Puppy = Happiness

Recently I’ve been spotting more and more polish words which make my inner word-geek sit up and take notice.  There’s probably all sorts of similar words in English, but as a native speaker I simply don’t notice them.

I’ve said before that I’m a “pattern-spotter” by nature.  Show me enough data and I start to see patterns that interest me and a foreign language is full of connections which to a new learner are crying out for a way to tie together and make sense of this jumble of new words.

So today I’m going to share some of more recent ones which have made me smile:

Szczenię – Puppy

Szczęście – Happiness

Coincidence?  I think not…

Wielo – Many/Multi-

Ryb – Fish (plural genitive)

Wieloryb – Whale  or literally, many fish or multi-fish

(or more accurately probably from Wielki-ryb – Great Big Fish..)

Or another one

Sześć – Six

Ścian – Walls (plural genitive)

Sześcian – Cube … a thing with 6 walls!

One that’s not quite so neat, but it’s stuck with me for the past few weeks is Baby.  I must have heard different words dozens of times over the past couple of years, but none of them stuck in my memory.  Then half way through class, this word was written on the board :

Niemowlę

It could be because of some work I’ve been doing to break words apart by prepositions (more on that in a future post), but the moment the word appeared, it split into 2 words for me.

Nie mowlę

And this is where it pays to not be a fluent speaker yet because I didn’t know that mowlę wasn’t a word, but it was darned close to words I knew based on the verb Mowić.  When you’re pattern spotting, it’s good not to worry about the perfect grammar or perfect spelling – you’re looking for memory aids which help you remember words or inversely help you imply meaning from words you’ve never seen before.

Even before the picture of the Baby was revealed under the word, my brain was seeing :

Nie + mowlę  and roughly translating that to something like “not speaking”.  It turns out to be a pretty apt description of a baby as a “non-speaker“.  So much so that 4 weeks later, the word is still burned into my brain without any extra effort to remember it.

So that’s today’s food for thought while it was fresh in my mind from the latest discovery.  I’m going to try to be more active on the blog again as a change up my learning approach again, so there’s likely to be more “interesting word of the day” ideas and some thoughts on hacking the Polish language to make it easier to learn that have been going around in my head for a while, but would benefit from writing down & hopefully someone else finds useful one day.

Do widzenia!

Dog barking? Shhhh.. Wait!!

Sometimes I have a total mental block on a certain word.  While I’m on Skype with my teacher, my dog has a habit of wanting to join in the conversation.  As a result, I must have asked her the word for “bark” a dozen times in the past year and I was still failing to remember it.

Looking back through my notepad, I’ve written it down 8 times at least that I can quickly see.  It sticks in my head as a word with “sz” and “k” in it, but the rest just fades, yet today for the 1st time I noticed something obvious and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it again.

It comes right back to my usual mechanism for remembering words, which is anchoring some aspect of them to another word or image and it reinforces for me just how important it is to hold that web of connections.  This is a word, I’d just been keeping in isolation in my head.  I hadn’t really looked at it and made the effort to decompose the word or link it.

So, the word in question is Szczekać (to bark).  Take a second to sound that out a couple of times..  It’s just a series of shh and k sounds, which is where I fell down.  There’s a lot of other shh and k words in my head already & I didn’t make the effort to figure out how this one was special.  As a result, when I was searching my brain for it,  I kept coming up with words like skręcić (to turn) or skakać (to jump).  Similar sounds at some level, but totally unconnected words.

But today when I skimmed my word list for revision, this leaped out at me :

Szczekać = Sz  czekać

Czekać is a word I’ve known for ages.  It means to wait.

So now, when my dog is barking and being impatient, I’ll just tell him “Shhhh!  Wait!”

 

Similar words – Świat

Continuing my theme of clusters of words which are very similar in Polish, which I’ve struggled to get right, here’s another batch which have been plaguing me for a while.

Maybe it’s just my desire to see patterns, but if you think of a general theme where light and spirituality are thought of together and the world is a sacred place, then perhaps there’s a common origin for them.  At least that helps me remember them!

Świat – The world

Światło – Light (n)

Świeca – Candle

Świecić – To shine (v)

Świeży – Fresh (adj)

Święto – Holiday

Święty – Holy (adj)

Świetny – Excellent (adj)

Świetnie – Excellently (adv)

And similar enough to have confused me recently when I heard it :

Śmieci – Rubbish / Garbage (n)

Śmieciarka – Garbage truck

Kosz na śmieci – Rubbish bin

Similar words – Cześć

Today I was listening to a polish radio interview & doing my best to keep up with the general gist of the report.  My listening comprehension isn’t yet to the level where I can understand even half of what is being said by a native speaker, but I usually understand enough of the words to know roughly what they’re talking about – even if I don’t know what they’re saying about it..

I came away today rather confused though because no matter how many times I played it back, I couldn’t figure out what they were saying in one section and it all came down to a series of words which (to me) sounded practically the same.  So the idea for a new post was born.

Similar words or podobne słowa.

Today – ones which (to me) all sound a bit too close to Cześć to easily differentiate when I hear them spoken quickly in a sentence!  I decided it would be useful for me to write them all down in one place so I can see them together and hopefully learn to tell them apart better (each word is clickable to hear the pronunciation)

Cześć – Hi

Część – Part

Często – Often

Czeski – Czech

Czysty – Clean (adj)

Czynsz – Rent (noun)

Ciężki – Heavy

Cieszę się – To be pleased with

 

Challenging word of the day – źdźbło

I try to write down a handful of new words every day.  I won’t guarantee that I’ll learn them straight away, but at least they’re in my notebook in the appropriate section and I’ll read them out loud a few times, sometimes using this site to try to improve my pronunciation if it’s a tricky one.

Every now and then though, I stumble across a word that makes me ponder how the human tongue is supposed to make a sound like a bumble bee trapped inside a glockenspiel.  So I thought I’d celebrate these words when I find them with a new category of post, my Challenging word of the day.

Today is :

źdźbło

It means a blade or stalk

źdźbło trawy = a blade of grass

You can listen to how it’s meant to sound here

 

Directions vs Time of Day

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

= midnight

On a similar tangent :

Południe = Poł + udnie

= Poł + u + dni + e

= half + ? + day + ?

= midday

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.

24hr_clockcompass

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.

How many summers do you have?

There are 3 common words you’ll see when talking about years.

Rok – One year

Lat / Lata – Years (plural)

As with other numbers, there’s a special rule for when to use Lat and when to use Lata, which is connected to the Genitive (Dopełniacz) case, which I’ll explain in a moment. First though I’d like to point out where the word comes from, because once you know, you’ll remember it forever and that’s another free word in your memory!

The word for Summer in Polish, is Lato.

So when you’re counting in years, you’re actually counting in summers.

Lato is a neuter noun and since we’re dealing with counting, we’re going to be converting it to either :

Lat Genitive plural (Dopełniacz) for numbers greater than 5
Lata Nominative plural (Mianownik) for numbers ending in 2, 3, 4 (but not 12, 13, 14)

Some examples

Masz 1 rok : You are 1 year old

Masz 2 lata : You are 2 years old

Masz 3 lata : You are 3 years old

Masz 4 lata : You are 4 years old

Masz 5 lat : You are 5 years old

Masz 12 lat : You are 12 years old

Masz 22 lata : You are 22 years old

Masz 25 lat : You are 25 years old

Or perhaps it would be easier to remember in this format :

 1  rok
 2, 3, 4  lata
 5 – 21  lat
 22, 23, 24  lata
 25 – 31  lat
 32, 33, 34  lata
 x5 – x1  lat
 x2, x3, x4  lata