Why Learn Another Language?
In the twenty-first century, multilingualism is becoming the norm. It’s estimated that over half the world’s population is at least bilingual and this figure is growing. So where do you fit into this changing world? Do you see yourself as part of a dynamic population of world citizens, or stuck on a shrinking monolingual island? The real question should be: why not learn another language?
If you’re at all curious about the world beyond your own day-to-day routine, speaking Polish (or any other language besides your native tongue) can upgrade your life by increasing opportunities for career, living, travel, friendship, adventure and love. The more languages you speak, the bigger your world becomes.
And there is absolutely no reason to be discouraged, or to tell yourself you don’t have the talent for it. The idea that only children can become bilingual is simply a myth. You can learn to speak another language no matter your age or educational background; maybe you’ll never be mistaken for a native speaker, but you will be able to communicate – and that is what languages are for. Speaking a language is about connection, not perfection. So let’s ask a new question: who do you want to connect with?
A language is more than a bunch of words and rules for how to put those words together; it is another world. Speaking Polish gives you access to the world of 40 million native speakers in Poland, the UK and Polish-speaking communities all over the world.
Polish is a Slavic language, which is a completely different branch of the Indo-European language tree, far from the Germanic and Romance origins of English. Because there is so little cross-over between English and Polish in terms of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation learning the language can be a challenge. But it’s also a blank slate, uncluttered by false cognates, which can make it easier in some respects. Mastering Polish, and the new sounds that come with it, becomes easier with practice.
Polish is the most widely spoken Western Slavic language, followed by Ukrainian and Czech. Understanding it will give you a head start if you want to also learn Russian, the most-spoken Slavic language overall. Because Polish uses the same alphabet as English (although with some added diacritic marks) it can be a more familiar place to start if you want to become acquainted with the dominant language family of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
With Babbel, you can learn Polish without going to classes, hiring a tutor or investing in expensive software. For an affordable monthly subscription, you have access to hundreds of hours of interactive courses that get you speaking right from the first lesson. Babbel’s integrated speech recognition can even help you improve your pronunciation.
We add courses on a regular basis, so the opportunities to learn and improve are always growing. And if you own an iPhone, Android, or Windows 8 phone the key to speaking Polish is already in your pocket.
Having a little Polish in your conversational repertoire will open up the world to you on multiple levels:
For Business – being bilingual isn’t just good for your resumé, it can change your career. As the most spoken Western Slavic language, knowing some Polish can be extremely advantageous for anyone doing business in central and eastern Europe. Poland is a rapidly expanding economy with lots of investment potential. Because so few non-Poles speak Polish learning the language can give you a rare skill and make you an in-demand specialist.
Traveling – Even after the fall of the Iron Curtain, this former Soviet Satellite remains off the radar of most Americans with vacation plans. Those of us who only know Poland for fine vodka and spicy kielbasa probably don’t realize that the country is also home to some of Europe’s most pristine natural landscapes – from white sand beaches to old-growth forests to mountains dotted with ski resorts. Cities like Krakow and Wrocław retain a feel of the Medieval and Renaissance eras while also being dynamic hubs of business and culture. When you can speak Polish the country opens up to you in ways that monolingual foreigners could never even guess.
Living Abroad – When you speak Polish well enough to travel without a phrasebook in hand, the idea of staying longer in Poland can become tempting. The capital city, Warsaw, offers opportunities for students looking for a semester abroad, and professionals looking for new opportunities in Europe’s sixth-largest economy.
Brain Training – Even if you decide to only learn Polish as a hobby, knowing multiple languages will keep your brain healthy and nimble, even in old age. This is because knowing another language creates another network of connections among your neurons. The higher your neural interconnectivity, the better your memory and problem-solving skills.
Polish Culture, Unfiltered – About 10 million Americans claim Polish ancestry. Without them, the U.S. wouldn’t have Warner Bros Studio, Apple computers, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, The Daily Show or The Dude. The contributions to art and culture made in "the old country" are just as significant. Whether you want to get into the Polish heavy metal scene, enjoy the films of Andrzej Wajda and Agnieszka Holland without subtitles, look for the last wild European bison in Białowieża Forest, or learn how to make really good pierogi, speaking the language will let you participate more directly. Knowing Polish will also give you unfiltered access to the literature of brilliant sci-fi satirist Stanisław Lem and the Polish Nobel Laureates: Henryk Sienkiewicz, Władysław Reymont, Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska.
Ways to Learn Polish
Although Polish isn’t a widely-studied language in the United States there are still many ways to learn it:
In The Classroom
Classroom instruction with a teacher and other students is the most traditional approach to learning a language. Many Americans have already learned a language this way in high school, although often not with the best results. Many people who are motivated to become fluent find that classes offer a good balance between language instruction and chance to listen and speak.
Learning one-on-one with a tutor allows for a completely tailored learning experience and more opportunities to practice speaking. Compared to a classroom where the teacher has to split attention among dozens of pupils, private tutoring usually yields quicker results. However, private tutoring doesn’t come cheap; you’ll need to be prepared to pay a high hourly rate for an experienced tutor.
Audio Courses and CD-roms
For people with money to burn on learning a language, but not enough time to commit to traditional methods, multimedia courses are a good alternative – whether you practice listening and speaking with CDs in the car, or use interactive courses on your home PC in your free time. The main drawback to these methods is high up-front cost and material that can quickly become outdated.
Online Polish Courses
Online learning has made immense progress in the past several years and has become a viable alternative to more traditional forms of instruction. It’s becoming the norm for people with very little time or money to spare who still want to make progress with their learning. Compared to the above method, subscription-based online programs are always updating, improving and adding courses that don’t require buying a new module.
To Pay Or Not To Pay?
What do the methods mentioned above have in common? They all cost money. For thrifty folks who have a little more patience and motivation than the average learner, there ways to learn Polish for free:
Tandem learning is a technique where two people who want to learn each other’s languages take turns as teacher and as student. For example: if you meet for two hours, you can speak in Polish for one hour and then switch to English for the next hour so that you both get some practice. But be aware, just because someone is a native speaker does not mean they are a good teacher. This can still be a good option once you already know some Polish and just want to practice, but you must be prepared to teach your counterpart English. Tandems are free for both parties, but a significant time commitment.
OK, so it’s only free if you don’t count the airfare or room and board, but nothing helps you become fluent like living in Poland. But immersion is no magic bullet. If you haven’t arrived with at least some knowledge of Polish vocabulary and grammar, passive listening will not be easy and will not make you fluent without further study. Before taking the big plunge, you can simulate immersion by streaming Polish radio and TV online, watching Polish movies and doing multimedia lessons online.
If you are a real self-starter then you don’t need more than a Polish grammar book, dictionary and some vocab books to start learning the language. Books could get you reading Polish after lots of studying, but won’t help with listening comprehension or speaking.
Free Online Courses and Mobile Apps
There are hundreds of ways to learn Polish for free on the web. From Polish grammar wikis to online courses, there’s no shortage of information out there, but it’s often presented in a cluttered and inconsistent way that’s harder to read than a grammar book.
Some websites offer free interactive learning material, like Duolingo and Memrise, but programs like these focus on writing and reading at the expense of listening and speaking. They also rely heavily on user-generated content, which means the quality is inconsistent and the accuracy of the information goes unverified. It’s possible to learn Polish online for free, but be prepared to deal with language lessons that are dull, inflexible, too basic, poorly designed, or else littered with ads.
Learning Polish with Babbel
Learning with Babbel costs you less per month than your morning coffee, is ad-free and has been made by a team of language experts, educators and designers – so you are guaranteed a top-quality learning experience for the best value.
Here at Babbel we believe that the key to effectively learning Polish, or any language, is having fun. Commitment and discipline will always be important factors, but real engagement is what helps you to retain information and maximize your learning potential. Here’s what you can expect from Babbel’s online Polish program:
Cover all four aspects of language acquisition – listening, reading, writing and speaking – with fully interactive multimedia lessons. The speech recognition feature even helps you improve your pronunciation.
iOS and Android apps are fully integrated with the web application. Your progress is saved in the cloud and synced across all devices – so you can learn anytime, anywhere.
Set your own pace and learn what’s relevant to you with courses organized by topic and theme.
Regular course updates and new lessons, so you always have access to the freshest, most up-to-date material.
The Babbel Community lets you connect with other users so you can practice your Polish with native speakers or other learners.
All the material you cover is stored in your Review Manager, where you can continue to practice and improve on what you’ve learned, even if you decide not to continue with a paid subscription.
Don’t like the service? We offer a 20 day money-back guarantee – no questions asked.
Try a free Polish lesson with Babbel and see for yourself just how enjoyable learning can be.