A great way to learn Polish for free is to meet Polish people who also want to learn English. This way you can meet up once a week for two hours, one hour you teach them English. The other hour, they teach you Polish. It’s very easy to find people in this situation. Polish people are intelligent, welcoming, friendly and willing to experiment. So get talking to locals in cafes and bars and soon you will be making new friends. The added benefit is also that this is free – it won’t cost you any money, only your time and passion and your Polish will improve quickly.
For those using social media, this can have a huge advantage. For example, if you regularly use Facebook, simply switch your normal Facebook language away from your native tongue and into Polish. It will prove difficult the first few days, but you will soon get acquainted to the ways of it. Instead of clicking “like” on posts, you will be clicking “Lubię to” and to click back to your homepage and feed, you’ll become aware of the phrase “Strona Główna”. Repeat this for other social media such as Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and you will have to use your brain to translate everything, hastening your understanding of Polish.
These days the big cities in Poland such as Warsaw and Kraków attract a lot of foreigners which is great for globalisation and for boosting trade and the economy. In places in and around the Old Towns is normally where these foreigners hang out. For sure these cities have lots of excellent bars and restaurants but frequenting them can hinder your language capabilities and you fall into the trap of speaking English daily, in a country where Polish is the language you should be speaking. Even the menus and bar signs in such venues are written in English. At times, it can feel like you’re back in London, New York, Belfast or Sydney.
So instead of visiting those ex-Patriot hangouts, frequent Bar Mlecznys (“Milk Bars”), which are quite simply a Polish institution and the place to be. These are small, cheap, quiet restaurants to eat at. The beauty is they rarely have any menus other than Polish, the food is all Polish, the staff are mostly Polish and everything here is Polish. Go inside, order in Polish, get acquainted with the menus, the food you order and soon you will know the meaning of words like “grzyby” (mushrooms), “ogorki” (gherkins), “chleba” (bread), “na miejscu” (at this place, which means ‘to eat here’) and everyday essentials such as “dziękuję bardzo” (thank you very much), “poproszę” (please) and “do widzenia” (see you next time).
Possibly one of the simplest ways to enhance your Polish is to force yourself to listen and understand it for 90+ minutes at the cinema. Head to your local cinema “kino” and ask for the latest films that are only in Polish, with no other subtitles. There are screenings daily all over the country, so it won’t be hard to find a suitable film to enjoy.
By watching live Polish football matches, you will notice that almost everything here is in Polish. The match tickets, the stadium entrance signs, ordering food and drink. The team announcements are all in Polish. The loud and lively singing from the stands is in Polish – pick up a local football programme or magazine to read at half-time and you will soon become acquainted of how passionate Polish people are for football. This tip can of course also apply to Speedway, Volleyball, Basketball and Handball, all very popular sports in Poland.
Last on this list but probably the most obvious. There are numerous excellent Polish language schools in Poland. Simply enrol onto a course at one of them and you will suddenly find yourself improving. These days we can of course use Google Translate and use smartphones to easily translate things, but this can really get confusing and often Google Translate can be wrong, especially with Polish when the endings and inclinations of words are so vital to the language. For this reason, it’s important to have a Polish teacher who can train you in detail about the language. You will also get coursebooks on your language course, which give you extra reading, so while waiting at bus stops, train stations etc. you can do your homework and ensure you are enhancing your language ability every second of the day. Good luck, or as the Polish say “Powodzenia”!