Polish (with a sprinkling of French)

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Polish Paralysis
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Polish (with a sprinkling of French)

Postby Polish Paralysis » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:44 am

I decided to document my language journey after being urged to do so by StringerBell and cjareck. Hopefully it will be of use to someone out there. If you are learning Polish (or Italian) I highly recommend you check out StringerBell's log where you can find a wealth of information.

I will start by documenting the resources I have used to date. I will write the resources in the form of a list that follows the order that I used them in (although the latter ones have been used simultaneously). My general philosophy to language learning is to make it as painless a process as possible, so as to maintain motivation. I also take a a more or less auditory only approach (and only consult transcripts as and when required in order to make the audio comprehensible). The list is as follows:

Glossika (finished about 2000 sentences)
Piotrs 100 Stories (Real Polish)
Piotrs 365 Daily Listening (Real Polish)
Podcasts (Real Polish) without transcripts
Polish Daily Podcasts
Youtube videos with subtitles (Polimaty, Nieprzeciętne Życie, 7 metrów pod ziemią, Krzysztof Gonciarz and few others)
Podcasts with transcripts (Kryminatorium, Staca Zmiana, Outriders brief)
Series with subtitles (1983, Ultraviolet)

I have also occasionally (maybe once every 2 months) consulted mowicpopolsku.com to create some awareness in my mind of the grammar patterns that exist in Polish.

The above resources have taken me to around a B1 level and I feel that if I continue to use them I will continue to progress steadily. I currently do about an hour of listening a day, with the odd binge day. I am also fortunate to have a fiancée who speaks to her mother in Polish every day on the telephone, from which I derive extra input (kind of creepy I know). I have also been using a language tutor on iTalki once a week for the last month. This helps me learn words relevant to my life and to make use of the vocabulary that I have learnt. I also find that making mistakes is the best way to learn the grammar of a grammatically-complex language such as Polish. Each mistake made is a grammatical lesson learnt.

My reason for learning Polish stems from the fact that the majority of my fiancée's family does not speak English (including my future mother-in-law). That could certainly make for some difficult family gatherings in the future.

The reason why I use an auditory only approach stems from two facts:
1. I find it easier. Passive listening is about the least taxing activity one can perform.
2. I find it very effective and am always amazed at the human mind's ability to take sounds that are meaningless to a person at first and somehow create meaning out of them. I believe this is largely an unconscious process that can only be taken full advantage of when we give out brain auditory input at the right level (i+1).

My methodology is as follows:
1. I listen to a passage (usually about 10 mins in length) while reading L2. This means I usually copy the passage through google translate.
2. I listen to the passage while reading L1 (a few times)
3. I simply listen to the passage (no transcript)

As far as Youtube videos go, I simply make use of the Auto-Translate feature.

I find that using this method ensures maximum comprehensibility, which to me is paramount. Also if this sounds a lot like L-R, well it pretty much is. I just use it on a smaller scale.

I generally prefer to use resources that contain natural dialogues (such as podcasts and youtube videos) rather than books because I find the language more useful. Most books contain extensive descriptions of objects and places, which I simply do not require at the moment. One could say I try to follow the "natural" path of language acquisition as much as possible, always trying to avoid steep increases in the level of difficulty. I love reading in English but I find it a chore in Polish and as such I generally try to avoid it (although StringerBell did make the point that it doesn't take that long for it to feel like a more comfortable exercise).

I plan on continuing along this path of slow-language acquisition for the forseeable future. Anyway thats all from me for now. More to come in future instalments.
Last edited by Polish Paralysis on Sat Jun 22, 2019 9:14 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby StringerBell » Tue Jun 11, 2019 12:55 pm

Yay! I'm glad you started a log. I look forward to reading about your process.

Do you ever talk to your fiancée in Polish?

Do you try to structure your tutoring sessions in any particular way? For example, choosing a topic, trying to use specific words/expressions, or do you just chat freestyle?
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Polish Paralysis
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby Polish Paralysis » Tue Jun 11, 2019 2:23 pm

StringerBell wrote:Yay! I'm glad you started a log. I look forward to reading about your process.


Haha, I'm glad someone is happy. I can't promise it will be very exciting.

StringerBell wrote:Do you ever talk to your fiancée in Polish?


No, I don't. I wouldn't want to subject my worst enemy to a conversation with me at my current level (people I pay don't count). She knows I understand pretty much everything she says these days so she occasionally says something in Polish to be "cutesy" but I invariably answer in English. Honestly, I don't feel like I'm ready to start talking in Polish but I do it once a week mainly because it helps with motivation and with the various things I've mentioned previously.

Another reason why I don't want to start talking in Polish too early is the fact that I've noticed that most competent speakers of foreign languages have more grammatical issues with phrases and sentences that they used/learnt early on in their learning process. I may be wrong but I attribute this to the fact that early on in an individuals language journey, one is forced to translate word for word with no intuitive feel of what sounds right in that language. I believe that these mistakes ultimately become fossilized. I guess I'm waiting for the moment when I feel like I have words appear in my mind just the way they do with one's native language. Whether that day will ever come, I don't know. You might be able to lend some insight into this because of your Italian. Do you ever feel like words appear naturally or do you still have to subject yourself to the arduous process of translating in your head?

StringerBell wrote:Do you try to structure your tutoring sessions in any particular way? For example, choosing a topic, trying to use specific words/expressions, or do you just chat freestyle?


I have chosen a tutor who is not necessarily my favourite but who follows has a methodology I appreciate. Prior to the lesson she sends sends me some "homework". The lesson invariably is in relation to the homework that is set. I then go to youtube and listen to various videos on that topic so as to have sufficient vocabulary for a conversation. The lesson then takes place on the basis of a set of questions that she prepared on that topic and I am forced to describe things as best as I can (which usually turns out to be the same way a caveman would describe things). I find that sticking to discrete topics is greatly beneficial especially in terms of broadening my vocabulary. Would you consider using a tutor in the future?


One more thing that I have ommitted from the discussion but which is absolutely critical in my opinion for people wishing to learn Polish. Pronunciation! I am no linguist but I feel as if I am almost half way to being a self-taught one as a result of my struggles with Polish pronunciation. Being able to pronounce words is immensely important in helping a person remember them because there is always an element of subvocalisation in the process of remembering.

By far the best two resources that I came across for this were:
http://polfon.upol.cz/index.php?page=home
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFuOFZ ... deKFldaLGA (which I used to learn how to palatalise consonants.
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby ロータス » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:58 pm

Polish Paralysis wrote:
My methodology is as follows:
1. I listen to a passage (usually about 10 mins in length) while reading L2. This means I usually copy the passage through google translate.
2. I listen to the passage while reading L1 (a few times)
3. I simply listen to the passage (no transcript)


Is this done all in one day or is step 3 later? Do you go back to your passages later for step 3, and if so how long after step1 and 2 do u wait before doing step 3? How many times do you do step 3?
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Polish Paralysis
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby Polish Paralysis » Tue Jun 11, 2019 4:18 pm

ロータス wrote:Is this done all in one day or is step 3 later? Do you go back to your passages later for step 3, and if so how long after step1 and 2 do u wait before doing step 3? How many times do you do step 3?


I do all the above in one day but there is no reason why this can't be separated in time by a day or two. I constantly go back to podcasts I have listened to in the past.

Ideally, one would have a system that took advantage of the forgetting curve. It is hard to say exactly what intervals would be required because we are not dealing with isolated facts (anki-style) but rather with 10 min blocks of information. In general, the way I get over this barrier is to watch related content for a period of time (i.e. narrow topics). That way I pick up all the vocabulary related to the topic as words tend to repeat at much greater frequencies than they would were I to not restrict topics. This is quite difficult in the case of Polish by virtue of the lack of freely available subtitles but would be quite easy for more "popular" languages.

As for repetitions: I do step 1 (2x), step 2 (2x) and step 3 (2x). This is a rough estimate. The reality is it largely depends on the difficulty of the material. The point is to feel like you understand everything and then to listen two or three more times.

Edited to answer a question I overlooked
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby cjareck » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:33 pm

I've subscribed to your log so that you can count on me in case of any trouble ;)
In my languages (English, German, and Hebrew)* I had to break a barrier and overpower the fear before speaking. Hebrew was the last one. I managed to do it only when I realized that the reason was not shyness but pride, which didn't allow me to show my weak points. Maybe that conclusion will help you also.

* I don't remember any barrier in Russian. I think that is because our languages are so similar
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby StringerBell » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:03 pm

Polish Paralysis wrote:Do you ever feel like words appear naturally or do you still have to subject yourself to the arduous process of translating in your head?


When I first started with Italian, it was mostly translating in my head, which I think is inevitable in the beginning (at least to some degree). Now it's a mix; certain phrases or sentences I've heard so many times that they just spring to mind naturally, but I still have plenty of times where I have to think about what I want to say and I end up translating, with varying results. A lot of times I have a feel for how a sentence should sound, and I know that what I'm saying isn't quite right. My main issue with Italian not having a command of certain verb tenses, while in Polish the problem is more with using correct case endings, a lack of vocabulary, and not having a good grip on verb aspects. My Italian listening comprehension is good enough that I can listen to most things without effort (even if I know I occasionally miss things or can't appreciate some nuances) so that's led me to take a very "lazy" approach with Italian; lots of days I just watch a few episodes of a TV show and call it a day.

Just this week, while I was watching Lucifer, I started thinking that while I could understand everything they were saying in Italian, a lot of those sentences wouldn't be automatic for me if I wanted to say them. So I started jotting down everything that sounded like it could be useful, things that I'd like to just automatically come out of my mouth during a conversation (things like: "What are you doing here?"). Even the act of doing this was quite useful, because I now have one or two of the things I wrote down repeating in my head.

With Polish, it's also a mix. Certain constructions I just automatically know (for example, "it was cold to me" instead of "I was cold") and others I still translate. I know that I'm a hot mess when I'm trying to speak, but somehow I can usually get my point across even with all the mistakes I make. I'm trying to focus on writing down expressions that I'd like to be automatic when I watch TV which seems to be helping.

Polish Paralysis wrote:I have chosen a tutor who is not necessarily my favourite but who follows has a methodology I appreciate. Prior to the lesson she sends sends me some "homework". The lesson invariably is in relation to the homework that is set. I then go to youtube and listen to various videos on that topic so as to have sufficient vocabulary for a conversation. The lesson then takes place on the basis of a set of questions that she prepared on that topic and I am forced to describe things as best as I can (which usually turns out to be the same way a caveman would describe things). I find that sticking to discrete topics is greatly beneficial especially in terms of broadening my vocabulary. Would you consider using a tutor in the future?


This sounds like a great strategy. Honestly, it's something that I should probably be doing. I think reading/listening a lot within a narrow range is a really good approach. I feel like I'm all over the place, and I'd probably be more efficient if I did things a little bit more like how you're doing, to focus on one topic at a time and really get to know the vocabulary. I still feel like I'm learning how to learn, and I often waiver between wanting language learning to be a fun hobby that I don't stress about vs. wanting to be more efficient and make steady improvements.

I have thought of using a tutor for both Italian and Polish, and I honestly don't really know why I haven't. Maybe it's inertia, or not wanting to deal with finding the right person for me, or maybe it's because I keep thinking that I should improve some more on my own first before I start with a tutor. Perhaps you will motivate me to finally give it a try!
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Italian goal: transcribe 10 episodes of Lucifer : 10 / 10 Woo-hoo! Finally done
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Polish Paralysis
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby Polish Paralysis » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:26 pm

cjareck wrote:I've subscribed to your log so that you can count on me in case of any trouble


Thank you for being so willing to help. Is there any way in which I can help you in return? I've noticed you have a message that reads please correct my English. I certainly don't wish to imply that your English is anything but great because it really is excellent.

cjareck wrote:break a barrier and overpower the fear before speaking


Thanks, I believe that the time will come soon where I too will have to break this barrier. But as it stands I would like to stay in the comfort zone of having a weekly tutor. Big blows early on can hurt a persons confidence and I'd rather get to a point where I can easily formulate enough basic statements and then take off from there. Also I commend you on your language learning achievements thus far.
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Polish Paralysis
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby Polish Paralysis » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:44 pm

StringerBell wrote:Just this week, while I was watching Lucifer, I started thinking that while I could understand everything they were saying in Italian, a lot of those sentences wouldn't be automatic for me if I wanted to say them. So I started jotting down everything that sounded like it could be useful, things that I'd like to just automatically come out of my mouth during a conversation (things like: "What are you doing here?"). Even the act of doing this was quite useful, because I now have one or two of the things I wrote down repeating in my head.


I feel like this is the true battle when it comes to learning a language. Going from having passive knowledge of a language to being able to actively use it. I feel like I already have the answer to acquiring passive knowledge, but active use of it has evaded me.

I lived in China for 6 months and learnt Chinese to a level where I could converse with colleagues fairly comfortably but I was completely immersed. I worked in a Chinese hotel where only one other person spoke English and had dozens of rudimentary conversations a day. Those conditions are impossible to recreate for me. I wish someone who uses comprehensible input could just say to me, "One day you will wake up and realise that enough of your thoughts are in Polish that you can talk more or less freely, albeit imperfectly."

The only other things I can imagine being of use if that time never comes are Luca's method of bi-directional translation or a self-created Glossika sentence repertoire which contains all the new sentences and constructions I personally want to be able to use. I used the 10000 sentence approach for Chinese and it payed immense dividends but I found it virtually worthless for Polish because of the complex grammar, which more or less has to become intuitive, if I am to speak at all well.

StringerBell wrote:Perhaps you will motivate me to finally give it a try!


I personally recommend you do but finding the right tutor who will help you learn in a methodical way is critical.
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Re: Polish (the lazy way)

Postby eido » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:46 pm

Polish Paralysis wrote:I lived in China for 6 months and learnt Chinese to a level where I could converse with colleagues fairly comfortably but I was completely immersed. I worked in a Chinese hotel where only one other person spoke English and had dozens of rudimentary conversations a day. Those conditions are impossible to recreate for me. I wish someone who uses comprehensible input could just say to me, "One day you will wake up and realise that enough of your thoughts are in Polish that you can talk more or less freely, albeit imperfectly."

My way of creating comprehensible input where my classes gave me none* was translating common phrases I would use on a daily or weekly basis. This is an individual process, so it will differ for you. But I often say, "That's great!" or "I wish I could have..." And I remember needing the word for "was" in Spanish. There are many words for "was," so at the time I used the one I found in the machine translator liberally and without care. I needed that word. Can you believe we didn't know "was"? But I systematically broke down my own thoughts into processes and patterns, comparing English to Spanish and vice versa, until I was translating from either into either. I used the guidance from my teachers to scaffold my self-study and exploration, but most of the grunt work after learning the conjugations and being presented with verbs lists was mine.

What I'm saying here is you have to find a way for the language to make sense to you. When @StringerBell says she thinks of "it's cold to me," that's her thinking of the language in her own logic as well as the language's. That's demonstrating effort on her part to summarize and synthesize. Using your own thoughts is always good, because it makes your brain less likely to reject them as a foreign body part.

Good luck.

*We learned verb tables by memorization (singing sometimes), got a list of words, and had to make sentences, but we weren't expected to make meaningful output (like essays stating our opinion on the state of the government, or cake...). We only had to demonstrate we knew the concept through various tests and occasional composition exercises like script writing and PowerPoint presentations, and few and far between they were. There was no grading (easy to hard) of the material. It was 0 to 100 real quick.
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