Motivated Speaker

Within days of meeting a lovely Polish girl I dashed out and bought some "Teach Yourself Polish" books in the hope of impressing her. However, those books were to lay unopened for a few months. I was too busy falling in love to learn Polish and didn't make the slightest effort to learn her language.

Whilst my friends picked up a few words phrases from her (such as Dziękuję, Proszę etc). In return they taught her such handy words as "man-meat". I made a token effort and switched my satnav system to Polish. The only word I understood was "tak" – a word I would often hear repeatedly whilst she chatted on the phone to her mother back home.

My girlfriend went back to Poland to resume her university course and I started learning Polish in earnest. My main motivation was the idea that I would sell up in the UK relocate to Poland (this was before the house price crash put a spanner in the works). Learning the language was essential if was to survive without my girlfriend acting as unpaid translator all the time. Besides that, I felt the least I could do was learn the language and all about Polish culture for that embarrassing "meet the parents" event.

I managed to find a private tutor and started having a couple of hours lessons a week. In my spare time I would do various online multiple choice quizzes to build up my vocabulary.

It wasn't until I went to Poland for a week to train the Polish bastards that were stealing my job that I realised just how weak my language skills were. I stayed in a crummy hotel in Płock, no English speakers there. On the little shop on the industrial estate where I was working it was pot luck whether there would be any English-speaking staff on duty that day.

Anyway, when I got back to the UK I had plenty of spare time on my hands and decided that Polish wasn't going to get the better of me. It was time to step it up a notch or two. On one of my earlier trips to Poland I had bought a novel. Translating the first page took a couple of hours, I was looking up practically every other word. Only another 350 pages to go!

After a while I decided that two hours a week of lessons wasn't really enough. Also, the price of lessons had gone up as the group reduced in size down to just me. I placed a few adverts on Gumtree and and managed to find some people who wanted to teach me Polish in return for practice with their English. Out of the dozen or so people who initially contacted me I still regularly talk to just one of them.

Recently I have tried to immerse myself more in the Polish language. Whilst working I listen to Polish radio. I read Polish texts for an hour or so a day and every night I watch a film with Polish subtitles.

So, 14 months after starting to learn Polish I am on the verge of a breakthrough. I can now unapologetically pronounce "przepraszam". My Polish reading skills are those of a 6-year old and I can just about follow Radio Dzieciom. Unfortunately I have very little talent for languages and a memory like a sieve. Having a Polish partner hasn't directly helped me learn, but it certainly has given me the motivation.

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