Category Archives: polish your Polish

Polish language explained – try it! It’s not THAT difficult!

Great! Cool! Awesome! – polish your Polish, part 18

Great! You want me to keep on blogging on here. I asked you a week or so ago whether this blog should continue and within 24 hours almost 20 people voted to say yes. Thanks, guys, that’s really awesome.

The vote is still open, at the time of writing 58% of you wanted me to blog whenever I can and 42% wanted regular posts. I won’t make any false promises – all I can say, I won’t abandon the blog. I’ll post whenever I can and when I do it will be something you probably didn’t know about Poland, its people or its language.  Once again, thanks for your support.

Right, so it’s all awesome, cool, great and perhaps even – if you’re so inclined – amazeballs. I’m not down with the (Polish) kids these days, so I can’t offer a direct translation of the last word.

But I can definitely teach you how to express your amazement or positive surprise in Polish.

Probably the most commonly used word to say something is great is


which means ‘great’ or ‘that’s great’.  A great movie would be:

Świetny film

Another commonly used word is:


which translates as ‘excellent’. This is the masculine form of the adjective, the feminine is:


The often used (and equally often hated) Americanism ‘awesome’ translates as:


This word also can mean ‘unbelievable’ and can therefore be used to express disappointment or surprise.

And the word for cool? Try ‘kool’….

Test your knowledge of Polish slang

Wow. I never thought I would say this, but I’m really impressed by the latest attempt by the Polish Foreign Ministry to promote Poland. They have just launched a website called “Do you know Polska?” which is a cross between a quiz, a social media-powered photo- and language-sharing site and a promotional hub aimed at English-speaking audiences.

Through a series of large-format images of Poland with superimposed words and their definitions the Ministry is clearly hoping to promote Poland as a young, vibrant and cosmopolitan destination. The opening screen asks you whether you “know Polska” and if your answer is “yes”, you take a short test. You are then able to add new words and images, share the existing words and phrases through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, or simply browse the (hopefully soon to be expanded) library of mostly slang or at least informal words and phrases. Linguistically the site is probably of limited use as it doesn’t explain for example the difference between the infinitive and other cases and therefore may be a bit confusing.

I have to say, many of the words and phrases there have surprised me – I clearly need to watch more MTV Polska.

So far I’ve counted 24 words and their definitions on the site, which seems very little, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this project develops. It’s clearly aimed at a younger audience and the simple and sleek design should help. It looks like the site nicely complements other promotional activities which so far have either focused on some traditional aspects of the Polish culture or on mass tourism, or were aimed at foreign investors. This, although a bit niche, reaches out to the younger audience for whom social media is second nature. Therefore it’s likely to reach more people worldwide.

Have you played with the site yet? If so, what do you think? Czaisz bazę?

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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

Stół z powyłamywanymi nogami.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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

Stół bez nóg.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“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.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

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

How to say “I’m cold” in Polish – polish your Polish, part 16


The weather in London has been really mild over the past few weeks, but don’t let it fool you. It’ll get cold and miserable soon.  Already everyone on the tube is sneezing and it made me realise that I never really told you how to express your dissatisfaction with lower temperatures, did I ?

If you want to simply say “I’m cold”, the best phrase to use is

Zimno mi.

Or if you prefer to use the full sentence:

Jest mi zimno.

If you want to ask someone if they’re cold too, simply say:

Zimno ci?

Or if you feel brave enough to go for a full question (which also may sound a bit more formal):

Czy jest ci zimno?

Obviously, the word ‘cold’ in English has also another meaning. So when you want to say that your nose is blocked and you feel like staying under the duvet with some hot tea (in other words, you have a cold), you say:

Jestem przeziębiona (female)

Jestem przeziębiony (male)


Mam katar.

That’probably easier to remember, isn’t it?

And if someone sneezes, just say

Na zdrowie.

Coincidentally, this is what you say when you raise a glass or two. Cheers! And stay warm.

PS. Sorry the usual audio files are not there this time.

More ‘polish your Polish phrases

Blu Sky image by Voyageur Solitaire-mladenovic_N via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licence

How to wish happy birthday in Polish – polish your Polish, part 15

happy birthday

March is always a busy month for me as many of my good friends celebrate their birthdays. And many of them are Polish.

I have recently realised that this basic phrase – happy birthday – has not featured in my Polish your Polish series yet. What an oversight!

So what do you say (or write, if you prefer sending a card or an email)? The easiest and commonest phrase is

Wszystkiego najlepszego

Which literally means “All the best” and is pretty generic. But you can modify the phrase depending on the occasion. So for birthdays you can say:

Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin

“All the best on your birthday”. If someone is getting married, you can say:

Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji ślubu

“All the best on your marriage”. But let’s go back to celebrating birthdays.  Two words you might find useful are:


“wishes” and


Which means ‘to wish”, but you will usually use

Życzę (Ci)…

Which means “I wish (you)…”.  So try saying “I wish you all the best on your birthday” now.

Managed that?

If no, there’s also an easy option.  There’s a song we sing to celebrate someone’s birthday in which we express our wish for them to live a hundred years. A hundred years is

Sto lat

in Polish. If everything else fails, wish the birthday girl or boy “sto lat”. It’ll make them smile and you won’t have to struggle with all those consonants. Simples.

Polish your Polish – more language tips

Image via Flickr © ritchielee, used under Creative Commons licence

Polish travel phrases – polish your Polish, part 14

I’ve been asked by a few people to post something on basic questions regarding directions and asking for help in Polish. And as the summer holiday season is upon us, here are some basic phrases you may need while travelling in Poland.

Let’s start by buying a ticket. Any ticket.


Ticket. The plural is:


If you want a normal one, you need

Bilet normalny.

However if you need a discounted fare, you will ask for

Bilet ulgowy.

Usually if you are at a station you’ll get your ticket from

Kasa (biletowa)

A ticket desk. And if they speak English there, then you’re in luck. Otherwise, try asking for a ticket by saying:

Poproszę bilet do Krakowa

“Can I have a ticket to Krakow, please?”

Poproszę bilet

will do the trick if the ticket desk sells only one kind of tickets, for example tram or bus tickets. Now, you might already have your ticket, but you cannot find the station. Ask for directions:

Przepraszam, gdzie jest stacja (kolejowa)?

which translates as “Excuse me, where is the (train) station?” As everywhere, it pays to be polite to the locals, hence the word ‘przepraszam’ at the beginning. You can also try a similar pharse:

Przepraszam, jak dojść do stacji?

“Excuse me, how do I get to the station?” Which is probably more useful as it’s not train station specific and can be used for all sorts of stations. Obviously.

Right, that will do for now. I’m exhausted just writing this stuff, you must be exhausting trying to put all the consonants together. Most travel phrases next time!

More ‘polish your Polish’ language tips