Are Polish Words Unpronounceable?

Ever heard the popular joke where the eye doctor asks his Polish patient if he can read the last line in the chart during an eye test?

“Read it?” says the patient. “o r z s k? I know that guy!”

To all of us who are accustomed to the ‘standard’ consonant-vowel combinations that produce syllable sounds in the English language, combinations like ch, cz, rz, sz, szcz, are unsettling.

Now, if you thought these were, no doubt, unfamiliar but not SO very difficult after all, how about this 54 -letter tongue twister?

It is the singular form of an adjective meaning, roughly speaking, “of nine-hundred and ninety-nine nationalities”! Of course, a 54 letter-word is difficult in any language. After all, when Mary Poppins said (in English) “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, who thought that it was easy?

So, what about the easier “Konstantynopolitanczykowianeczka?” The word means a little girl from Constantinople. Not so easy if Polish is all Greek and Latin to the speaker (or the listener)!

Is Polish an impossible language to flow off the tongue smoothly? Hardly-IF you are a proficient speaker of the language.

Polish up your facts

Polish is a West Slavic language spoken primarily by the 38.5 million natives of Poland as their first language. In addition, Polish is the second language in parts of Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Historically, Polish is an important tongue in academia and diplomacy in Central and Eastern Europe.

Emigration, particularly that following WW II, has resulted in the spread of the language to other parts of the world; Polish speakers can be found in such diverse parts of the globe as Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, Russia, and Ireland. In all, there are an estimated 55 million Polish language speakers around the world.

Polish has 32 letters in its alphabet: 6 oral vowels, 2 nasal vowels, and 24 consonants.

Do we need to shine in Polish?

Ask mountaineers why they love to climb something as challenging as Mt.Everest, and the answer will be: Because it is there!

There are many with a love for languages and learning Polish is something that challenges this love.

The more practical, and perhaps mundane, reasons would be:

Poland is ranked 20th in GDP worldwide and considered a high-income economy by no less an authority than the World Bank.

Poland is a founding member of the World Trade Organization.

Poland has been determinedly liberalizing its economic policy since the 1990s, and this has contributed to steady economic growth.

Polish law is encouraging to foreign investors with the Polish government offering tax and investment incentives. Take, for example, the 14 economic zones where income tax and real estate tax exemption have been designed to boost foreign investment, as have the competitive land prices.

Poland is also a member of the EU and investment in Poland offers the added benefits of EU structural funds, brownfield and greenfield locations.

Last, but not the least, learning Polish opens the door to other Slavonic languages like Slovene, Bosnian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Russian, Macedonian, Belarusian, Serbian and Bulgarian. This is the stuff that a polyglot’s dreams are made of!

Polish to English and vice-versa

There are an estimated 15 million Poles living in non-native countries. Poland also offers an attractive investment climate. Translation from Polish to English, the language now considered the lingua franca of the 21st century, is certainly a growing need.

With the ex-pat Polish community, translation needs may arise for personal documents like birth and marriage certificates, medical procedures or treatment, wills, green card petitions, etc.

Translation for business needs can encompass a whole range of activities: applications for licences and loans, filing of taxes, financial and accounting procedures, correspondence, etc.

Business, travel and tourism consequentially drive the hotel industry: English translation for websites and brochures to attract tourists and travelers are in high demand.

The largest component of the polish economy is the service sector. Production based or service websites need translation to increase their outreach as Poland dives deeper into the globalization scene.

Translation that waxes eloquent

Polish to English translators need to be masters of both the languages to be effective. This is the bare minimum, not the whole of what skilled translation entails.

It takes special skills, especially within areas of law and government, to translate and ensure proper Polish-English localization. Be warned that a seemingly minor slip-up in translation can cause, not just loss of prestige, but have adverse financial and legal implications as well.

There are very specific formats for various documents that take more than a knowledge of both the English and Polish languages. Medical transcriptions, for example, require experience and knowledge of terms in both languages. Expert translation is what the experts do!

Many documents and translations require the strictest confidentiality. Discretion is an integral part of translation.

Timely delivery of services is an important consideration: failing a deadline can often have devastating consequences.