My last required semester of French is almost over. As it's coming to an end, I've been thinking about my language learning journey.
Both are my parents were born and raised in Poland.
Despite being born in America, Polish was my first language, and it wasn't until 2nd grade that I was considered 'fluent' in English. Now that I am in college, I am taking two semesters of a language to fulfill the requirement for my major (which is still undeclared at the moment).
In High school I took three years (or six semesters) of Spanish, and I did just the bare minimum. I got A's every semester but I was simply memorizing words. I never really applied them to anything or learned how to properly hold a conversation. As a result, I can understand Spanish more than I can speak it.
So when I came to college, I decided to give French a try since I've always had an adoration for the way it sounds. Plus, Bradley Cooper speaks fluent French.
Just after one (almost two) short semesters of taking the language, I've noticed several similarities.
(The words in Polish are in italics and French words are bold)
Ekran -> écran -> screen
Ekipa -> équipe -> team
Plaza -> plage -> beach
Szansa -> chance -> chance
Magazyn -> magasin -> store (shop)
Szef -> chef -> boss
Weekend-> week-end -> weekend
*yes its easy but it counts! haha*
And many more--
Now, there are many more words that are similar in both languages but that's not the only thing that unites these two beautiful languages. There are also some grammar rules/structures that are similar. For example, French has two words equivalent to the English word "know", which are savoir, and connaître, Polish also has two words mainly used to signify "knowing" something/someone: wiedzieć and znać (although Polish has 4 in total, those two are used about 70% of the time)
My fellow French learners will also be familiar with the passé composé vs imparfait struggles. Both are past tense, and it can be confusing as to when you use which one. Well, guess what! Polish has the same problem, except its the perfective vs imperfective. (Translated of course)
Honestly, when I have to decide which of the two forms to use in Polish, I'm only right about 95 percent of the time--but hey, learning a language is a life long process, even if it's your native one.
There are also several famous Polish and French individuals.
A famous composer, who's father was French, and mother was Polish.
A Grammy Award-Winning French Singer Songwriter born to German and Polish parents, in Paris.
A French comics editor born to Polish parents.
M.Porka: (Matthieu Tota)
A French Singer Song writer, born to a Polish Football player.
A Polish and naturalized French physicist, that was a pioneer researcher on radioactivity.
-There are also some movies that are in both French and Polish, "The Double Life of Véronique" being one of the most popular ones-
With all this being said, people may be wondering if the only reason I am taking French is due to it's similarities to a language which I am already fluent in, and there being so many famous French/Polish people.
I am taking French because of my love for the language. Sure, knowing Polish makes learning French easier but learning French is no easy task. Sure, some people say Polish the hardest language.
And as if the seven cases, genders, really hard pronunciation, and the average age of fluency being 16 aren't scary enough, there are 17 grammatical forms for the number two
4. dwóch (or dwu)
7. dwom (or dwóm)
11. dwojgiem (I've yet to use this one conversationally)
Yet, one thing that makes up for Polish being so irritatingly difficult is seen on this website.
"In Polish, word order is mostly unimportant!
The following sentences all mean the same thing (“John loves Maria”):
Jan kocha Marię
Marię kocha Jan
kocha Jan Marię
Marię Jan kocha
You can simply speak as the words come to you and not worry about their order."
*This does not apply for each and every sentence.*
Despite already being bilingual, there have been times where I have been discouraged and told myself that being bilingual is enough. I didn't need to learn French. I don't need to.
Yes, I've wanted to give up, but I'm not going to.
Speaking more than one language is something that not many people can claim to do. It opens up a whole new world for you, and allows you to connect with other native speakers of your chosen language. At the end of the the day, immersion is the best way to learn a new language because it forces you to use it, and friendly natives will kindly correct and help you along the way. They're not making fun of you, they were once in your shoes as well (assuming they also speak English) and know what its like to learn a new language.
For those of you who can not afford to pick up your life and move to a foreign country, just talk out loud to yourself. Listen to music in that language, watch TV shows and movies. Put yourself in the situation where you are surrounded by the language. Just remember to practice daily!
For those not currently learning another language, learn one! You'll be happy you did.
But Anita, why? I'll never use it!
Well, if you decide to learn Spanish, French or another commonly spoken language, chances are you will. If not, it still looks good on resumes, and is a great conversation starter. There are many health benefits to knowing more than one language, too. A lower chance of getting Alzheimer's and an increase in creativity is enough motivation for me!
Yes, learning a new language is time consuming, but there are ways you can fit it in your life.
Here are some of the things I use:
For my fellow podcast users: https://radiolingua.com/ (Search for Coffee Break on iTunes)
Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/ (there is also an app)
Whatever your motivation for learning a new language may be, just remember discouragement is common, but never give up!