Should Foreigners learn Polish Grammar?
Is communication enough?
And why can't a table just be a table?
There have been so many two sided debates over recent years; Android or Apple? Leave or Remain? Ronaldo or Messi? The argument I am most interested in at the moment though, is whether foreigners should learn Polish Grammar or not. Some teachers say not to bother, to learn to speak and communicate. Others say it is the basis for any language and should be taught from the beginning. My own friends tell me just to communicate - grammar will come later. The thing is - I'm not sure I want that!
I suppose it depends on your goals. Someone who just needs to be good enough to ask for directions or order a burger may only need or want to understand the basic form. I know people who will point at an object in a shop in Poland and speak in English; just louder. And I know people who are quite comfortable talking in another language, knowing they are making mistakes but they don't care. I am not that person. When I go to a shop, I speak Polish and only Polish. Even if it means rehearsing how the conversation may go before I leave the house. In a restaurant, I will never take the English menu, even though the waiter or waitress often tries to place one in my hand - somehow they know I'm a foreigner. When I do speak Polish, I constantly ask 'Rozumiesz'? (do you understand me) always worried that I've said something incorrectly and that I may appear 'stupid'. Generally Polish people are awesomely appreciative every time I speak a little. My friend's Dad will show me off to his friends, proud that I can speak and understand - "Adam, chodz tu, powiedz coś po polsku" he will say if we are at a birthday party or anniversary dinner together. I like this though, he appreciates that I'm learning and I am not the stereotypical British guy arriving on foreign soil expecting everybody to speak English.
I have only ever had people mock me twice when speaking Polish, most memorably when I didn't understand the word 'reklamówka' whilst buying beer in żabka. I think of all the compliments and praise I have received over the years - but what sticks in my mind? A shop assistant smirking because I didn't know she was referring to a plastic bag. I know, I know, if we didn't make mistakes we would never learn. I totally understand that and I do speak with Poles and I do make mistakes. Most of them are kind enough to politely correct me and I make sure I never apologise for my mistake. I never say sorry, just thank you. I even messaged my friend this week saying " Potrzebuje piwo z ciebie" he quickly corrected me that it should be 'z tobą' and he luckily understood I didn't actually want a beer made 'from him' just 'with him'.
I'm hoping that some time in the future, I can take an exam in the Polish language. It's not required or necessary but I suppose I'm just that sort of person, it would be nice to be able to write on my CV that I am B1 level in Polish! In order to do this, of course you must understand the case system and grammar. Even Apps like 'Duolingo' require the user to use perfect case endings. I could write a whole sentence and end a word with 'a' instead of 'ę' and it would be deemed incorrect.
So for me, this is why I want to learn Polish grammar and cases. With my teacher I am currently working on: Narzędnik, biernik and dopełniacz. I am getting it - slowly but surely and I'm confident that I'm improving each lesson.
So, should foreigners learn Polish grammar or not? The experts all have their own opinions and I, by no means am an expert. From a learners point of view though, my opinion is that the choice should be your own. At the start of the journey of course you will work on building a vocabulary. You learn that a table is 'stół' and that dog is 'pies' but you will soon get to a point when you'll notice that the endings of these nouns change depending on the situation. An item could be on the table (na stole) or it could be under the table (pod stołem). I could even like a table (lubię stół) or not like a table (nie lubię stołu).....at least I think that's right!
Whichever direction you choose with your Polish language learning, you will soon learn that in Polish, a table is not simply a table!