For some reason, for a long time I had a mental block when it came to remembering the Polish words for North, South, East and West.
For reference, here they are :
Połnoc = North
Południe = South
Wschód = East
Zachód = West
I could often remember the 2 words for North/South, but not which was which. The same for East/West.
I needed a pattern or something to help my brain tag them.
North and South
Then I realized one day that the word for afternoon was Popołudnie and since my habit when learning words is to pull apart the prepositions (po, od, na, etc) to break them down into other words, I looked it up and found that popołudnie could be thought of as po + południe (after + noon) and that południe is the word for noon or midday!
It’s amazing what you don’t notice until you look at a word from a different angle or context. So, if południe means both South and Midday, what about Połnoc? Well it turns out that it also means midnight! Which when you think about it is fairly obvious..
Poł = half
Połnoc = Poł + noc
= half + night
On a similar tangent :
Południe = Poł + udnie
= Poł + u + dni + e
= half + ? + day + ?
Ok, so that’s not perfect with the extra u and e, but it’s close enough to help me remember it.. One day I may find a logical grammatical reason for the u and e & I’ll come back and update this post.
East and West
So that spurred me on to look for something similar in the words for East (Wschód) and West (Zachód). What I found wasn’t quite as satisfying, but it’s a start.
On this big spinning globe of ours, the sun rises every morning in the East and it sets in the West. Lo and behold, the phrase for sunrise in Polish is Wschód słońca, which you could literally translate to East Sun as the word for Sun is Słońce.
Consistently, the word for sunset in Polish is Zachód słońca, or West Sun.
I would love to be able to say that chód meant something connected, then I could tie the prepositions of Za and Ws in a logical way, but so far I haven’t found one, so we just have to memorize the two words. Again, if I find something, or if anyone reading this can suggest a link I would be very happy to update this.
My final problem then is remembering which of Za+chód and Ws + chód is East and which is West. I have a mental note here which I try to remember it by – it’s not great, but it’s the best I have come up with & it’ll do until I consistently remember which is which & don’t need the help anymore..
Za = Behind, so Zachód is West because Sunset is when the sun goes behind the earth (and sun sets in the west)
W = In, so Wschód is East because Sunrise is when you are in the sun (and the sun rises in the east)
I’ve also produced a couple of pictures for my wall, laying out the compass directions next to the times of day if you visualize the day as a 24 hour clock.
I hope some of the rationale above or the pictures help someone else remember these words. When learning new words, I recommend looking at the words carefully and seeing if they’re actually compound words made up from other words. It not only helps to remember the word itself, but it can often lead to learning several other new words.
More examples on this theme to follow in future posts.