About Learning Polish with Berlitz
Polish is spoken by virtually all of the 40 million inhabitants of Poland, by about 700,000 people in the United States, and by about 250,000 each in Lithuania, Germany, and Canada. It is one of the Slavic languages and thus part of the Indo-European family.
Polish is written in the Roman alphabet, though q, v, and x are used only in foreign words. The letter j is pronounced y, w is pronounced v, and c is pronounced ts. There are numerous diacritical marks, including acute accents, dots, hooks, and, in the case of the l, a bar (ł). The letter ć is a soft ch (e.g., ćwierć – quarter), ś is a soft sh (śnieg – snow), ść is a soft shch (iść – to go), dź is pronounced like the English j (niedźwiedź – bear), ń is pronounced ny as in “canyon” (jesień – autumn), ó is pronounced oo (góra – mountain). The letter ż is a hard zh (żona – wife), the letters ą and ę are nasal vowels (sąsiad – neighbor, pięć – five), and the barredłi is pronounced approximately like a w (głowa – head). Ch is pronounced as in German, but sz = sh (szkoła – school), cz = ch (czysty – clean), szcz = shch (szczotka – brush), and rz = zh (grzmot – thunder). The stress in Polish is always on the next-to-last syllable.
Polish vocabulary naturally resembles that of the other Slavic languages. Such Polish words as bez (without), most (bridge), cena (price), and zima (winter) are identical in Russian, Czech, Bulgarian, and Serbo-Croatian. But“peace,” which is mir in Russian and mír in Czech, in Polish is pokój, while“island” (ostrov in Russian and Czech) in Polish is wyspa. The Polish words for “north,” “south,” “east,” and “west” are respectively połnoc (which also means “midnight”), południe (noon), wschód (rising), and zachód (setting). Some Polish words seem unpronounceable to one who has never studied the language (e.g., przemysł – industry, sześćdziesiact – sixty, wszechświat – universe, szczęścsliwy – happy; lucky). Equally formidable are the names of the Polish cities Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, and Święctochłowice.
Czeslaw Milosz was the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.