Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Arnaud » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:43 am

I don't know if polish cases are more difficult than russian cases (I doubt it, it's probably the same system with different endings), but for Russian I simply studied the cases one by one by doing a lot of simple exercises. It's a question of repetition and decomposing all the system: start with one case: accusative, masculine, singular, then accusative, feminine, singular, etc... That's also what is done in Lingua Latina per se illustrata, by the way. If you study Latin, you'll see a lot of similarities.
Perhaps in Polish, there is a lack of didactic ressources, that's probably one of the main problem. For Russian or Latin, there are tons of books and YouTube videos explaining all that in details.
But it's definitively possible to learn all that, it's a question of time and patience.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Morgana » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:00 am

StringerBell (and lusan): the particular kind of frankness you have posted is courageous, imo. Regarding the cases in particular, I wanted to make all the same complaints about arbitrariness etc. when I was learning Icelandic but I don’t think I ever had the boldness to come out and say it. Of course, coming from a language without cases how can we be unbiased, but really, why change words when you can say the same thing without changing them in a dozen complicated, overlapping ways? I sympathize greatly. However sometimes there is simply curiosity or entertainment or any of a million reasons to learn it anyway. Maybe it’s bizarre and futile but it’s still enticing and enjoyable (to some, anyway ;) ).

I hope you’re able to feel “at peace” with whatever decision you arrive at with regards to Polish, StringerBell. It’s hard to let go sometimes, but there are also ways to continue if you were prepared to/wanted to modify your goals. No shame in changing course or stopping outright because you’ve discovered it’s not what you expected. After 1500 hours I would think you have a good idea of the road ahead, so you should feel confident in your decision. Good luck no matter how you go.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Brun Ugle » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:51 am

On of the ways I remember tricky bits of grammar is to use key phrases containing those grammar bits. These are phrases I’ve discovered naturally while watching a TV show or listening to music and remember because they were either repeated a lot or because they were said in a very emotional or dramatic way. I’ve never been good at remembering examples from books. I think the emotional connection is important to the memorizing and to using the phrase. So, once I’ve got the phrase that demonstrates the correct case after a certain preposition or whatever it is that I’m struggling with, I use it as an example whenever I need to say or write something using that particular bit of grammar. Of course, this means you have a tiny pause when you come up to that preposition or whatever, as you remember the catch phrase and then use the correct case. After a while, it just becomes natural to use the right grammar and you rely on the catch phrase less and less and eventually forget it and wonder why in the world you ever found that bit of grammar complicated when it’s so easy.

It’s not a fast method since it requires you to discover catch phrases in the wild and you basically work on whatever bit of grammar you have good catch phrases for. So it means you are fixing just a few bits at a time.

I also find that writing improves speaking more than people give it credit for. It’s often said that if you want to get good at speaking, you need to speak a lot, but I would say that writing a lot is just as useful. It let’s you slow down and think about the grammar and how to formulate things. If you’re trying to keep track of a lot of grammar at once, as you must in the beginning when you have multiple cases, genders, tenses, moods, etc to get right, it’s easier if you have more time to think. I also find that writing by hand imbeds things in my brain better.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Polish Paralysis » Fri Jul 12, 2019 8:29 am

It is greatly disheartening to see individuals who have put in such a great amount of time effort into an endeavour only to think about giving up. There is truly no shame in giving up and I have thought about doing so multiple times myself. In such circumstances, I however always think about how far I have come. I think about how difficult it was to start from scratch in a language that I couldn't understand a single word in. I think all the hours of listening I have done; how I used to listen to the same boring dialogues dozens of times over. Now I am able to use content that I find interesting. I have started listening to youtube videos that interest me. I listen to podcasts that interest me. I listen to audiobooks that I enjoy.

I have also always refused to listen to children's stories or read children books. I simply do not find them interesting. If anything I find them demotivating. They remind of me how many words a child knows that I don't know. In my opinion if you find the right book, a book targeted at adults can be as easy to get though as one for children (adults simply use different vocabulary from children on a day to day basis).

My philosophy is to find enjoyment in whatever I do, so that I never feel like what I do is a punishment. I told myself a long time ago that this a long term endeavour. I accepted that fact from the start. I figured that if I do an hour of listening for at least 5 years, I would reach over 95% comprehensibility in every form of media except maybe TV. After that, I told myself it's only a matter of time until I develop a desire to speak. The desire to speak came earlier than expected though, through a set of circumstances (Polish fiancee) and just the fact that with Piotr's courses I got to a ~B1 level more quickly than anticipated.

That is not to say I don't have days that I feel like I wish to throw in the towel. I do. It is at times soul destroying to watch a 5 year old child spit out the language with such ease, while I have to think about each and every single word I use. It's at times like those that I like to watch how far other people have come. I must have watched Luca Lampariello's Polish video 50 times over, each time seeing myself getting slightly closer to his level.

I know that not everyone can dedicate the next ten years of their lives to this. To those individuals, I would just say do what makes you happy. If you can somehow derive enjoyment out of Polish without having to give up other things in your life, then I would say dedicating a small amount of time to it every day will keep you progressing in the right direction. It also always nice to bear in mind, that languages avail more interesting content to you the longer you stick with them.



To change tone completely, I have the same problems as you when it comes to auditory memory. The things that really helps me is making mistakes in speaking or writing practice and then getting written correction. By doing this, I notice the mistakes I make. For instance one of the problems I had was locative plural (the -ch ending one). By going through the list of corrections, I noticed that all the mistakes I made belonged to more or less one case and one specific situation. Through that I learned the locative plural. That's not to say I don't make many other mistakes (because I do), but I have realised by doing this that there are not nearly as many rules as I initially thought. After all native speakers have to somehow pick up on all these patterns and subconsciously agree that these are truly patterns.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby StringerBell » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:03 pm

Thank you everyone - I really do appreciate all the support and suggestions. My situation with Polish feels really difficult, because as much as I'm complaining about the impossibility of the grammar, I do love it. And the tough thing (for me) is that I can understand things without having a mastery of any of the cases, so for passively consuming the language, it's not a big deal at all. The problem is with production. How important is that to me? I don't know. At the beginning, I thought it wasn't important at all, but now just not even being able to construct simple sentences properly is what's making me question everything.

I remember going through a similar frustration with Italian a long time ago. (well, not that long ago). For 7 years I was in a constant cycle of learning a little, giving up, learning a little more, giving up again. Even after I finally started to get serious and spend time on it every day (which was almost 2 years ago), I still had plenty of times where I thought I was ready to throw in the towel. There were so many Italian grammar concepts that I just couldn't wrap my mind around, one of them was pluralization! It seems strange to me now that I considered Italian plurals so awful and impossible. (I have a lot of trouble hearing the differences between similar vowel sounds, and even now I often can't differentiate between Italian words that end in "i" vs "e" so that might have had something to do with it). So it's possible that if I stick with it, Polish plurals will end up being equally doable.

One thing that I notice is that I have no trouble when it comes to reading/listening to languages but the real trouble starts when I start trying to produce it and learn the grammar. I can labor for hundreds of hours deconstructing every word in a book, but ask me to start speaking or creating my own sentences and my frustration threshold drops and it feels impossible. I'm always amazed by people who want to start talking as soon as they learn a language because that's the part I dread the most - I think it's connected to performance anxiety.

Studying Italian and Polish simultaneously has been mutually beneficial in a lot of ways. Quite a few concepts that I had to learn in Italian applied to Polish (the concept of reflexive verbs, using the 3rd person as a polite way of speaking to strangers, etc...) So now I'm trying to analyze how I dealt with similar frustrations with Italian to see if they could apply to Polish. I can remember quite a few times declaring that "I'll never learn Italian! I can't do it!" so it's possible this is just another iteration of that familiar pattern. As much as I thought I wanted to give up on Italian, it kept pulling me back. And after well over 1000 hours, I still have a long, long way to go with Italian before I can speak comfortably and be satisfied with my level, which I am at peace with. So why am I having trouble applying that same acceptance to Polish? Good question.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone again for being so supportive and encouraging. I find that venting my frustrations and writing out what's going on in my mind helps me to think about the situation more objectively. I was really hesitant to even write about any of this (and just stew in my own juices privately) because I was worried that everyone would tell me I was having a tantrum over nothing and I would just feel stupid, but getting to read about other people's frustrations and how they overcome it (or change direction) is really helpful.

It would really suck to walk away after having invested so much time and energy, but at the same time knowing that it's an option I can choose is important for me. Every time I wanted to walk away from Italian, I kept feeling like I couldn't because it wasn't acceptable or it wasn't a real option. That made me feel trapped and forced to engage with a language against my will (the mind really does some nonsense if we let it). As soon as I acknowledged that I 100% could just stop learning Italian if I wanted and the world wouldn't end, all of a sudden I no longer wanted to give it up. I never before considered stopping Polish, so maybe this is just that same cycle happening; once I can feel ok about stopping, my motivation might renew and not being able to ever speak correctly won't seem like such a dealbreaker.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Brun Ugle » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:36 pm

I think you make a good point about it being easier to carry on when you are allowed to quit. I always feel the most resistance to languages I should learn and get the most enjoyment from studying those that I learn because I want to even though I have no good reason to learn them. I enjoyed Norwegian until I moved to Norway and had to learn it. Then I hated it and wanted to study any and every language except Norwegian. I struggled to make myself study Setswana because it was Rick’s choice rather than mine. I’m struggling a little to get into Polish even though it had once been on my list, but now that I suddenly have a reason to study it since the Gathering will be there next year, I suddenly feel like meh! I tried the Language Jam once, but never even started on my assigned language. I think it was simply that it was assigned to me rather than a sudden passion of my own. I’m realizing more and more that I need that passion to motivate me. And if I lose it, it becomes difficult to carry on. Fortunately, I’m usually pretty good at finding it again as long as I had it to start with.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Chung » Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:58 pm

StringerBell wrote:Does anyone have a good recipe for Bigos? I've eaten it in restaurants in Poland, but since it's something my family never prepared I'm not sure how to make it. I'm sure I could find videos on YT, but I figured I'd ask here first since cooking channel recipes can be really hit or miss.


Bigos nowadays is basically pork (stewing cuts and smoked ones) stewed with aromatics, spices, cabbage (pickled and fresh) and mushrooms (usually field mushrooms rather than those button ones). As far as I know, a lot of people like to add prunes or even diced apples but I and other Poles like to make it without these ingredients.

This recipe sponsored by Knorr is quite similar to how I make it (although I don’t stew the mix for the published 5 hours since 2 hours is more than good enough for me when it comes to stew). However I do skip the prunes and tomato paste, and rarely add boullion cubes as shown in the video since I find the flavor imparted by all of the other ingredients to be enough for my taste. Even though the recipe is in Polish, I think that you can understand it.

I actually learned to make bigos after studying some recipes, and realizing that I would end up with something similar to my favorite Hungarian stew székelygulyás (a.k.a. segedínsky guláš, Szegediner Gulasch) but without the sour cream and paprika. I used to think that bigos would be a major pain to prepare but found it to be quite easy after my first attempt (admittedly having been already accustomed to making székelygulyás). I really enjoying making this or székelygulyás in my Dutch oven on a Sunday evening for a week’s worth of leftovers for lunch at work - to bardzo smaczne!

StringerBell wrote:For anyone reading this, what was the most frustrating/difficult/impossible grammar concept you had to learn in a foreign language and how did you deal with it?


When it comes to dealing with the most frustrating aspect in a foreign language, I’d say that Hungarian word order is the one for me. Even after so many years removed since I started learning the language, I still don’t quite get it right. However I’m less bothered when I get it wrong now (usually in longer or more complicated sentences) knowing that I’ve figured out the basic principles guiding word order by reading a couple of grammar books and studying example sentences with translations to English.

A runner-up in frustration is my months-long struggle eons ago to figure out the Finnish direct object. At that time, I had two problems:

1) I was learning the direct object as “accusative” which in turn set off attempts to look for parallels between the Finnish “accusative” and the “accusative” in German, Hungarian and Balto-Slavonic languages

2) Marking for the Finnish direct object accounts for completeness of the action in a way that’s foreign to me and most other outsiders.

Only after having dropped my biases and ultimately invalid/unhelpful comparisons to other languages did I start to figure it out as I thought about this feature on its own terms. Nowadays, I usually decline the direct object correctly on the first try when expressing myself in Finnish.

I understand somewhat your frustration with case-marking especially when you see that some endings get recycled across cases/genders and you then start questioning their raison d’être if the endings look the same anyway. At the same time, I wouldn’t get hung up on them as case-marking is just part of the principle that you and your interlocutors need some reliable way to relate elements in a sentence to each other. In Polish, the relationship is often shown with the case-endings, but their use doesn’t mean that other techniques such as word order, use of adverbs/particles or “context” (for lack of a better description) are off-limits. In other words, you can think of this relationship-marking as falling on a spectrum of techniques. At one end it’s all about using endings or affixes to mark every nuance of the intra-sentence relationship but at the other end it’s all about using word order or stand-alone particles. Polish falls between these extremes but clearly stands closer to end of the spectrum with endings and affixes. English (and Italian to a certain degree) lie closer to the other end with greater reliance on word order and stand-alone particles (or adverbs).

Don’t let your ranting or hang-up however reach the heights attained by s_allard as he started to annoy some of us while trying to put a brave face on figuring out German cases (which apply mainly to adjectives unlike in Polish where they apply to nouns and adjectives). He started to grouse about their overall usefulness but seemed unwilling to admit that he was merely showing his bias thanks to having mastered only English, French and Spanish – languages that have almost no case-marking. Funnily enough, his cognitive blind spot and hang-up about cases seem to have prevented him from noting that German conjugation happily gets by on fewer tense/aspect combinations than what’s used in those other three languages (e.g. German doesn’t have a distinct conjugation like “I am reading a book”/Estoy leyendo un libro (Sto leggendo un libro.) not to mention that it has nothing like the fine distinctions in subjunctive tenses used in Romance languages).

It’s a shame that you feel down about Polish right now but I agree with Brun Ugle that knowing that you can drop something that sometimes causes you grief can be reassuring and maybe ironically prevent you from abandoning it. Tak trzymaj!
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby hedgehog.chess » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:42 pm

There’ve been already a lot of great advices but I would also like to add something.
  • Polish is hard. I know what I’m talking about, I’ve been living surrounded by it for 30 years.:) And I’m still sometimes getting confused how to say certain things correctly.
  • From what I understand you’ve done 1500 hours of learning in 1.5 years. If there’s someone who deserves a break it’s you :)
  • You have accumulated a certain amount of frustration so if the Bow wave effect is real you may be in a perfect position to take advantage of it.
  • Enough theory, now comes a real life example: me and chess. Chess was a big part of my life for more than a decade. It may seem strange but I never really liked to played it much. I loved to study it, analyze games, watch others play, solve puzzles. I was never good enough at playing according to my standards. I was getting easily frustrated by the mistakes I made , I was losing rating points which just deepened the frustration and the spiral continued. To make a long story short at some moment, I just quit playing. I haven’t lost interest in chess per se, I still watch tournaments online and play 1-2 casual games a week.(online, totally unrelevant, just not to forget how the pieces move :D) I just got rid of the part that made me unhappy. I think that the analogies here are clear enough :)
  • By the story I don’t want to encourage you to quit. You know that I really want to see you succeed. You don’t have to throw all your hard work away, just concentrate on those parts of language learning that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Do what you feel is best for you.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby rdearman » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:01 pm

Meh. Just quit. I quit French all the time.
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Re: Polski & Italiano (+ Latin) Episode II: StringerBell Strikes Back

Postby Brun Ugle » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:35 pm

It’s true what hedgehog.chess said about the bow-wave effect. I often take shorter or longer breaks from my languages, usually just a few days, sometimes a few weeks, and usually unintentionally. Much longer than a few weeks is not helpful I find. However a few days or weeks can work wonders. The last couple of weeks have been overly busy for me when I had thought they would be completely quiet and uneventful, so I’m getting really stressed out. So, for the next few days, I’m taking a break from everything I can take a break from and I’m just going to try to eat healthy, meditate and walk in the woods. I think I’ll end up more relaxed and able to concentrate better on my languages and everything else after a few days off. Why don’t you try it too? Just take a few days off from what’s stressing you (ie languages) and do something relaxing. You’ll probably at least feel a little better and maybe you’ll experience some kind of bow-wave effect. I think when we stop pushing our brains to learn something and just let them relax, sometimes they figure stuff out on their own.
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