What writing system(s) does this language use?
The Polish language is written in its own version of the Latin alphabet, like English. Unlike English, however, Polish does not have the letters Q, V, and X. The Polish alphabet also uses four diacritics. These are the kreska ("dash"), the ogonek ("tail"), the kropka ("dot"), and the stroke.
Letters having a kreska in Polish include:
- Ć or ć (like the "ch" sound in "chocolate"),
- Ń or ń (like the "ny" sound in "canyon"),
- Ó or ó (like the "oo" sound in "proof", just like Polish u),
- Ś or ś (like the "sh" in "ship"),
- Ź or ź (a unique "zh" sound, like the "s" in "vision").
The letters with an ogonek are both nasal vowels:
- Ą or ą (like the "ome" sound in "home"),
- Ę or ę (like the "en" sound in "lend"
The letter Ż or ż (like "zh" but different from the Ź sound above) has a dot, and the letter Ł or ł (pronounced like "w" as in "wind") has a stroke.
Because of these differences, Polish has 32 letters. That's six more than in English! The Polish alphabet is:
Polish has also digraphs:
- Ch or ch (like the "ch" in "loch", just like Polish H)
- Cz or cz (like the "ch" in "chocolate" but different from the Ć sound above)
- Rz or rz (read just like Ż)
- Sz or sz (like the "sh" in "ship" but different from the Ś sound above)
diacritic — a mark added to a letter to change the way it is pronounced. For example, when a "kreska" is added to the Polish letter "C", its pronunciation changes from a "ts" sound (as in "boots") to a "ch" sound as in "chocolate".
nasal vowel — a vowel which is so called because it sounds like it is being said while the nose is blocked (hence "nasal").
How many people speak this language?
Polish has 46 million speakers. Of these, 38 million live in Poland, while the rest live in countries all over the world. Around 10% of the EU population speak Polish. Over half a million Polish speakers live in the UK - most of these people are recent immigrants but many are Polish-British people who've lived there since the 1940s.
Where is this language spoken?
As the place where it was first spoken, Polish is mainly spoken in Poland. There are also large numbers of Polish speakers in neighbouring countries such as Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine, as well as important Polish-speaking communities in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Polish is an official language of the European Union.
What is the history of this language?
Like most languages in the countries around Poland, the Polish language comes from the very old Proto-Slavic language, a dead language once spoken around central and eastern Europe. The Polish language as we know it today began to take shape around the 10th century, when Poland started to become a distinct state. In particular, the history of the language is tied in with that of Mieszko I, the first Polish Duke, who united various Slavic tribes in the region that shared a similar culture and language. After Poland became Christian in 966, the new country adopted the Latin alphabet for its language. Before then, the language had no writing system, and only existed through people speaking it.
The earliest examples of written Polish are religious texts written by members of the Catholic Church. Non-religious examples of written Polish emerged in the Middle Ages, and the language kept changing and adding new words from other languages, such as German, Russian and Czech. Today, Polish borrows many words for English for new items that have never existed before, such as computer, which is called komputer in Polish!
Adam Mickiewicz, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Stanisław Lem, Czesław Miłosz, Wisława Szymborska
What are some basic words in this language that I can learn?
What is a simple song/poem/story that I can learn in this language?
Christmas is a very special time in Poland. One of the most popular carols sung there is the Jesus Lullaby.
Lulajże Jezuniu, moja perełko!
Lulaj ulubione me pieścidełko.
Lulajże, Jezuniu, lulajże, lulaj!
A Ty Go, Matulu, w płaczu utulaj.
Sleep, little Jesus, my little pearl!
Sleep, my favourite darling.
Sleep, little Jesus, in loving arms lying,
And you, Mummy, hug him while he is crying.
Authors and Contributing •