Why polish is hard to learn

Polish is considered to be one of the most difficult and hardest languages to learn. Some believe it is the hardest language to learn on Earth. Of course, opinions in this regard vary and are quite subjective, but there are a good many reasons for this. Polish is a West Slavic language. West Slavic languages are usually divided into three subgroups, namely Lechitic, Czech-Slovak and Sorbian ones, and Polish belongs to the Lechitic group. It is the second widely used Slavic language after Russian and the largest West Slavic one in terms of the number of speakers.

Pronunciation and alphabet

It uses Latin script, but has 9 additional letters (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż). Additionally, it has seven digraphs (groups of two characters used to represent a single sound): ch, cz, dz, dź, dż, rz, and sz. There are also combinations of certain consonants with the letter i before a, which can be considered digraphs: ci as a variant of ć, si as a variant of ś, zi as a variant of ż, and ni as a variant of ń. On top of this, there is also one trigraph (a group of characters representing a single sound): dzi, which serves as a variant of dź. The vowel system includes eight sounds, but nine graphemes (a, ą, e, ę, i, o, ó, u, y). Of these, two are nasal. Furthermore, two graphemes, ó and u, represent the same sound.
Polish pronunciation relies heavily on consonants. The language is famous for this feature, which makes it almost unique among all other languages. This is hard for foreigners in terms of both speaking and reading/writing.

Grammar

Polish is a fusional language with highly free word order. There are five gramatical genders: masculine, masculine animate, masculine inanimate, feminine and neuter. Compare this to English, which is considered to have no gender at all. There are seven cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, locative and vocative, and several declensions. However, there are tons of exceptions to the latter. One peculiarity of the Polish language is the concept of imperfect and perfect verbs. This is not a mere tense difference – there are separate verbs used to denote contonuous or habitual events and verbs used to denote single completed events. Adjectives are also declined, have gender, as well as plural and singular forms. Polish is a synthetic langage, which means it is possible to move words around in the sentence. This is a feature which allows to highlight semantic subtleties of the expression, depending on the circumstances or intentions of the speaker. It is also quite difficult to be mastered by foreigners.

Numbers and quantity

Stating a quantity in English is literally as easy as 1,2,3…but in Polish it’s a different story. There are 22 ways to say two, twice, or second, and they are noun, adjective, and pronoun dependent. For example, two is dwa. However, it changes even more than the abovementioned declensions.


dwa koty = two cats
dwie kobiety = two women
dwóch mężczyzn = two men
dwiema rękami = with two hands
dwóm osobom = to two people
dwaj panowie = two men (like gentlemen/sirs)


The list goes on and on down to 22 tear-inducing ways to say 2. The numerical ways to tie it all together really coincide with the difficulty in matching them with all of the different cases. I know that doesn’t make you feel better, but just know that this little grammatical nugget has been a source of arguments and fascination for a long time even among Poles.

Mafalda A.

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