Monthly Archives: February 2011

First Polish weekly available for Kindle

Polityka, one of the oldest and best Polish weekly magazines, has launched its Kindle version. I’m not sure whether it’s available for other ereaders too, but the Kindle version is surprisingly good.

Polityka – despite its title – doesn’t just focus on politics, but is a high-quality liberal weekly whose topics span a wide range: from politics to science, from history to culture.

The publishers admit that the reason why they launched the magazine on Kindle – which has just a handful of users in Poland itself – is to reach Poles living abroad. You can buy just one issue for £2.99 or pay £5.99 for a monthly subscription, which actually doesn’t sound bad. However, when you compare to prices paid in US dollars – $1.99 and $3.99 – the Sterling prices sound like a rip-off. But that’s beside the point.

My suggestion is that – if you’re a fairly advanced Polish learner and own a Kindle – you should give it a go. There’s nothing better than learning a language from relatively well-written, real-language sources like newspapers, magazines, or blogs.

The experience is surprisingly good and user-friendly. There are no ads, almost all articles come with images (yes, there are black and white, but still clear enough) and the whole issue is divided into easily-navigable sections and articles. And the good thing about Kindle is the fact it works on any platform – so even if you don’t have the reader itself you can still use the Kindle app on your PC, iPhone, Mac or Android device.

And if you already own a Kindle, you know that most magazines come with a 14-day free trial, which you can cancel at any time.

It would be brilliant if more Polish publishers followed suit, although if you’re interested in Polish ebooks for Kindle and other readers, there’s already plenty of choice and many of titles are available for free.

A good place to start is ebook.pl (in Polish), where you can download samples and/or whole books (including free ones – click on the “darmowe’ tab). There are also some magazines and audiobooks there too.

The biggest Polish bookstore, Empik, has also launched an online ebook shop.

Password Incorrect is a great Polish blog – partly written in English too – with great resources and links for all ebook fans.

Miłego czytania!

P.S. I guess I should get myself an iPad now and see what’s available in Polish there…

Facebook is taking Poland by storm

I have noticed in the past couple of months an increase in the number of friend requests from my old friends and acquaintances in Poland. And indeed, official numbers suggest that after years of relying on Nasza Klasa, Poles are now flocking to Facebook.

A recent post on the Social Bakers website claims that in the past six months the number of Poles using Facebook has grown by 79%. In other words, over 2.4 million new users have created their profiles within the past six months. There are over 5.5 million Polish profiles on Facebook at the moment, which makes it the seventh biggest country in Europe on Facebook. (The UK is first, with almost 29 million Facebook profiles, closely followed by Turkey with 26m and France with almost 21m.)

I have also noticed many more Polish pages on Facebook and, surprisingly, Polish-language ads too. Although why they would display on my profile if my language is defined as English and location as UK, remains a mystery to me.

I guess more businesses and brands will take advantage of Facebook’s ability to target its advertising and the number of Polish ads will grow rapidly in the next several months.

Obviously now would be an ideal time to remind you that each post on this blog comes with a Facebook ‘Like’ button – if you like what you’ve read, ‘Like’ it and share with your Facebook friends :)

Also, if you haven’t done so yet, become a fan of the Polski Blog on Facebook and help us reach even more readers.

Thanks a lot :)

Image © FindYourSearch via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licence

Fact or myth? You need small change to go for a wee in Poland

Or do you? It’s a commonn misconception that you need to pay to use the loo in Poland. Yes, maybe in some places, but not everywhere.

In the past, most places, including restaurants and bars, would have toilet attendants who’d charge you a small set fee to enter the loo (and in some cases provide you with some toilet paper too). The attendants would most likely be female pensioners, hence their nickname, “babcia klozetowa” (literally: “toilet grandma”). But they were there not just to charge you money. They kept the place clean, provided a sense of security and often became, inadvertently of course, a source of entertainment. They’d sit there with their tiny AM radios, crocheting or knitting, loudly gossipping away, keeping an eye on their customers and often telling them off if they broke any of their golden loo rules.

Obviously they are not – and have never been – a typical Polish phenomenon. And neither has been the custom of charging for the toilet. But somehow many people still think that unless you have some lose change in your pocket, your only option when you’re desperate for the loo in Poland is the nearest park.

Chargeable toilets and toilet attendants are probably still present in some places – mainly, I would suspect, railway stations and other busy public transport hubs. But over the past several years I have not encountered them in any of the shopping centres, cinemas, restaurants or bars I have visited in Poland.

But I’m glad they have been immortalised in popular Polish culture.

I’m also glad we got thir particular subject out of the way.

→  More Polish Facts and Myths

Image © Iwona Kellie, used under the Creative Commons licence

Kocham Cię – polish your Polish, part 18 (Valentine’s special)

Kocham Cię. I love you.

More language of love – here.

More “Polish your Polish” – here.

Kocham Cie image by Funky Tee, via Flickr, used under the CC licence

Polish tongue twisters – polish your Polish, part 17

Twisted tongue image by Abu via Flickr (CC licence)

Twisted tongue image by Abu via Flickr (CC licence)

Go on, admit it. You’ve ALWAYS wanted to impress your friends with a Polish tongue twister. Right?

And if you think “She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore” is difficult, try these. Here is my top five.

Let’s start with one of the most difficult pieces of Polish literature, a short poem by Jan Brzechwa, called “Chrząszcz” (“Beetle”). Actually, it’s just the opening line of the poem – about a beetle buzzing in reed in the town of Szczebrzeszyn – that has become probably the most famous Polish tongue twister ever:

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie.

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And how was that? I bet you’ve never seen so many consonants in one sentence in your life! The next one is also full of them, but this time it’s more about ‘s’ vs. ‘sz’:

W czasie suszy szosa sucha.

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Which translates as “The road is dry during a drought”. Was that any easier?

How about this one, which uses rather long and complex words to covey a rather simple message – “We isolated ourselves from an enthusiastic crowd”:

Wyindywidualizowaliśmy się z rozentuzjazmowanego tłumu.

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The next one makes many people cheat. Sorry, simplify things. Why would you say:

Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami.

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which means “A table with its legs broken out”, when you can just say:

Stół bez nóg.

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“A table with no legs.” Cheeky. But not as cheeky as the last tongue twister in my collection, which plays tricks on your tongue, but also on your brain.

Alliteration occurs when all words in a phrase or a sentence start with the same letter. This nonsensical tongue twister means “Tooth, tooth soup. Oak, oak soup.” But try to fool your brain and make it forget about the alliteration in the first half of the tongue twister. Now say it really fast:

Ząb, zupa zębowa. Dąb, zupa dębowa.

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If you managed to fool your brain (and your tongue) – well done. If not, I’ll let you Google the word you’ve just created…

More in the “Polish your Polish” series

More English in Polish?

During my recent trip to Poland I noticed that English words, phrases and names have become a norm in everyday language. Don’t get me wrong, English borrowings have always been present in Polish.  What I’m talking about here is the presence of a huge number of foreign-sounding (mainly English) phrases or names, which often replace perfectly acceptable Polish equivalents.

In a way, it’s a variant of Ponglish, where native Polish speakers living in an English-speaking country swap certain Polish words or phrases for English ones, or add Polish pre- and suffixes, decline or otherwise modify English words to fit in with the rest of the (Polish) sentence.

I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon on Polish TV last week, where, during a morning cooking show, the cook said an ingredient “zrobi tę sałatę sharp” ["will make the salad sharp"] to which the presenter replied: “Będzie z powerem” [literally: "It'll have some power"]. If you ask me, both are examples of linguistic laziness, where the speaker cannot be bothered to look for – or indeed, doesn’t know – the Polish equivalent. Presumably, both speakers also thought they sounded cool. We should probably ask their target audience – pensioners and housewives – whether they also thought so.

It’s slightly different when you use an English phrase in an informal setting. Many people use “sorry” in Polish when speaking with friends, often in a kind of tongue-in-cheek way. Last week I also noticed when two girls said good-bye to each other in the street, one of them said “I love you” in English, presumably meaning “You are very important to me and I care about you as you’re my friend.” The Polish equivalent “kocham cię” wouldn’t work in such a context as it’s too emotionally charged and there’s no in-between Polish equivalent.

And that’s the thing. In many instances people will use an English word either because it offers this in-between meaning which doesn’t have its Polish equivalent, or because it cannot be directly translated – or the translation simply doesn’t work. The best example of the latter is the word “interface”. I remember when people tried to localise it by providing a rather literal translation, “międzymordzie”. Well, that didn’t work. “Interface” has since become “interfejs” and many other English words have been adopted (and adapted) in the same way.

But this “Polglishisation” of Polish is just one thing. Another very noticeable trend is making your business or brand sound foreign. Many businesses seem to believe that English (or foreign, in general) words and phrases make them sound more appealing, exotic or sophisticated. Again, this is not a new trend, but a day at a shopping centre often leaves Poles with a choice between (among others) a trip to Cinema City, or a shopping spree at Your New Style, House, Pretty One or Top Secret And Friends (!!). Your mobile can come from Play and you can play at Fantasy Park (no, it’s not what you think it is).

So is it just me or is English becoming very dominant in every Pole’s life? I realise that this post only scratches the surface of the phenomenon (or problem, depending on your point of view), but I would love to hear what you think about it.

Whether you are Polish and living in Poland or whether you are an English speaker (and also living in Poland), leave a comment and let me know:

Is there more English in Polish?
If so, does it bother you?
Got any examples?

I’ll ask my Facebook and Twitter followers (“followersi” in Polish) to chip in too.