Diary of a Polish Learner

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cześć. Jestem Ben. Jestem wysoki i szczupły i moja czupryna jest ruda. Jestem rudzielcem. Dzisiaj będę patrzeć filmowi, "Czarli i Fabrika Czekoladowa". Mam nadzieję, że moje polski jest poprawne, ale wiem, że imię filma pewnie nie takie przekładali. Było dowcip (a bardzo głupi).

Do zobaczenia wkrótce!

Past tense.
What I find really strange about Polish, is that the verbs are conjugated for person and number in the present tense, and person, number and Gender in the past tense. The actual past tense disappeared long ago in Polish, but what remained was a kind of perfect tense formed out of a participle and a form of być which gets attached to the end.

The past tense stem of być is był.
For masculine nouns in the singular it stays as był
For feminine nouns in the singular, it becomes była
For neuter nouns in the singular, it becomes było
In the plural, for groups including at least one man (virile) it becomes byli
In the plural, for groups not including any men (non-virile), it becomes były

On the end of this is appended a personal ending. The letter e is used as a buffer where there is no vowel at the end.

Byłem – I was (male speaker)
Byłam – I was (female speaker)
Byłom – I was (theoretically a chair would say this when speaking)
Byłeś – You were (to a male)
Byłaś – You were (to a female)
Byłoś – You were (if you don't freak out and calmly talk back to the chair)
Był – He was
Była – She was
Było – It was
Byliśmy – We were (where "we" means a group with at least one male)
Byłyśmy – We were (where "we" means a group of women and/or things)
Byliście – You are (where "you" means a group with at least one male)
Byłyście – You are (where "you" means a group of women and/or things)
Byli – They were (where "they" means a group with at least one male)
Byłi – They were (where "they" means a group of women and/or things)

The past tense stem of mieć is miał.

Miałem kota, ale teraz mam psa. - I had a cat but now I have a dog.
Miał coś. - He had something.
Miała kogoś. - She had someone.
Mialiśmy wszystko, ale teraz nie mialiśmy niczego. - We had everything and now we have nothing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Verbs and some basic phrases.


Dzień dobry! - [d_z_jEn_j "dObr1] - a quite formal greeting, which can be used for most of the day.
Dobry wieczór! - ["dObr1 "v_jEt_Sur] - equivalent to "Good evening!" - quite formal.
Cześć! - [t_SEs_jt_s_j] - informal, can be used as "Hi!" or "Bye!"

Polish verbs have a different form for each grammatical person. The person is merely who is performing the action that the verb describes. Because of these different forms, you usually leave out the pronoun except when you want to emphasise it.

(ja) jestem - I am
(ty) jesteś - you are
(on/ona/ono) jest - he/she/it is
(my) jesteśmy - we are
(wy) jesteście - you are (plural)
(oni/one) - they are

Here are some other words.
tu - here
tam - there
gdzie - where? [gd_z_jE] (make sure you pronounce the g, there are no silent letters in Polish)
i - and (comparitive)
a - and/but (contrastive)
ale - but

Jestem tu. - I am here
Jesteś tam. - You are there.
Gdzie jesteśmy? - Where are we?
Ja jestem tu a ty jesteś tam. - I am here and you are there
Gdzie jest? - Where is (he/she/it)?

Some adjectives:
Adjectives have different endings depending on the gender, number and case of the thing they represent. Every noun has an inherent gender in it, which may or may not be related to the meaning of the word. The gender of the adjective then depends on the gender of the noun it's providing meaning to.

For now, we'll just consider the nominative case, and only the singular, because I don't quite understand the plural yet. A masculine adjective ends in a y, a feminine one ends in an a and a neuter one ends in an e. If the adjective ends in a g or a k these sounds must be softened in the masculine and neuter, so the endings become -i, -a and -ie.

Jestem dobry. - I am good. (said by a male)
Jestem dobra. - I am good. (said by a female)
Jesteś dobra. - You are good. (said to a female)
Jest dobry. - He's good.
Jest dobra. - She's good.
Jest dobro. - It's good.

dobry/dobra/dobre – good
miły/miła/miłe – nice
zły/zła/złe – bad
duży/duża/duże – big
mały/mała/małe – small
wysoki/wysoka/wysokie – tall/high
niski/niska/niskie – short/low
nowy/nowa/nowe – new
młody/młoda/młode – young
stary/stara/stare – old

Adjective are normally shown in the masculine form. You can work out the other forms from that.

Jesteś bardzo miła. - You are very nice. (said to a female)
Czy jest wysoki? - Is he tall?

To jest... (This is...)
To jest means this is. It can also mean that is, if you really want to make the distinction clear you can say tamto jest for that is. There are no words for the or a/an in Polish. The word czy placed at the beginning of a sentence turns the statement into a question, so czy to jest means is this.

To jest ładna kobieta. - This is a pretty woman.
To jest wysoki mężczyzna. - This is a tall man.
To jest duży dom. - This is a big house.
To jest mały kot. - This is a small cat.
To jest miły pies. - This is a dog.
Czy to jest wesoły słoń. - Is this a happy elephant?
To jest moje nowe łóżko. - That's my new bed.

Gdzie jest twój dom? - Where is your house?
Mój dom jest tam? - My house is there.
Czy tamto jest twój dom? - Is that your house?
Nie, niebieski dom jest mój. - No, the blue house is mine.

Instrumental case...
If you want to say that you are something, or that one noun is equivalent to another, you need to use the instrumental case. To form the instrumental case, you add -(i)em to masculine and neuter nouns (the i is used with nouns which end in k or g). The -a on the end of feminine nouns (and some masculine nouns) becomes -ą. Whatever the gender, the plural ending becomes -ami. Adjectives take the endings -ym or -im in masculine and neuter, -ymi or -imi in plural, and in feminine.

Nie jestem dużym słoniem. - I'm not a big elephant.
Jestem miłym kotem. - I'm a nice cat.
Jesteś piękną kobietą. - You are a beautiful woman.
Nie jesteś starym psem. - You are not an old dog.
Jest przystojnym mężczyzną. - He is a handsome man.
Jesteśmy wysokimi mężczyznami. - We are tall men.
Jesteście grubymi kobietami. - You are fat women.

Mieć (to have)
To use the verb mieć, you need to know the accusative case. The accusative case marks the "doee" of the action, whereas the nominative case marks the "doer". Masculine words which denote people or animals add the suffix -a (their adjectives add the suffix -(i)ego) but inanimate nouns stay the same as in the nominative. Feminine nouns change the -a ending to and their adjectives take the ending -(i)ą. Neuter nouns have the same form for their nominative and accusative forms.

Mam - I have
Masz - you have
Ma - he/she/it has
Mamy - we have
Macie - you have (plural)
Mają - they have

Mam małego kota. - I have a small cat.
Mam piękną żonę. - I have a beautiful wife.
Masz dużego psa. - You have a big dog.
Ona ma wysokego chłopaka. - She has a tall boyfriend.
On ma nowy dom. - He has a new house.
Mamy starego konia. - We have an old horse.
Teraz macie nic. - Now you have nothing.

Mój żona jest bardzo piękna, ale ma brzydkiego brata. My wife is beautiful but she has an ugly brother.

Cześć! Mam na imię Ben. Mam dwadzieścia jeden lat i jestem Australijczykiem.
Hallo! Ich heiße Ben. Ich bin einundzwanzig Jahre alt und bin australisch.
Hej! Jag heter Ben. Jag är tjugoett år gammal och är australisk
Ciao! Mi chiamo Ben. Ho ventuno anni e sono australiano.
Hi. My name's Ben. I'm twenty one years old and I'm Australian... ok, I'm just showing off.

This blog is first of all for me, so I can see my progress in Polish over time, but if anyone else can benefit from it, that's great. I must of course say, that I don't pretend to be an expert. I can, and probably will get things wrong. I would really appreciate any help in this regard.

On this page, I'm going to be using either X-Sampa to show the phonetics. You can read about it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-SAMPA. I'm going to be showing all palatalised consonants with a j linked by an underscore, even if they have special symbols, simply for continuity: [J] -> [n_j], [s\] -> [s_j] etcetera.

The pronunciation of Polish is clearly represented in its spelling. However some polish words are tongue-twisters, and the words are often pronounced in a way that may seem totally random to an English speaker. The Polish city Łódź is pronounced more or less wootch.

A - [a] - between the a in cat and the u in up
Ą - [O~] [Om] [On] [ON] - like an o said through the nose, as the on in French bon. Pronounced simply on before d and t, as om before p and b, or as ong before g and k.
B - [b] - as in English
C - [t_s] - like the z in Mozart or Nazi (like the ts in cats), pronounced as ć when it comes before an i.
Ch - [x] - like the h in hot, but a little bit rougher, approaching the ch sound in loch
Cz - [t_S] - a hard* ch sound as in church
Ć - [t_s_j] - a soft* ch sound as in cheese (also spelt c before an i or ci before another letter)
D - [d] - as in English
Dz - [d_z] - as the ds in gods. Pronounced as before an i.
Dź - [d_z_j] - a soft* j sound as in Jesus. (Spelt dz before an i or dzi before another vowel)
Dż - [d_Z] - a hard* j sound as in jam
E - [E] - like the e in men.
Ę - [E~] [Em] [En] [EN] [E] - a nazalised e, pronounced like em before b or p, like en before t or d, like eng before k or g. At the end of a word it is usual to pronounce it as just an e unless one is deliberately enunciating the word very clearly.
F - [f] - as in English
G - [g] - as in English get (never as in giraffe)
H - [x] - the same sound as ch (see above), spelt just h in foreign words or small words like aha.
I - [i] [_ji] [_j] as the ee in cheep. The letter i softens* the preceding consonant, and when it comes before another vowel, is only present as a softening of the consonant, not as its own vowel sound.
J - [j] - as the y in yellow. The letter j does not soften the preceding consonant.
K - [k] - as in English
L - [l] - as a light, clear l sound, as in light (not a throaty sound like in full)
Ł - [w] - as the English w sound, such as in wind
M - [m] - as in English
N - [n] [N] - as in English. Before a g or a k it may be pronounced as the ng in sing, but many speakers will always pronounce it as a normal n sound
Ń - [n_j] - a soft* n sound, like the ny in canyon, or the ñ in the Spanish mañana. Spelt simply n before an i or ni before another vowel.
O - [O] - quite similar to the o in hot
Ó - [u] - identical sound to the Polish u
P - [p] - as in English
R - [r] - an r rolled on the tip of the tongue
Rz - [Z] - a hard* sound, the same as ż
S - [s] - as in silly (never as in rose), pronounced as ś before an i
Sz - [S] - a hard* sh sound, as in shut
Ś - [s_j] - a soft* sh sound as in she. Spelt simply s before an i or si before another vowel.
T - [t] - as in English
U - [u] - similar to the u in put.
W - [v] - as the v in very
Y - [1] - between the i in bit and the a in ago. Does not soften the preceding consonant.
Z - [z] - as in English. Pronounced like ź before an i
Ź - [z_j] - a soft* zh sound like the s in resume. Simply spelt z before an i or zi before another consonant
Ż - [Z] - a hard* zh sound as the s in measure.

* - the soft and hard sounds are probably the hardest part of Polish pronunciation for an English speaker to master. Soft (or palatalised) sounds are pronounced with a simultaneous y sound in them (a Polish j sound). So ś (or si) is like an s pronounced at the same time as a y - which sounds very much like an English sh. Unfortunately there are also some hard sounds, which sound very similar to some of the soft sounds: cz sz dż ż. These sounds are pronounced with the tip of the tongue slightly curved back a bit, which makes them sound a little bit deeper and harsher than their soft counterparts: ć ś dź ź, which sound quite high pitched and hissy. It may take a while for the brain to work out how to hear the difference between them, however it is best to get into the habit very early on of really exaggerating the differences between them, so that you're brain will divide these up into separate sounds, and then you can correct your accent later. To exaggerate the soft sounds, you can smile, and round your lips for the hard sounds.