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Beata: All About Polish lesson 1. Introduction to Polish and the top 5 reasons to study
Nick: Cześć! My name is Nick Brozowski, and I'll be your friendly neighborhood non-Polish guide to everything Polish...
Beata: And I'm Beata! Here as the Polish native to help you along the way.
Nick: That's right, this lesson is all about your home and native land.
Beata: Yes, and yours too, Nick!
Nick: Well, kind of. Since my family has Polish roots, Polish has been always present in my house. Either my dad would say something to us in Polish or my mom would cook a fantastic Polish meal. It really has started to feel like a second language to me. So, we're here to teach you the ins and outs of the wonderful Polish language.
Beata: Yes, Polish is a really unique language in a lot of ways. From the writing system...
Nick: ...to the grammar...
Beata: ...to the slang...
Nick: ...everything! It's truly a beautiful language, with a rich history and intriguing culture to match.
[Linguistics section]
Nick: So, Beata, I have some questions for you.
Beata: What are they?
Nick: All right, first question. What language family does Polish belong to?
Beata: That's a great question. There is a group of languages that form a so-called Slavic group, which is divided further into three subgroups…the West, East, and South Slavic group. Polish, together with languages such as Slovak and Czech, belongs to the West Slavic group.
Nick: So if you know somebody who's into linguistics, you can impress them with this knowledge. For most of us, including me, this is probably the first time and the time I'll come across this.
Beata: Right. These days there are around forty million native speakers who reside in Poland. On top of that there are about ten million Poles who either work or live abroad or have Polish ancestry.
Nick: I know that in countries such as Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, ethnic Poles form significant minorities. And there are also a lot of Polish speakers in Russia and Kazakhstan. What about Poles in the United States?
Beata: In the United States, many people have Polish origin; however, many of them no longer speak Polish.
Nick: Really?
Beata: Yes. When they arrived in America, they had to learn English first in order to find jobs. Polish was kind of neglected, and with time, many of them stopped using it entirely. You know that it takes a lot to maintain a good command of language when you're abroad, especially if it's a language with a somewhat complicated grammar like Polish.
Nick: Is Polish grammar really that hard? We wouldn't want to scare off our listeners.
Beata: Polish is an inflected language, which means that some parts of speech, such as nouns, for example, change their endings depending on the function they perform in a sentence. If your native language also has this feature, it's going to be very easy for you. If not, it's going to take some time to get used to all sorts of different endings, memorizing them, and applying them accordingly.
Nick: Please tell us that at least the Polish writing system is easier.
Beata: Actually, the Polish writing system is based on the Latin alphabet, the same one that we use in English, so it makes it a little bit easier for prospective Polish students to learn.
Nick: This is a really fascinating topic. Since there's a lot to say about it, we'll cover it more in depth in the next lesson.
Beata: Okay! Now let's talk about pronunciation for a moment.
Nick: Ah, yes, pronunciation. I'll tell you right now that Polish pronunciation is actually not as difficult as you might think by looking at all these diacritical signs and clusters of consonants that the Polish language has.
Beata: Yeah, the good thing about Polish pronunciation is that you read it like you see it. It's unlike English, where you have so many different ways to say one vowel.
Nick: That’s great news!
Beata: It's unYou just have to get accustomed to what may appear at first to be some rather strange-looking letters, and once you master their pronunciation, there's nothing to stop you from speaking like a native.
Nick: We actually have a series for Polish pronunciation. In those lessons, you'll learn more about Polish sounds and we'll teach you how to produce them. But it's going to be dedicated to the standard Polish pronunciation only, because from what I know there are dialects in Polish.
Beata: Yes, we do have numerous dialects in Polish with, among others, the Highlander's dialect from the Podhale region that even Poles have problems understanding. Standard Polish pronunciation will do.
About the Motherland
Nick: Beata, now we're going to be talking about your motherland.
Beata: Oh, yeah.
Nick: So how about going over a bit more about Poland itself? Beata, Poland and the Polish language have a long history behind them, right?
Beata: That's correct. And it wasn't an easy history for either the country or the language. With many foreign invasions along the way, three partitions that took Poland off of the map for over one hundred years, the devastating effects of World War II, and the communist years that followed, I'm really surprised that Poland has achieved so much since then and that the language survived almost intact.
Nick: That's really unbelievable. What about the name "Poland" itself?
Beata: Poland is known as "Polska" to the Poles. It got its name from one of the most influential and dominant tribes that existed on its territory in the tenth century, the Polanie tribe. When the legendary tribal chief Piast succeeded in uniting tribes from surrounding areas into one political unit, he gave it the name Polska, after this tribe's name.
Nick: Is there any historical moment in Polish history that would be recognized as the official birth of the country?
Beata: Yes, actually there is. In 966, the first ruler of Poland, Duke Mieszko I, converted to Christianity, figuratively baptizing the entire nation. This historical moment marks the official beginning of the Polish state.
Nick: Beata, who can resist the lure of Polish? Are you ready?
Beata: Okay!
Nick: We're going to give you the top five reasons why you should study Polish.
Beata: Starting with number five…
Nick: Knowing Polish will make it possible for you to read some of Poland's best literary works. Remember that there is always something lost in translation, so you better master your Polish and get ready for some serious reading.
Beata: Okay, number four!
Nick: When in Poland, you will for sure gain a lot of lifetime friends in Poles. Not only they will adore you just for trying to speak the language, but also they will constantly shower you with a lot of compliments for your efforts. Also think about all those interesting places they can take you to. You probably won't find them in any of the Polish guidebooks out there.
Beata: Okay. How about number three?
Nick: The Polish language has the largest number of speakers within the West Slavic group.
Beata: How about number two?
Nick: If you're by any chance worried that your memory will fade with the years to come, you can put an end to that right now. Being able to memorize all those infuriating grammar rules will give you a mental workout sure to keep your mind razor sharp.
Beata: And...the number one reason you should learn Polish…
Nick: You're learning much more than just a language. Learning Polish will give you great insight into the world of Polish culture, customs, and history that's impossible to get any other way. You will finally be able to put your finger on the unique Polish mentality that, for outsiders, can be confusing and incomprehensible at times.
Beata: That's definitely a lot of good reasons, Nick. Good work.
Nick: Okay, everybody, so are you ready? Get out your pen and notebook…
Beata: grab your iPod...
Nick: fire up your computer...
Beata: or whatever you use to study...
Nick: and get ready for some Polish lessons...
Beata: from PolishPod101.com!