As I mentioned in my previous post, last year I started to (seriously) learn Polish. So how are things coming along?

Of course the first thing to say is that learning Polish is not easy – but then, I’ve never heard anyone say that any language is easy to learn so it’s really no surprise to learn that Polish is no different. Since the beginning of August 2017 I have spent hundreds of hours on the language – some of these hours are very concentrated and intense, others are a bit more laid back – sometimes I will read quite intensively and other times I will read more extensively but the main thing is that I am enjoying the learning process. I’m not bothered about if I have the most efficient langauge learning method – in fact I want to have the freedom to experiment and to find my own way of learning. That’s not to say that I don’t take an interest in how other people have, and do, learn languages – it’s just that, part of the fun for me comes from the experimentation.

Of course at this point I have to draw a parallel with how I went about learning maths (that thing about drawing a parallel wasn’t meant to be a pun by the way) when I was doing my A Levels etc. I didn’t have a specific study technique (that I knew of), I wasn’t doing it because I felt forced to do it against my will – I learned about it because I loved every second that I spent learning about it; I enjoyed working through the frustrations and every little discovery that I made was thrilling – it was brilliant. And now this is how I feel about learning Polish – it can be frustrating, but I enjoy ploughing through those frustrations.

At present I’m not really in a position to judge the level of my Polish. It could be beginner, it could be intermediate – I’m not really able to make that judgement. Possibly I am low intermediate at a push – I’m planning to take the B1 Level Polish State Certificate Examination in May of this year – B1 Level is considered to be low intermediate and so, I suppose if I pass the exam then that will be objective evidence of my level but I’ll wait until that result comes through.

I spend most of my time reading the language – this is for a few reasons. The first reason is that I can read more often than anything else – if I stop off for a coffee I can just pull a book out of my bag and get on with it. The second reason that I read more is because I like reading – I read a lot in English so it makes sense for me to do this in Polish if that’s what I enjoy doing. The third reason is that I like the theories of Stephen Krashen which says that extensive reading is a very effective way of acquiring a langauge. I don’t understand everything that I read in Polish – sometimes it is very difficult – but of course, as with anything, with practice it gets easier. I try to read authentic material that is intended to be read by native speakers of Polish if I can – obviously right at the very beginning when I started learning this wasn’t really possible but it’s surprising how quickly you can make progress in that direction. It helps, also, to try to read things that you have some familiarity with – for example, the first full book that I read in Polish was the Polish translation of A Short History of Time by Stephen Hawking (Krotka Historia Czasu). Of course this wasn’t an easy book to read but I was able to follow it quite well since I was familiar with a lot of the material. On the tother hand, fiction is much more difficult for me to read because there are so many more literary words whose meanings are not clear for me just yet.

Overall things are going well with my quest to learn Polish – I like that I am making progress but I also like that I have lots to learn. It’s a challenge and it’s a challenge that I’m happy to undertake.

Over the last hal year or so I haven’t really been doing much with my website – no new posts, only a couple of new videos. What’s been going on?

Well the good news is that everything is (and has been) perfectly fine and I’m still doing maths tuition – the reason for my absence has been more to do with getting myself interested in a new (old) hobby. As much as you love doing something, sometimes it’s always nice just to have a bit of a break and not be quite as full-on as you may have been.

So what is this new hobby that I’ve been getting into? Well I’ve been learning a new language – Polish! I started around the end of July/beginning of August last year (2017) and I’ve been really enjoying it. Arguably, this is not the first time that I have dabbled with foreign languages, including Polish; like most people I studied a language at school – French – and also like most people, I hated it. I hated it so much! I couldn’t understand why anyone would put themselves through the torture of learning French in a classroom. It was so dull, so drab and so painful. I hated having to do role-playing where I had to pretend to be a tourist asking ‘ou est la gare’ is or how to say ‘ j’aime aller a la plage’.

After leaving school in 2002 and somehow managing to get a C in my GCSE French (they must have awarded me a few pity-marks, I’m certain of it) I never even thought about learning a language – I had no reason to think about it. In around 2006, though, something changed. I don’t know what it was but I felt compelled to learn French – this time to do it on my own terms. I learned how to read farily well in French, I had regular written conversations (at the time when MSN messanger was popular) with French people, I had Skype conversations in French, I learned the grammar and I loved it – because I was now doing it because I wanted to do it. I never got to a fluent level but I could get by.

A few years later I decided to start learning Polish – why Polish? Why not? This lasted for a few months but I eventually had to set it aside for a while as there were lots of other things going on at the time which meant my time was getting spread a bit to thin. Once again I went back to not even thinking about languages – until last year. I decided that now was the right time for me to do this – to learn a language and to see it done properly. Even though it would probably have been easier for me to start back learning French I felt more drawn to Polish – so I chose Polish.

So now, I want to make my goals for 2018 official – they are

  • Sit (and pass) the Polish State Certificate Exams, B1 Level, in May 2018 (already registered for this!).
  • Sit (and pass) the Polish State Certificate Exams, B2 Level, in November 2018.

For me, I hated learning languages in a classroom. I much prefer to learn the language on my own terms; I enjoy learning grammar when I can do it at my own pace; I enjoy reading authentic material in the language and not textbook-style role-play conversations; I enjoy having authentic conversations in the language (you don’t learn how to talk about which kind of radiator you want in one of the bedrooms in Polish textbooks but these kinds of things come up in real life). As it stands I don’t have any plans to learn other languages just yet – but who knows, once I’ve got to a decent level in Polish I may turn my attention to other languages as well. For the time-being let’s go one step at a time.