Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I can’t deal with it

I’d just like to go the book store and be surrounded by titles I can read. I want to buy any newspaper and easily understand all the articles. I want to talk with someone without having to think through the conversation in my head first. The typical gripes of someone living abroad - all these things which make my everyday life interesting and at the same time frustrating.

Let’s face it, I’m never going to be fluent in Polish even if I live here for the rest of my life. Can I deal with that? Can I deal with the fact that I don’t have what it takes to become fluent in Polish even if I live here forever?

Today, I’m feeling that no, I cannot deal with that.


Kasia said...

Oh, poor you! I know exactly what you mean. It doesn't help when people praise your command of the language at all. I sometimes read books in English and think - I will never be able to write that. Anything I write will always be just a translation from Polish. But it actually is not true - the longer I've been here, the better my English is. You have to remember that Polish is an extremely difficult language and most Polish people can't speak (nor write) it correctly! :)

b. said...

Chris, how old were you when you moved to Poland? Has it been 10 years already?

I am sure you will become fluent, many of us on the other side do. It gets easier every day. People say learning Polish is more difficult than learning English, but it's not impossible. You will be ok. Today is just a hard day, tomorrow will be brighter :)))

Anonymous said...

I am not that optimistic as Kasia and b. Feel myself somehow excluded from this world of words here, in Scotland ( reading novels in English is easy for me though and I find some consolation in it ). However even a bit of small talk in the shop can be difficult let alone some real banter I miss so much ( my husband doesn't speak Polish although he is charming altogether ). My adult daughter says : Mum, your husband thinks you are a sweet, polite, a bit shy creature - just because your English is so poor ( she is a cruel child, isn't she ? ). However I see an enjoyable side of my position here - nobody knows me here, that is nobody knows REAL me ! Beware ;-)))

Titania yng Nghymru said...

i know what u mean Chris. i sometimes feel like that here, in britain. even though i know english well and i can get by and sort myself out in every social situation and discuss a variety of topics, i do feel tired of listening to english, speaking english, reading in english, writing in english. my brain gets tired from processing all that daily information in the language which is not its native language. i sometimes dont know what language im thinking in! i get tired of watching my grammar and vocab, adjusting my pronunciation and intonation, remembering about the language differences etc
i often sit in a staff room at school with a bunch of the british jabbering away and talking each other over and click! off its gone! my concentration switches itself off. im in a world of my own with the white noise around me. i wake up speaking english and i fall asleep speaking english. first words i hear in the morning are english and the last words i hear in the evening are english too! when someone suddenly asks me a question in polish, it takes me a few secs to switch back to polish as ive already got used to reacting in english.
therefore living abroad among the natives isnt easy and u start to be aware of the "language issues" u didnt even think of before. for e.g. before i came to the uk i, myself,(a teacher of english btw) thought i was ok with receiving phone calls in english from the english speaking people but it quickly turned out that i find it very stressfull and i was reluctant to pick up a phone! you know, people with different accents, pronunciation, speaking either too fast or too quiet etc you just dont want to make a fool of yourself by not understanding a conversation. actually it took me months to get used to be more or less relaxed on the phone with an english speaking native.

dont worry, u will learn polish in such a way that u will be able to read and speak polish freely. polish may seem a complicated language to you as it works in a different way than english. it represents highly inflected family of indoeuropean languages and its grammar is so much different from the (simplified) english grammar. you and your husband are language teachers so u probably know that very well. all u have to do is just open up internally and speak, speak, speak no matter how many mistakes u make. take no notice of them, there will be time to sort them out later. just get in the rhythm of speaking polish, in the practice of forming phrases and sentences (sod the declinations, conjugations and genders for the time being)and pay no attention to idiots criticising or laughing at ur polish. think about ur language confidence, it will grow with time.
i will not agree with kasia saying that "most polish people cant speak or write in polish properly". it sounds as if we, poles, couldnt speak or write in our own language. surely we do make mistakes - spelling mistakes (as it happens to all people in the world using a native language) and grammar mistakes. but they are minor, so called "our internal polish" mistakes and they do not affect the message conveyed in a conversation. learners of polish from abroad make more serious mistakes that can affect the conversation (e.g using wrong tenses or genders) but it's a natural outcome of a second language learning process.
anyway, chin up Chris, u will get it there! ;)

ps. btw, my eng bf isnt even trying to learn polish! he has tried to learn pl numerals and we have gone as far as 5! :)

cloudik said...

Think about it this way. How long did it take until you could "think" in a language that you consider yourself fluent in? It takes time to be able to switch like that between your mother tongue and any other. Lots of time. Even more with such terrible thing (or "puaj" as my Chilean friend likes to say) as Polish ;)

So chin up! :)

Titania yng Nghymru said...

stressful* correction :p

Przemo said...

Today I've visited Krakow and suddenly I've been surrounded by English speakers. It was so cool.

ucieczka said...

Oh Chris. We won't be fluent in English either ;) But the process of communication is the most important thing. However I do understand what you are going through, I considered myself quite good in eng, and when I came to england to work there in summer, in school people tried to speak louder, slower and more "understandable" - but when in the evening I gone out for a beer and they were talking with each other i was like wtf?! I'm fluent in sarcasm in Polish and i'm quite proud of it, but among them I was just nodding and smiling and couldn't say anything funny enough ;/ But look on the bright side - you have many followers, and we write comments in your language and we are not complaining!:)))

Stardust said...

I think Titania yng Nghymru is right. Just keep talking and speaking, and try reading regardles the outcome. I remember when my American friend lend me a book in english and ask to read. I was in US only 1.5 year by then, but I forced myself to read the book. On the end I probably understood 30% of WORDS, nothing else, just words. I read the same book 2 years later and there was a hell of a difference:)) You know why children learn lungages so fast? because they not afraid to make mistakes. Do the same.
I will never be fluent, as a native, but I am happy with what I accomplished.

Chris said...

Thanks everyone for the encouragement. I really need it and appreciate it.

I came here straight from uni for a school year and then went back to the States for a few years and then came back here so all together I've been in Poland about 10 years. Considering that length of time, my language accomplishments are nothing great.

Anyhow, I'm not even so dissatisfied with my current level of Polish, but I was just thinking about myself in Poland in, say about, another 10 years. How ashamed will I be then when I still stink at Polish?

I will keep chugging on, trying to learn something new each day.

Thanks again chin is officially up :)

Chris said...

Misiu says it doesn't matter what state my Polish will be in 10 years from now 'cause by then I will be rich and famous and won't really care ;)

And Przemo, I've started to read your blog in interest of improving my Polish. It's what I like- Poland, America and economics.

fiona_apple said...

First of all - do you really want to read PL newspapers? Books, I get it - but newspapers??? ;)
Jokes aside, getting better is the thing, getting perfect is utopian. And I am sure you keep on improving.
Btw, when you are rich and famous, do not forget those who supported you in tough times 10 years before. ;)

Chris said...

Hi Fiona and welcome to Kielbasa Stories. Thanks for joining us and thanks for reading!

I actually can read the newspaper. GW isn't that difficult (I mean I could never write like that, but I can read it). I also like to read Wysokie Obcasy on Saturdays. As far as books go, I feel that I am missing out on a huge part of cultural life (vampire books don't count) in Polish and in English. The hole it is leaving in me is almost tangible. I feel that my brain is shrinking a little bit each day.

When I am rich and famous (notice I did not use "if" either). I will certainly not forget all those wonderful people who've supported me over the years including all of you ;)Wouldn't it stink to just be famous without the rich ;)? Anyhow, even today, when asked to check a CV in English, I never charge for it. I always just ask that person to remember me when they become a big prezes.

fiona_apple said...

I've been here for a while - lurking. :) My home is on so I felt a bit of a stranger. But a few days ago I decided to get my relationship with Kiełbasa Stories to a higher level. And here I am. :)
I am a PL girl currently working with Americans, Canadians and Brits. I will read almost anything in ENG without major problems but sometimes when I talk with my colleagues, someone jokes, everybody laughs and I am like WTF??? The lack of cultural background kills me. At the beginning I just stared at them with a blank face, now I ask for explanation. They roll their eyes and explain. So now I often know when to oh-it's-so-funny laugh and when to oh-you're-sooo-sick laugh.
And yes, it would certainly stink to be famous without being rich. But if I were to choose (although I am doutfult this will EVER be up to my mind), I'd go for being rich without being famous. That would give me a chance to spend all my money in peace. :)

Chris said...

Fiona - I'm a bit of a lurker myself. It's no problem :)

I know what you mean about the jokes. I just know that if I hear "pił metalu" I should laugh.

About the rich without fame, I'm totally with you.

Lukrecja z Borgiow said...

It does get better.
I think it;s time for you to visit US.
I can feel a bit of homesickness.