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  • #343033

    Anonymous

    I've read about the supposed difficulty of many languages. Some I don't know at all (like Chinese or Arabic, which I'd imagine are difficult), but I did have the opportunity to learn one of the hardest, and supposedly the most grammatically-complex Slavic language, Polish. It is certainly harder than Croatian–another Slavic language–which I already knew when I started to learn Polish.

    Here's one (somewhat trivial, but illustrative) example of the relative complexity of languages: the number 2.

    English, Spanish, Dutch: 1 form (two, dos, twee)

    Portuguese: 2 forms (dois/duas) – depending on gender (2 – masculine & feminine)

    Croatian: 7 forms (dva, dvije, dvoje, dvojica, dvojice, dvojici, dvojicu) – depending on gender (3 – masculine, feminine, and neuter) and case in one specific form. There were other variants historically but they're not used anymore.

    Polish: 17 forms. Depends on gender (3), case for all forms. Pretty much all these forms occur in regular speech (6-11 less often than the others)

    image

    Dwa palce

    17 grammatical forms for the number 2

    dwa
    dwie
    dwoje
    dwóch (or dwu)
    dwaj
    dwiema
    dwom (or dwóm)
    dwoma
    dwojga
    dwojgu
    dwojgiem
    dwójka
    dwójki
    dwójkę
    dwójką
    dwójce
    dwójko

    Imperfect and Perfect Verbs in Polish

    Another grammatical difficulty is the concept of imperfect and perfect verbs in Polish (and other Slavic languages). The verb "to see" has two completely different verbs in Polish: widzieć and zobaczyć. The only difference is that you use the first if something happens continuously or more than once, and the second if it only happens once.

    Widziałem – I saw (repeatedly in the past, like I saw the sun come up every morning)

    Zobaczyłem – I saw (only once; I saw the sun come up yesterday)

    This is not a tense difference – the verbs themselves are different.

    There are many other examples:

    to take – brać / wziąć

    I took – Brałem (repeatedly), wziąłem (only once)

    to sigh – wzdychać / westchnąć

    I sighed – wzdychałem (repeatedly), westchnąłem

    So for every verb in English, you effectively have to learn two verbs in Polish, which often conjugate in the future tense completely differently from each other (the past tense is usually the same, which makes for relatively easy side-by-side comparisons, like above). The present tense is impossible for the perfective verb because you can not be doing something now and finish it at the same time.

    For about 5% of Polish verbs, there is no perfective version, so you luckily only have to learn one verb counterpart.

    Plural forms change based on number

    The last major wrinkle is that the plural form of nouns changes depending on the number. In English, there is only one plural form for the word "telephone" and that's "telephones", whether you have just 2 or 100. In Polish, it's 2, 3 or 4 "telefony" and 5 "telefonów". (Grammatically speaking, 2, 3 and 4 take the nominative case, while 5 and beyond take the genitive case)

    Occasionally the difference between the nominative and genitive forms makes the jump between 4 and 5 awkward sounding.

    Why is Polish so complex?

    Poland's history is one of being attacked and subjugated by its neighbors throughout most of its history, either by Germans, Austrians, Swedes or Russians. Many times the speaking of Polish was forbidden, so people were understandably protective of their language and less likely to have foreign intrusion into it. (English readily absorbs foreign words because American, Brits, Australians, etc don't feel like their language is threatened.) Also, "world languages" simplify much more rapidly, while "niche languages" don't have the same sort of pressure.

    Even the names of months, which are usually similar in all the languages of the world, retain old Slavonic forms in Polish:

    January – styczeń (from the Polish word for joining, since January joins two years together)
    February – luty (from the Polish word for freezing cold; this is the only month that is grammatically an adjective, not a noun)
    March – marzec (from Mars – the 3rd month is the Roman god Mars's month, as it is in English)
    April – kwiecień (from the Polish word for flower, since this is the month when flowers bloom)
    May – maj (the only one adopted from the Roman calendar)
    June – czerwiec (from the Polish word for reddening…named after the Polish cochineal, a red insect that is used for red dye and is harvested in June – thanks, Lola!)
    July – lipiec (from the Polish word for linden tree, which blooms in July in Poland)
    August – sierpień (from the Polish for for sickle, since this is the month of harvest)
    September – wrzesień (from the Polish word for heather, which turns a brilliant shade of purple then)
    October – październik (from the Polish word for a type of flax mulch used in the fields during this month)
    November – listopad (almost literally – falling leaves)
    December – grudzień (from the Polish word for hardened, frozen ground)

    http://livelonger.hubpages.com/hub/Most_Difficult_Languages_-_Polish

    #378632

    Anonymous

    It s similar by the slovak language but it is an disadvantage I think, because many people just give up to learn it.

    #378633

    Anonymous

    I don't know about the grammar – never tried to learn Polish – but the writing system/pronounciation make Polish the hardest (for me) Slavic language to understand…

    #378634

    Anonymous

    I believe that Polish was rated as the hardest language in the world to learn a few years ago by some organization. Most slavic languages were rated as very hard while chinese, japanese, and romance languages were rated as medium. Though they did mention that asian alphabets are generally the most difficult.

    #378635

    Anonymous

    Maybe it is difficult, but I also read that Polish and Ukrainian are in 70% similar to proto-Slavic, which we all spoken ~1,000 years ago, so it is no extinct so far  :)

    #378636

    Anonymous

    Well, with exception of 17 forms of number 2, we have all of this in Serbian (perfective and imperfective verbs почнем-почињем, 3 forms of plural in conection with number,  21 телефон, 23 телефона, 26 телефона (difference is in accentuation, in male gender it is); we have 7 tenses, 7 case, 3 genders, 10 different kind of words), Russian grammar is also complicated (with paritciples, definite and indentifte forms of adjectivs). Slavic languages have pretty complex grammar. Church Slavonic is even more complicated. In reconstructed Proto-Slavic we see even more complex grammar. As far as I know, Macedonian and Bilagrain does not have cases, so I think they are least complex.

    #378637

    Anonymous

    To sum up, comparing with English all Slavic languages are the masters (especially declination of nouns/adjectives/pronouns is difficult for non-Slavs, not mentioning the large vocabulary)  8)

    #378638

    Anonymous

    I'm learning Polish.  I'm not giving up, though it is very hard.

    #378639

    Anonymous

    This is why if you leave your country it is important to ensure the children still speak the language at home unless you want to fully assimilate.

    #378640

    Anonymous

    I haven't given up trying to learn it yet. It might take me a long time, but I have a goal of being able to read the old poet masters (Micinski, the Three Bards, Jan Kochanowski, etc.) in their original form.

    #378641

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    I haven't given up trying to learn it yet. It might take me a long time, but I have a goal of being able to read the old poet masters (Micinski, the Three Bards, Jan Kochanowski, etc.) in their original form.

    I would be happy enough to be able to speak. It seems that to learn quite good Polish it takes 6 years  ;D. I made 1 year of Polish until now, but it's really hard, because even though your are learning the rules, sometimes you have the feeling that are more exceptions than rules. But I won't give up.

    #378642

    Anonymous
    Quote:
    (…)but it's really hard, because even though your are learning the rules, sometimes you have the feeling that are more exceptions than rules. (…)

    Yes, Polish is the most ancient in its unchanged form European language and its the closest one to Old-Slavonic and Proto-Slavonic ,but its so hard that Poles have often feeling that their language was made to troll them
    ;D

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