How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

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How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby WalkingAlone13 » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:37 pm

I've been wanting to learn Polish for a long time and have always ended up putting it off due to a lack of resources. I don't know if I am just bad at finding resources, although I probably am, but it seems to be very hard to find beginner materials. I only really know of two textbooks, one being Hurra Po Polsku (which I have) and Czesc, Jak sie mascz? but these don't seem to start at the absolute beginner level. The one that I have, I tried to start using it and it was just too difficult for me to start. I read about the beginner Polish course that has been widely praised on the other site, but it seems like the audio is only useful if you have the book with you. I like to do audio courses when I am out, but drilling sentences that I don't understand the meaning of, doesn't seem that useful.
The only resource I can really use at the moment is Pimsleur 1-10, which is just the right pace for me. This is the sort of level I'd ideally like to find a textbook at, so I can start from the basics and progressively work my way up.

My usual plan for the beginner stage is to complete the Pimsleur course in X language, whilst starting Michel Thomas after completing the first ten or so lessons of the first Pimsleur. I'd also start using Memrise to learn the most frequent 5k words in that language. Once I'm at a reasonable level of vocab I'd start using a textbook and work my way through it.

The problem being, Pimsleur seems to only have ten lessons for Polish and I have completed them a few times now. Michel Thomas for Polish just feels different to the one I had previously used for German, and the pace seems to be a lot faster. I can't read French so I am unable to use the Assimil course for Polish. I noticed the duolingo course is quite close to finally reaching the beta stage, so I'm hoping to start that when it's released. I'm also planning to get the Glossika Polish complete 1-3 course for Christmas, but it'll probably also be a bit hard for my current level of pretty much zero.

So basically, I can't use my usual approach and being as I am new to serious language learning, I don't really know of an alternative approach to attempt for learning Polish. Does anyone have a study plan they could recommend?
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby iguanamon » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:51 pm

I have no experience with Polish, but I too like to start a new language with Pimsleur, though I am not fond of Michael Thomas. Just wanted to say that Pimsleur has 30 lessons for Polish available in one volume. Try your library and ask for an inter-library loan- use the isbn number in the link. Alternatively, I would have a look at the free to download FAST DLI/FSI Polish (Familiarization and Short-term Training) course for an introduction. Have a look at the Polish Profile by Chung at HTLAL (scroll towards the bottom of the page for resources). Also, if he doesn't respond, I'd ask member Mooby about what he has used. He's a native English-speaker too, learning Polish.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:12 pm

Chung's HTLAL Polish Profile
I concur that Chung's HTLAL Polish Profile is an excellent place to start.

Level of Difficulty
You should be aware that the FSI placed Polish in "Category IV" of their Difficulty Ranking, as is the case for the other Slavic languages. Please refer to Chung's HTLAL Polish Profile for more complete information.

Pimsleur Polish
As to Pimsleur, while I greatly appreciated the learning experience for German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish, I found that the effort required to infer Polish grammar, decipher the seven case endings, and predict how new verbs would be used, all the while working backwards from the audio recordings -- dictionary, book of verbs, and grammar in hand -- was simply too onerous a task. Thus, I cannot recommend Pimsleur Polish. Yes, others have reported good experiences using Pimsleur with languages that are somewhat removed from English, but that was not my experience. EDIT: My copy of Pimsleur Polish has 30 Units, as presently displayed on the Simon & Schuster website. I presume that your edition, with only 10 Units, must have been a lower-priced "sampler" that Simon & Schuster marketed at some time in the past with a view to enticing customers to purchase the more expensive 30-Unit complete programmes. Since the first 10 Units are identical in both courses, Simon & Schuster used to offer a partial rebate on the price of the shorter course to purchasers of the more complete programme. Unfortunately, this rebate was not valid in all sales jurisdictions.

Michel Thomas Polish
I also tried Michel Thomas Polish. While I greatly appreciated the fact that the course was delivered by a native Polish speaker, as with my previous experiences with the Michel Thomas Method, I did not like being subjected to the poor pronunciation of the students. Also, as in most of the Michel Thomas courses, the explanations of grammar are simplistic and employ non-standard terminology.

Beginning Polish (Volumes 1 & 2) by Alexander M. Schenker
The FSI was a co-sponsor of this course and they adopted it for their own use. The teaching approach is typical for the period; that is, the intensive repetition of sentence-pattern drills. If you purchase this course (the books are available on Amazon and elsewhere), be sure that you get both books as the second volume contains exercises supporting the first volume, as well as an extensive Grammar. The audio recordings (60 hours) are available free-of-charge on the Yale University website: If you respond well to the massive repetition of sentence-pattern drills, then this is the course to use. However, if you respond poorly to drills, then keep looking (the same holds true for the older courses by Oscar E. Swan, below).

First Year Polish, by Oscar E. Swan
I am aware that Oscar E. Swan has revised his First Year Polish course and rendered it "somewhat" freely available on the Pittsburgh University website. However, there are unresolved problems with the files and some of the materials are restricted to the use of registered students. As an alternative, you might wish to consider Professor Swan's textbook First Year Polish, Second Edition, 1983. The course was written in the "FSI-Basic-style" of the period; that is, example dialogues supported by sentence-pattern drills. Some of the original audio recordings are freely available on the Pittsburgh University website. However, these sound files include only the examples of the exercise sets and not the complete set of sentence-pattern drills. You can purchase a complete set of "re-recorded" audio files, that contains all of the exercise material as well as additional recordings and a set of workbooks designed to accompany Swan textbook from the Ohio State University Bookstore: If you're having difficulty locating the products, try sending an Email to Lauren Barrett Manager, Foreign Language Publications, flpubs <>

Intermediate Polish, by Oscar E. Swan
Oscar E. Swan published this course to follow upon his "First Year Polish" course. The two textbooks, when combined, contain about the same level of material as the Alexander Schenker text. Audio recordings, in the form of a few cassette tapes, were once available to accompany the Intermediate course. However, all of my attempts to locate copies of them, including my appeals to Professor Swan, have been fruitless.

Generally speaking, the FSI FAST courses were designed to be delivered in a classroom setting over a fairly short period. It would appear that these courses were introduced subsequent to the period when the much more intensive FSI-Basic-style courses were in vogue. The FSI FAST courses represent something of a "stop-gap" measure in language-learning. They are rather cursory and the course books do not provide much in the way of explanatory notes or exercise materials. Given the nature of the materials, I would begin with the Alexander Schenker course and I would reserve the FSI Polish FAST course for dessert. Still, if you decide to use this course as your main instructional method, I suggest that you purchase Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar, by Oscar E. Swan to complement the course notes.

Assimil Le Polonais
If your French is up to the task, you might consider Assimil Le Polonais in conjunction with a Polish Grammar and a Book of Verbs. However, in my opinion, this would be the "hard way" of approaching this language and you might wish to reserve Assimil Polish for practice material once you have gained a solid footing in the language. Then again, you could use these materials in conjunction with "Living Language Spoken World Polish" per my comments below.

Living Language Spoken World Polish
Random House continues to offer this concise, content-rich course. The teaching approach is identical to that of their former "Ultimate Beginners-Intermediate" series of language courses. The course book is accompanied by 6 audio CDs (be sure you know what you're ordering, as the book and CDs are also sold separately). The dialogues are delivered at near-native-speaker-speed. The "Spoken World" series offers a very solid introduction to the basics of the target language. The only complaint that I have with these courses is that, apart from the dialogues, they do not include very much in the way of exercise materials. For this reason, were I to choose this particular course, I would combine it with Assimil Le Polonais.

Routledge Colloquial Polish
Generally speaking, the Routledge Colloquial courses are what-I-would-call "tourist speak" courses. That is, they tend to focus on the basic transactional situations and vocabulary that a traveller might encounter during a brief visit to the region where the language is commonly used; that is, barely A1 Level. Some of their courses, and this is the case for Colloquial Polish, provide a slightly more in-depth coverage of the target language with the potential of taking the student towards an A2 Level. However, in my opinion, despite their "good effort" with this course, Routledge's decision to include only 2 CDs worth of audio recordings with this course limits its usefulness, particularly given the availability of alternate materials. Still, if you're looking to visit Poland for a very short stay, then this just might suit your needs.

Polish Verbs & Essentials of Grammar, by Oscar E. Swan
It's always nice to have a simple guide on hand and the above-mentioned text is quite useful.

301 Polish Verbs, by Klara Janecki
I rely more on understanding the Rules of Verb Conjugation than I do Books of Verbs. Nonetheless, the above little book can help resolve some questions rather quickly.

Glossika Polish
I notice that Glossika offers a complete set of Polish files. Please note that these 120+ hours of audio-recordings, which are supported by bilingual transcript, are for practicing the language and that it is assumed that the user has at least an A2 Level grasp of the language and is familiar with the grammar. Apart from the transcript, there are no other supporting notes. Opinions on Glossika vary. However, there seems to be a consensus that the chief benefit is an opportunity to develop/improve automaticity. So, while this is not a place to start learning Polish, it might represent a mid-term goal.

Ciao for now!
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby Mooby » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:30 pm

Like you, I started with Pimsleur 1-10. Having got the feel of the sound and a few basics I went a bit mad and got a load of grammar books. This wasn't really necessary - a couple would have been fine, and I still haven't looked at them all anyway. 'Polish in 4 Weeks' (Books 1 and 2) by rea, Teach Yourself Polish by M.Corbridge-Patkaniowska and Basic Polish by Dana Bielec are worth looking at.
I've systematically completed some grammar books, and dipped into others with the intenion of finishing them at some stage too. But really, once you've built up a vocabulary of 1500 words or so, start getting into native material - Nowe Przygody Mikołajka by Jean-Jacques Sempe and Rene Goscinny is 600+ pages of funny children stories that are written simply and quite easy to get to grips with.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby daegga » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:45 pm

Assimil Polish is also available for German speakers. This could at the same time act as review for your German Assimil learning.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby Kazumi » Fri Sep 18, 2015 9:35 pm

The following site at the University of Pittsburgh is pretty interesting.

For L-R purposes, you may find the following link on this website to be suitable. (I am assuming that

The pdf can be worked as a free audiobook in Polish for beginners.

The “first year” course there should be enough for you to be able to keep going for a while. You will be able to follow Hurra at some point of your studies. It even has Polish grammar manuals in .pdf ( which would be cost-less alternatives to some suggestions below.

If you still want to spend money, then consider taking a look:

1. The dictionary "Collins English-Polish Polski-Angielski Dictionary - Compact Edition" by Jacek Fisiak is quite good yet cheap (the paperback edition cost about $14)
2. "Polish - An Essential Grammar" by Dana Bielec. Another option is “ A Grammar of Contemporary Polish “.

I don’t think it will be necessary to follow another textbook as you have already purchased one.

Anyway, in case you have free or easy access to them, then, take a look in textbooks from the series that's published by "Universitas" at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków.

Another alternative is “The Polski, Krok Po Kroku” series (A1/A2) (2010) is considered a good introductory book; as well. However, the main con is that it is not designed for self-study purposes as you seem to do. Despite having more natural sentences, they haven’t recorded some key parts I consider very important.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby lusan » Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:43 am

Ah Polish my love one! This is a very difficult language to crack.

1.5 years ago, I took polish and it has been a real journey. I understand your issue regarding available materials. I speak English and Spanish, but Polish is so foreign that it felt very hard to crack. After heavy efforts, I reached A2/B1 which means I can express myself poorly and pretend that I understand...yes, a bunch of tak, tak, tak. That is my favorite Polish word. Truly, my friend, it seems that there is no good method that I have been able to discover. Right now, I am modifying Glossica/Polish to reach B2, etc. I do not think that their method have sufficient repetitions to help.

Now, if I were going to do it again, this is what I would do.

1. Polish Bez Problem+. An excelent method based on Supermemo. It does not have sufficient repeats but it forces active language from the very beginner. Start and after 6 weeks get going with Assimil Polish
2. Assimil Polish. I do not know enough French but I did every one of it lesson using Google translator to help me out. Repeat, repeat, repeat, 100's or 1000's of times. No passive or active waves. Active waves do not make sense. Polish is so different to a romance language that translation is a real pain. Do not worry about the grammatical notes. They are useless. Polish grammar cannot be learned following rules. There are way too many exceptions. The cases are killers and only after 1 year of hammering in the language is when I am beginning to feel comfortable with the grammar rules. I would use the dialogues to shadow many times. I think I repeat them dozens of times and listened to them 40 to 50 times during my daily walks.

1 and 2 method done a the same time. I took 1 hours/day

3. Anki every thing. I have for 6000 L2-words in passive form. Currently my hitting rate is about 85 %. I am dumping the whole 3000 L1-sentences Glossica into Anki for my final push before going pure native.

4. Grammar. THIS IS NOT AVOIDABLE. It must be studied. I used TY grammar segments. I dumped them into Anki with cloze deletion and I still study them everyday. Be very patient. Now It is when I feel that I start getting used to the grammar. It is not as hard as it looks. The most serious barrier is to realize that all rules are full of exceptions.

5. Reading. I would not bother at all at this time. But I would listen a lot. So far I have put about 400 hours of listening.

What I got from all this? The skill so express myself at A2/B1 level. Listening is still very poor. Polish is full of sh, cz and similar sounds that very quickly become confusing. I believe that I study about 1.5-2 hours a day. So it seems to be true that it could take about ~1200 hrs of effort for fluency.

I would not bother with a teacher before A2. Currently, I am using italki. It is a very hard task.

Most people says that Polish is impossible. I do not agree. It is hard but achievable. I expect/hope to reach B2 in another 1 and half year.

By the way, I have looked into many of the methods mentioned by others and I found them either too difficult, weak, or darn boring. No question about it, Polish is a tough language to study and I admire anyone that have reached B1 level.

Good luck.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby PsittacusMagnus » Sat Sep 19, 2015 3:29 am

Last edited by PsittacusMagnus on Sun Oct 18, 2015 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby lusan » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:29 am

PsittacusMagnus wrote:So far, I'm finding that dealing with materials is harder than dealing with the language itself. Colloquial Polish is definitely the poorest Colloquial course I've used yet. They simply move on to new material and don't bother to explain very well. It looks like I'm just going to take Polish very slowly and will keep looking for new materials.

I was in Poland last May and I did not find much, however I bought: "We learn Polish" published by www.wiedza.pol. It comes with 2 volumes. One is a easy reader and the other is a grammar handbooks. It has 2 CD's. They seem good though I have not began working with them. I believe that recycling material might be helpful. So eventually, I will work with them.
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Re: How would you start learning Polish? (Any tips?)

Postby PsittacusMagnus » Sat Sep 19, 2015 11:31 am

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