Sunday, March 20, 2011

I guess Polish really is hard, even for the Poles ;)

In case you haven’t heard, Poland has suffered a serious spelling gaffe, by our President none the less.

Here’s what happened. President Bronisław Komorowski and wife wrote an entry in the book of condolences at the Japanese Embassy. He wanted to write that Poland connects with Japan in pain and in hope which should be “w bólu i nadziei” but instead he wrote “w bulu i nadzieji”.

What can I say? Even I know how to spell these words in Polish. President Komorowski responded in the only way he could. He apologized and has corrected his entry. He did also add a little dig at Kaczyński (opposing party) claiming that Kaczyński writes “obiad” (dinner) as “obiat”, but overall his apology was genuine.

Here’s my question: Why do Poles even have spelling problems? Excluding a few letters which have interchangeable pronunciation “u,ó” for example, Polish is completely phonetic. Sorry Polish people, I have to explain this to our English speaking friends who have suffered through years and years of spelling tests and spelling bees trying to figure out if it should be “so” or “sow” or “roofs” or “rooves”. Listen to me English folks…in Polish if you know how to say a word properly, you should be able to write it properly as well, with little to no interpretation. No homophones. Can you imagine that? English speaking people should make spelling mistakes. Our language is completely messed up.

Now back to the President’s mistake. Just how big of a mistake was it? You know, after 8 years of George W. I have a pretty high threshold for presidential gaffes but for those of you who do not know Polish, I will try to explain the extent of the humiliation. It is like if in one official letter, the President wrote, umm, I don’t know “definately” (instead of “definitely”) and, umm, I don’t know, “ejucation” (instead of “education”). Ok, the “ejucation” example is maybe a little harsh, but it is taken from reality**.

parody of the President from Szymon Majewski Show

Spelling mistakes really get on my nerves (of course when made by others). I was interested in looking at some terraced houses being built close to our place until I saw the price :) and the billboard advertising “wysoki standart” (high standard) instead of “wysoki standard”. With an ad like that you are just shooting yourself in the foot from the get go.

One of my students who is infamously unpleasant to all (to me as well) writes “ktury” instead of “który”. It was my pure pleasure to point it out to him. Normally I wouldn’t have said anything but it was right after he very strongly criticized my Polish skills. Revenge is sweet.

** This is taken from a real life example of a classmate of mine from university. We were asked to exchange compositions in English Literature class before handing them in. My classmate’s paper was entitled, “The American Ejucation System” or something like that. It was in no way his attempt at irony, believe me. I told him to take a look at “ejucation” and he slapped his forehead and said “Of course” to which he promptly changed it to “Ejucational”. Problem solved.

PS Here’s a link to an old post of mine about the Polish language – Polish is hard. Enjoy.


AnetaCuse said...

Oops! Things you don't know when you don't live in Poland... Now thanks to you I learned that our current "blue blood" president is no better than the former blue collar one (as far as the language). ;)

Kasia said...

I have not heard about it either. It is embarrassing that he made those mistakes. I am really shocked to see how many Polish people make spelling mistakes. I see the mistakes in newspapers and I see them in blogs and comments to blogs. And, what surprises me even more, is that many educated people with college degrees make them.
On the other hand, I constantly have to help my American boss and coworkers with spelling.

Stardust said...

I read about "bulu i nadzieji" and I did as well about "obiat". What can I say? After Bush, it just feels good to know there are more idiots running a country in a world. And you right polish spelling is a piece of cake compare to english. If you know how to speak, you should be able to spell it correctly.
... I guess not;))))

Chris said...

So Aneta, another thing you probably don't know is that we have Oreo's here in Poland now :)

Kasia - I lived all my life with a father who has trouble spelling despite (jeez, I almost wrote dispite) his education and position. Some people really have trouble with it.

Stardust - I would feel better too, if only I didn't live in any of the countries run by the idiots ;)

MarekFloryda said...

Mnię siem zdaję rze Ty pszesadzarz. Polski jezd simierznie uadwy w pissaniu. Tylko tżeba znadź zasaty ortographii i gramathyki :)

ucieczka said...

I do agree that the President made a terrible mistake, however still I'm against criticizing people because they made a misprint, and dwelling on it, rather than focusing on the message. It's not to your post (because it's embarrassing that he didn't know how to write it properly, and his wife standing nearby didn't say "honey, quickly correct it!") but on the comment that many people make mistakes on blogs or comments, and then 20 comments are about the grammar, not about the merit.

Fortunately, Firefox underlined mine mistakes in this post, uff ;)

Anonymous said...

In fact "u" and "ó" sound the same, "rz" and "ż" also.

So realy in Polish you always know how some written word should be pronounced, but not always - how to spell given word.

Still, in Polish it's much easier than in English, and Komorowski should be ashamed. Anyway - he should be even more ashamed of his political errors, and he doesn't seem like he cares.

Maybe if more people voted who they like even if they think such candidate has no chance, Polish politics would be different.

Chris said...

Marek - Jeez, that was hard to read but very funny.I had to read it aloud :)

ucieczka- I do agree that sometimes we go overboard with the criticism but even today I was reading an article (in English) in a large and well-respected international newspaper and I found a mistake of "then" instead of "than". It very well could have been a misprint but I suspect it wasn't. I expect more from such high level journalists...(and presidents).

Anon - Yes it is true that you have a few sounds (in Polish)that can be written in different ways but it is so few that I think it is quite within the realm of possibility to remember when to use this one and when to use that one. Politics aside, I couldn't resist writing about it ;)

And for bonus points...

How do you properly spell the word "ladle" in Polish?

(Ladle is this utensil used for serving soup)

ucieczka said...

nice to learn new words here ;) chochla. or maybe easier "łyżka wazowa", ha! :D (all because of a nice polish blog with recipes... recipes - vey hard to pronounce )

Chris said...

ucieczka - Yes, chochla! You win!

Anonymous said...

I think he made mistakes in spelling in some simple words. It is a shame. He could have prepaded some statement.

Kasia said...

@ucieczka - Do you think that it is ok for people to write incorrectly? I don't - I think people should take the time to check the spelling. But - I never comment on any blog post telling the author that he/she made a mistake. On seldom occasions I send an email to a friend who writes a blog - if I notice a mistake. And I only do it because I know that she does not mind if I email her and let her know.
@Chris - I have been thinking about it and I don't think that the Polish spelling is that easy. Most of the time you do hear "t" instead of "d" when obiad is pronounced, or very few people pronounce the "ł" in jabłko. These are just some examples.
And ladle in the city of two goats is "nabierka":) Easy spelling.

Chris said...

Kasia - I agree that obiad for example sounds more like obiat but the word obiad in written form is seen (at least by me) practically everyday (I pass by a lot of Knorr ads). And I agree that the ł in jabłko is effectively silent but when we say jabłuszko it reappears as a reminder. I remember as a 2nd grader trying to conquer words such as seen, seem, seam, friend, believe, conceive (my school was Immaculate Conception) and so on. Anyhow, as you have pointed out, we should all be a little more careful.

Nabierka is my new favorite word :P And it is really the most logical name for a ladle and much easier for me (the foreigner) to remember.

ucieczka said...

@Kasia - of course it isn't bad to suggest that someone has made a mistake, but on the Internet recently is a wave of criticism with fighting on comments who has made a mistake and where and not commenting the post itself. That is annoying. It's important to strike a happy medium ;) And yes - everyone should check the spelling before they hit "send" button ;)