs And Polish Verb Conjugations
Verbs are key elements of any Polish sentence. Whenever you want to express that someone or something does some action or is something else, you need a Polish verb.
Polish verbs generally have two forms, known as aspects. You’ll get to know what that means as you learn Polish, but essentially, aspect deals with whether an action is continuing or completed.
Polish verbs exist in an unchanged “pure” form called the infinitive, which is the same form as the English construction “to X” — like “to run” or “to eat,” for example. To be used in actual Polish sentences, these verbs in their infinitive forms need to be conjugated into so-called personal forms, which is a technical way of saying that each Polish verb requires a special ending depending on the subject of the verb (who or what is doing the action of the verb) and the verb’s tense (like past or non-past). For example, in the present tense, a verb like mówić (the infinitive “to speak”) takes multiple forms — ja mówię (“I speak”), ty mówisz (“you speak”) or my mówimy (“we speak”), among others.
Verbs in Polish also have a special characteristic known as aspect, which means that they essentially come in two forms, called the imperfective and the perfective. As you learn more about Polish verbs, you’ll get a much better sense of how to use this grammatical feature, but the gist is that verb aspect describes the completeness or continuing action of a Polish verb. It’s a concept that’s unfamiliar to many native English speakers, but you’ll get the hang of it with practice!
Knowing how to conjugate Polish verbs and master the concept of aspect is essential to being able to express yourself in Polish, and you’ll likely spend a large part of your Russian learning journey focusing on the grammar of Polish verbs. Once you master them, you’ll be well on your way to speaking Polish with fluency.
To be able to use Polish nouns, you must first understand that their endings change depending on three different factors — gender, number and case.
Each Polish noun has a gender, meaning it’s classified as masculine (męski), feminine (żeński) or neuter (nijaki). This doesn’t mean that every person, place, object or idea is inherently male, female or neutral; it’s just a system of grammatical categorization that exists in Polish and many other world languages that affects how speakers use these languages.
You can usually clue into the gender of a Polish noun by looking at its ending; words that end with a consonant, like dom (“house”) and nos (“nose”), are generally masculine, while those ending in -a are for the most part feminine, such as ulica (“street”) and kawa (“coffee”). Neuter nouns most often end in -o or -e, like jajko (“egg”) and wejście (“entrance”).
There are, however, several exceptions to these rules, and these irregularly gendered nouns must be learned and memorized separately. A major part of learning Polish nouns involves recognizing their gender classifications, so it’s important to practice this concept!
Learning Polish nouns also means becoming intimately familiar with the Polish case marking system. The general rule is that Polish nouns can take one of seven cases — called nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, instrumental, locative and vocative — depending on the role they play in the sentence, like whether they’re doing the action of the verb or having the action done to them, for example. Depending on their case, nouns and pronouns take a different form, usually by changing their endings.
The gender of nouns also affects Polish adjectives, or words that describe Polish nouns. Adjectives must agree in gender with the nouns they modify, meaning they change their endings as well depending on the noun. For example, the adjective duży (“big”) takes a different ending in the masculine expression duży dom (“big house”), the feminine expression duża ulica (“big street”) and the neuter expression duże jajko (“big egg”).
Though learning about Polish gender and case marking on nouns and how adjectives work can seem like a major challenge, there are some saving graces, especially the fact that Polish doesn’t use definite or indefinite articles — the words “the” and “a” or “an” in English. In languages like German that also have gender and case marking on nouns, figuring out which of the many forms of “the” or “a” to use can be a nightmare. But in Polish you won’t have to deal with that problem!
As you learn Polish, you’ll get to know the rules governing how Polish nouns, pronouns and adjectives behave in certain situations. It’s all part of the process of learning Polish grammar!
Basic Polish Phrases And Polish Greetings
To speak like a native Polish speaker, there are certain must-know Polish phrases and expressions that will help you navigate your way through a conversation.
The best place to start, of course, is with “hello”! There are many common greetings in Polish to choose from, the most popular of which include the famously hard to articulate Cześć! (“Hello!”). This greeting is reserved for informal, casual conversations between friends or young people, who can often also be heard using the slang Hej!”, borrowed from the English “Hey!”, or its diminutive, more playful form *Hejka!.
For more polite greetings, dzień dobry (“good day”) is great if it’s morning or afternoon. Past 6pm, you’d want to use dobry wieczór (“good evening”). For the most formal of hellos, you can go with Witam pana! (literally “Hello, Gentlemen!”) or Witam panią! (“Hello, ladies!”).
As you learn Polish, you’ll get familiar with basic Polish phrases like Jak się masz? (“How are you?”) or Co słychać? (“How’s it going?”), to which a classic response is Dobrze, dziękuję! A ty? (“Good, thanks, and you?”). If you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’ll want to talk about who you are and perhaps where you’re from. To introduce yourself with your first name in Polish, you can say Mam na imię X (“My name is X”) or Jestem X (“I’m X”). To find out other people’s first names, you can ask Jak masz na imię? (“What is your name?”) in a more familiar context and Jak ma pan(i) na imię? if you want to be more formal.
The way to say where you come from in Polish is Jestem z X (“I am from X”), and to ask where someone is from, you can say Skąd jesteś? (“Where are you from?”).
To say goodbye in Polish, Cześć!, the same word meaning “hello,” is a classic and casual go-to, especially among young people. But there are plenty of other great options — like the more formal but almost always appropriate Do widzenia!. Other ways to say goodbye include Na razie!! (“Until next time!”), Miłego dnia! (“Have a nice day!”) and Trzymaj się! (“Take care!”).
There are many other useful conversational Polish words, phrases and expressions you’ll get to know as you learn Polish, from tak (“yes”), nie (“no”), proszę (“please”) and dziękuję (“thank you”) to Gdzie jest X? (“Where is X?”) and Czy mówisz po angielsku?, or “Do you speak English?”
When you learn these Polish phrases and hundreds more like them, you’ll be better able to communicate with native Polish speakers with ease.
Ways To Learn Polish
There is no right answer when it comes to how to learn Polish — or any new language. With so many options for your language journey, it’s no surprise that choosing a learning style or method can be overwhelming!
Of the many people who speak and study Polish as a non-native language, you’ll find folks who have used all sorts of resources to learn the language, some free, some fairly cheap, and some more of a financial investment. There’s no right combination, and it’s up to you to decide which methods work best for you to learn Polish.
What's The Quickest And Easiest Way To Learn Polish?
You’ll find that the fastest and easiest way to learn Polish is the way that offers you the least amount of friction — so if you can’t stand shuffling through textbook pages or you get bored flipping Polish flashcards, you might want to stick to a method that’s more exciting or engaging. Knowing yourself is key to success. Here are just a few of the ways to learn Polish quickly:
- in a classroom setting or with one-on-one instruction from a Polish teacher or tutor
- with paid or free online Polish courses, classes, software or apps
- with Polish media resources like podcasts, playlists, books, movies and TV shows
Learning Polish In The Classroom
The Polish language is studied in school systems and universities around the world. Polish classroom learning is the most popular option for learners in grade school or university settings. It allows more intensive, regular study with feedback from teachers who know the Polish language and can correct mistakes as they happen and teach content in an interactive way. Depending on how large a class is and how engaged the teacher is, learning in a classroom might be a less personalized experience, but having other students to talk to and practice with is a valuable resource for a learner of any language.
Though full-time students make up a large proportion of Polish classroom learners, plenty of adults enroll in Polish classes, too. Many cities and communities offer free or fairly cheap language classes, and you’ll be very likely to find them in popular languages like Polish. Though a full-time job might limit your schedule, a commitment to a once- or twice-weekly Polish class after work or on the weekends can really improve your Polish language skills in a measurable way.
Learning Polish With A Polish Tutor
Private Polish tutoring offers a more tailored learning experience than traditional classroom learning with many of the advantages. Having a skilled Polish tutor at hand who can help you perfect your pronunciation and work with you closely on the aspects of Polish that cause you trouble is a great way to improve your skills fast — without a teacher needing to split time and attention among multiple students. And Polish tutoring doesn’t have to be inconvenient at all; many sessions can and do take place over video call instead of in person.
But the often steep costs of such individualized instruction can be a barrier to many learners. Well trained master Polish tutors often charge high hourly rates for their lessons, so finding a top-quality, budget-friendly option can be challenging.
Software and Online Polish Courses
There are many top-notch, expert-designed online Polish courses and programs that run from reasonably priced to very expensive. They allow you to learn Polish on your own time and are often more interactive and engaging than many free courses and resources. Plus, many of the best products out there are constantly updated with new, fresh material, so you can get the most relevant Polish learning experience available.
Can You Learn Polish For Free?
All of the above options have one thing in common: they cost money. For those learners who want to be more conscious of their budgets or are okay with spending more time finding and working with more cost-effective content, there are still plenty of options to learn Polish for free or for cheap!
Free Online Polish Courses And Apps For Learning Polish
There’s no shortage of free Polish courses, apps and content you can find on the web and on your phone. From Polish grammar wikis to online forums and Polish classes, you’re sure to find hundreds of options that might do the trick. Some of them are better than others in the ways they’re organized and how thoroughly they explain new concepts, so take them with a grain of salt.
Be aware that the tradeoff of a free product is that it usually sacrifices quality. Much of the content that’s in free apps or that’s scattered around the web comes from user-generated translations that are rarely verified and are often inconsistent or riddled with errors. These lessons often focus on writing and reading without much of a way to improve listening and speaking skills. And be wary that free interactive Polish lessons like these can often be basic, poorly designed, messy, rigid, and just downright boring — not to mention littered with ads.
That’s not to say these Polish resources can’t be helpful! But it’s important to know how and where to fill in the gaps in your language learning journey when certain content isn’t enough.
Learning Polish With Native Polish Speakers
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who speak different native languages meet up to help each other learn, swapping roles as teacher and student. For example, if you spend one hour teaching a friend who’s a native Polish speaker something about English, he or she would then spend the next hour teaching Polish to you. This is an effective method when both people are able to commit significant time and thought to the partnership, but keep in mind that not everyone is a good teacher. Explaining why your native language works the way it does is often easier said than done; you might understand English grammar subconsciously and use it flawlessly all the time but not be able to explain to a Polish person or Polish speaker the rules that govern how you’re supposed to use that grammar.
Immersion Polish Learning
Polish immersion programs or some form of immersive Polish language travel are definitely the most extreme and intensive ways to learn a new language, and they’re not for everyone. (They’re also not technically free if you count airfare to a new place and all the costs of living associated with wherever you go.) But without a doubt, immersing yourself in a new culture and a place that doesn’t speak your language and surrounding yourself with native Polish speakers will force you to make rapid progress in Polish or another target language as you struggle to communicate and understand those around you.
Of course, you’ll want to start with at least a little foundation in a new language before picking up your life and plunging yourself into a completely foreign locale. Using resources like Babbel, language textbooks and Polish classes, and practice with Polish native speakers can all help you prepare before you make a big transition through Polish immersion.
Useful Polish Media To Learn Polish For Free Or Cheap
When you don’t have access to Polish classes and teachers or even native Polish speakers, there are still plenty of Polish media resources to help you get on your way to fluency in Polish. Most of them can be accessed for free online or from a library or found for very cheap — or even through a subscription for a streaming service like Netflix or Spotify you’re likely already paying for!
Books To Learn Polish
If you like to read, you’ll find a whole range of literature written in Polish that can help you master the Polish language. There are thousands of Polish books that make great learning resources for beginner and intermediate Polish learners, from children’s fairy tales and fables like Jan Brzechwa’s Bajki (Fairytales), ideal for beginner learners, to longer, more substantive reads like the 19th-century literary classic Lalka (The Doll), best for intermediate to advanced students of Polish.
Using books to learn Polish is a great way to sharpen your reading skills and to understand how the Polish language is used in a whole wide range of contexts, from historical fiction to fairy tales to personal essays to collections of short stories to nonfiction and everything in between. Reading books in Polish helps you move at your own pace, and you can stop to consult a Polish dictionary if you need extra help along the way. Keeping a language journal of unfamiliar Polish words and expressions helps you build your vocabulary. Plus, you can get some extra speaking and Polish pronunciation practice by reading the book aloud.
Learning Polish With Audio Lessons, Polish Songs And Polish Podcasts
There are many online Polish audio lessons you can find that can teach you the basics of Polish vocabulary and grammar without needing to look at a page or a screen. Polish audio lessons are great for multitasking; you can listen to them in the car or in the background of another activity, like commuting to work, cooking dinner or taking a walk in your neighborhood.
Similarly, Polish podcasts and Polish audiobooks are a great way to learn passively while you do something else that requires your visual attention. Luckily, there are lots of audio resources to pick from, and many of them are free. Polish podcasts like Gadam po Polsku (“I Talk in Polish”) are great for beginners who want to learn vocabulary and grammar topics in an easy-to-follow format, and others like Polski Daily Stories let listeners tune in to different stories about a wide range of topics, varying in difficulty.
And listening to Polish songs can be a great learning method, too. With songs, a chorus or group of lyrics is often repeated more than once, giving you plenty of opportunities to hear lyrics over and over. You can find many playlists of Polish songs on Spotify that are often organized by proficiency level, too, from beginner playlists to more advanced ones.
It’s important to keep in mind that to really master a language, you’ve got to do more than just listening to it; you’ll probably want to supplement audio with ways to practice writing, reading, and speaking Polish, too.
Learning With Polish TV Shows And Polish Movies
Watching Polish movies and Polish TV shows is an excellent way to connect with the Polish language in a fun, engaging format. You can find a lot of good Polish-language content of all different genres and for all learning proficiency levels on streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime.
When you’re watching, you can choose to display subtitles in Polish for some extra reading practice. Try to avoid watching media dubbed in your native language, as you won’t end up hearing any Polish! If the dialogue is too fast, you can pause what you’re watching to give yourself a chance to process what you’re hearing and look up and write down unfamiliar words. And when you use movies and TV series to learn Polish, don’t be afraid to break them up into chunks to give your brain some rest.
Learning Polish With Babbel
The goal of learning any language is to have real-life conversations with native speakers. So a language learning app should be designed to get you to that goal in the best way possible. It’s important to dedicate the time and effort to practicing with discipline, but outside of your own personal commitment, you’ve got to have technology that knows how to help you most effectively along the way.
Luckily, Babbel is designed by a team of language experts, educators, and designers who know all about what it takes to get the most out of learning a new language — so you are guaranteed a top-quality Polish learning journey that’s capable, engaging, and yes, even fun.
Here are the key ways Babbel Polish lessons are crafted to get you having real-life conversations in Polish with confidence, and all for less cost per month than your morning coffee.
The Full Spectrum Of Language Learning
Learning a foreign language is an endeavor of many dimensions. It takes a lot of skills and patience to learn how to start speaking on the spot, to write a text to a friend, or to translate dialogue you hear from a TV show in your target language.
We know how to make these elements work together to your advantage. Babbel’s lessons are interactive and cover all the aspects of learning Polish — reading, writing, listening, and speaking — with multimedia Polish content to train your ears and eyes. Our speech recognition feature even helps you hone your Polish pronunciation, too.
Polish Learning On Your Terms
One of the best parts of learning with Babbel is being able to fit lessons in seamlessly when you want them and where you want them. Our bite-size lessons take roughly between 10 and 20 minutes to complete and can be squeezed into your already busy schedule, whether you’re on your commute or waiting for a pot of water to boil as you cook dinner.
With Babbel, you can pick and choose the topics and themes that are most relevant to you. Taking a trip soon? Brush up on the Polish you’ll need for travel and navigating new places. Need to sharpen your Polish for an upcoming business meeting? Our Polish language courses have you covered.
The iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. And your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices — so you can learn Polish anytime, anywhere.
Learn Polish — And Make Sure It Sticks
What good is committing to learning a foreign language if you’ll forget it before you even have a chance to use it? That’s why your personalized Babbel Review feature is optimized to help you retain the information you’re learning.
It takes advantage of the concept of microlearning, or bringing back information in short bursts to help you hold on to it better. You can practice writing, listening to, and speaking the Polish phrases, terms and expressions you’ve learned in your earlier lessons to lock them into your brain.
For Polish Learning, Try Babbel
We’re committed to making sure you get the most out of learning Polish. We offer a free first lesson in every language so you can get a feel for if Babbel works for you. And if you don’t like it, we have a 20-day money-back guarantee — no questions asked.
Try a free Polish lesson with Babbel and see for yourself how quickly you’ll be on your way to speaking Polish with confidence — like you’ve always wanted to!