Tag Archives: language

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?

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 good luck (Obama special) – polish your Polish, part 10



Good luck!

More Polish your Polish language tips

Image © sp1ffyd via Flickr used under CC licence

Polish seasons – polish your Polish, part 8

This is just a quick language update, inspired partly by what I saw this morning outside my window – at least three seasons in one day. First it was white snow, almost appropriate for this time of the year, although highly unlikely to stick around (so to speak) for long in London, then beautiful spring, with blue skies and strong sunshine, followed by hours of autumnal misery.

On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to write about the Polish seasons as I’m a bit fed up with constant remarks, like “Oh, you went to Poland? It MUST HAVE BEEN cold!’ Er, well, last time I went it was early November and it was sunny and +16. Winters in Poland can be severe, yes, but I think the most common misconception about Poland is that it’s permanently cold, covered in 3 meters of snow and people routinely drink wódka first thing in the morning to get warm.

So, let’s get the record straight here (weather and global warming permitting):


Spring. Usually warm from April onwards, with occasional hailstorms thrown in for good measure. Chestnut trees blossoming in May are quite spectacular, but secondary school students who are about to graduate hate them as they remind them of maturity/graduation exams traditionally held in early May.


Summer. Can be boiling hot, particularly in the south (+30 is nothing surprising, really), near the mountains. Lovely by the sea (remember?) although the sea itself won’t be as warm. Majorca it ain’t, alright?


Autumn. Gloriously golden and warm, usually still nice until late October. November can be a mixed bag – warm and sunny like a couple of weeks ago, or miserable and snowy like two years ago, when my friends went to Kraków to see it in all its glory and mostly saw grey skies and sleet.


Winter. I remember really severe winters from when I was a kid. (I sound like I’m 80, but I’m not). We had days when school had to be cancelled as there was so much snow and it was so cold, they were unable to keep the building warm enough. But in recent years it’s been mixed – there were snowless, wishy-washy winters, there were a few occasions when people were taken by surprise and whole roads became impassable, villages cut off from the world and other disasters like that.

But in general it’s safe to assume that Polish seasons are not that much different from the British ones. But if you’re lucky enough to see Polish winter like in the picture above (in Polish Tatra Mountains), you’ll enjoy it.

Previous tips:

How to introduce yourself
Thank you and please

More ‘Polish your Polish’

Image © syfon used under CC licence

How to introduce yourself – polish your Polish, part 7

Since you’re already able to say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ in Polish, maybe you should try and introduce yourself, eh? (the audio files below may not work if you’re reading this in an RSS reader)

Nazywam się Will.

‘My name’s Will’. The simplest way to introduce yourself in Polish. Actually, hang on, there is an even simpler one:

Jestem Will

‘I’m Will’. That’ll do in most cases. Now, asking about somebody’s name is equally easy when there’s only one person whose name you want to know:

Jak masz na imię?

‘What’s your name?’ In this case, you’ll get just this – their first name. If you want their surname say

Jak masz na nazwisko?

‘What’s your surname?’ So the basic nouns here are:

imię – name (first name)
nazwisko – surname

There’s also another way of asking for someone’s name:

Jak się nazywasz?

literally it means ‘what are you called?’ but the closest English equivalent would again be ‘What’s your name?’ In a more formal situation you’d expect the other person to tell you their first and second names in response to this question.

Now, it gets a bit trickier once you start asking about names in third person – so reffering to her, him or them. You’ll need the following pronouns:

on – he
ona – she
to – it
oni – they (all subjects are male or mixed)
one – they (female only)

So let’s try with ‘ona’ and the two versions of the question:

Jak (ona) ma na imię?

Jak (ona) się nazywa?

Please note, that the pronoun is optional, but it’s easier to use it and avoid sounding clumsy. So for example, your friend has just met someone and is telling you about her. Ask ‘Jak ona się nazywa?’. The same is you’re looking at somebody’s picture and want to know their name. The shorter version (without the pronoun) would be suitable for example if we’re not sure whether the speaker refers to a man or a woman.

Of course, subsitute ‘on’ or ‘to’ for ‘ona’ if you want to ask about ‘him’ or ‘it’.

In plural the reflexive verb (‘nazywać się’) also gets a plural form, hence:

Jak (oni/one) się nazywają?

I’ve included both versions of the pronoun to illustrate the pronunciation as the spelling might be confusing to an English speaker. But obviously use only one form at a time….

Previous tips:
‘Thank you’ and ‘please’ >>
Greetings >>

More ‘Polish your Polish’

Image © Dusk via Flickr under CC licence

Cities and their names – polish your Polish, part 6

Kraków? Cracow? Krakow? How on earth do you spell it? (Kraków) But more importantly, how do you pronounce it? Don’t fret – that’s why you have the Polski Blog ;) Today just a bunch of cities, starting with the more popular ones.


has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, and it’s still a nice alternative to Prague, which – although beautiful – is often overcrowded, overpriced and over the top. Definitely, one of my most favourite places on the planet.


is the capital of Poland, and for many the first and only city they see in Poland. If you don’t like it, remember it was almost cmpletely flattened during the Second World War and then rebuilt by the Soviets. Pretty it ain’t, hence it may be worth jumping on a train and going north to


The largest Polish port forms part of the so-called tri-city. A city with rich, often dramatic history, also partly destroyed during the world, but luckily beautifully rebuilt. Forms part of a so-called tri-city, a large metropolitan area with




In the southern, or actually south-western part of the country


has become a very popular tourist destination. Kraków has always been very popular, but in recent years I’ve heard quite a few stories about Wrocław and how dynamic, attractive it has become. Yet another city in Poland, which, over the centuries, has been a part of Germany, Prussia, Austria and Poland. Fantastic architecture, rich night life, great history. Its mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz featured in a BBC documentary about Poles in Britain, The Poles are Coming. He once famously visited some British cities with strong Polish communities to try to appeal to the most recent migrants and convince them to return to Wrocław.

OK, one more city worth mentioning is


traditionally a vibrant centre of trade and industry, with the oldest cathedral in Poland. Oh, and since I’m jumping all over the Polish map, I need to mention one more northern city,


Just because I thought you’d love all the consonants in the name :)

I haven’t mentioned here many other important Polish cities, so look out for more consonant-packed names soon!

Warszawa church and Kraków by smif via Flickr used under CC licence
Wrocław by Mike PD via Flickr used under CC licence