Cześć! During my journey as a teacher of Polish I have had different phases. In the beginning I was so in love with Polish grammar I wanted to spread this love in the classes I taught. It didn’t work because my students were too stressed about making grammar mistakes it blocked their speech and I felt like a failure. Step by step I understood how important is to maintain their motivation and that they really want to know how to start speaking Polish as soon as it’s possible. I analysed my own language experience – how I achieved communication level in my foreign languages.
I want to share with you the techniques I love using when I learn a new language and which I recommend my students. The best part is: none of the advices requires from you moving to the country of your target language.
Learn modal verbs
Modal verbs are auxilary words which help you express permission, obligation, ability, possibility and more. When you learn them you may express plethora of thoughts. Polish most common modal verbs are : móc (mogę) – be able to/can, musieć (muszę) – must/ need, chcieć (chcę) – want, umieć (umiem) – to know how, woleć (wolę) – to prefer. The best thing about them is that they are all followed by infinitives (basic form of verbs)!
I think we all can agree – writing is easier than speaking (maybe not in Arabic dialects ;)) because we have time to construct correct sentences and plan the paragraph. Try to write completely spontaneous paragraphs about what is relevant to you (or answers on common questions “How do you find Polish cuisine?” ) just if you were telling a story to a friend. Don’t stop if you are not sure about a word or grammar. Try to omit this particular word with description of it. When you finish, read it to yourself and now work on spotting mistakes, looking for words in the dictionary or maybe send it to your teacher or show it to your Polish friend. Later, try to stand in front of a mirror (if you don’t have a Polish person at hand) and rebuild the same text aloud without looking at the paper. This exercise will help you build longer utterances in Polish and will prepare your for different situations when you have to express yourself in Polish. Work out the same text in many ways and it will help you remember all the important words and constructions.
Listening exercises in help of speaking are similar to writing although even closer to it as they don’t need script. First of all, don’t forget about the coursebook audios your teacher asked you to do in particular exercises. Why would you listen to them only once if they have natives speakers speaking your lever there? What you can do with them is:
1. Collect them in your smartphone and listen to them when you are free and especially when your conversational class – it works especially for multilingual people who involuntarly switch codes. I discovered after a couple of months studying Arabic that if I play some easy audios 30 minutes before my class I can switch my mind to “Arabic mode” and I am able to express myself in Arabic much better without translating from one language to another. It cleared my thought and put other languages on hold. That is completely normal that they interfere but you can control it.
My second advice is to listen to the audio again and paraphrase it to yourself. Tell yourself the story you heard using your own words without thinking about grammar.
The last technique I would like to share with you – leads us to another advice:
When you are listening to your audios try to build your own questions about the information there. What I do is I share my audios in a group on Facebook which I created to motivate myself and others to study Egyptian Arabic. I give my friends material to practice there. I usually already know the audio very well but I ask them questions about it. If I have forgot some details, it pushes me to listen to it again with focus.
Asking questions is a very underestimated skill. Some coursebooks and teachers neglect it. Students have to express themselves and teachers are those who ask. They say interlocutors in a succesfull conversation should have intention to listen for 60 % of time and to speak for 40 % of it. This means you must ask questions. Are you sure you know how to do it? Think about a person with whom you would like to have a fluent conversation in Polish. It can be a famous director or mother of your girlfriend. What would you ask her/ him about? Prepare yourself and don’t let the real life conversations intimidate you.
Find a conversational teacher from the very beginning
I didn’t write “look for a language partner” for a purpose. Language partners seek benefits for themselves. If you find a person who needs your language and is more advanced than you, your language will dominate them and you will find yourself volunteering. Secondly, you will spend at least half of the time of the exchange helping someone and you could use this time expanding your skills in Polish. Language exchange doesn’t make you save money, you pay for it with your time. Moreover, a paid teacher is an experienced and professional active listener who will gently help you find words and constructions and can almost innoticably help you understand grammar while you are telling him/her what you had for breakfast.
Talk to yourself
I mentioned talking to yourself already in two paragraphs but this technique I find very opening and useful. Talk to yourself about your daily routine. Do you know children have to hear a word 500 times to be able to use it for the first time in their lives? That is why mums explain babies what they are doing when they feed them, change their nappies and kiss their feet. They say ” And now I am giving you a spoon of your favourite although disgusting soup!” Do it to yourself. It can be just in thoughts. Think or say “I am brushing my teeth” ,”I am pouring water into a glass”. You will surely lack a lot of constructions and words in the beginning but it will motivate you to become Indiana Jones on the track of Polish language. And it will set your brain to using the new language. I used this technique it when I was learning Spanish because I wanted to absorb the language as soon as it was possible as I was looking for job in Barcelona. In the beginning I almost believed I lost my mind because I got so used to explaining myself every single activity but then I found myself mulling over my relationship problems in Spanish and this was a real success!
Let yourself make mistakes
I know everyone repeats it like a mantra and you know it too but I just want to add – your goal is to be understood not write poetry in Polish (if I am wrong, I am sorry and impressed at the same time). Make mistakes but let someone to monitor them. A good teacher will see the difference between making simple mistakes because of improving fluency of speech and bad grammar habits which are extremely hard to get rid of.
These are my advices for you. I hope now you know a little bit better how to start speaking Polish even when you are only a beginner. Use them as you wish and don’t forget to let me know how is your Polish!