Set up goals
It’s very important for all beginners to start this journey of learning Polish with a goal. Your process of learning will be different if you are going to travel to Poland in two months and need to order a beer in Kraków Old Town and different if you are planning to look for a job or take a language exam. Write down your ultimate goal and smaller goals with dates when you want to achieve it. If you have no idea if the dates are feasible – consult them with your language teacher or other learners for example in our Facebook group.
Don’t do it alone
Don’t be a person who thinks can win it all alone. Your learning will be much easier and efficient if you rely on a professional. The right teacher will help you choose your goal and will give you a program which will be like a scaffolding for your learning process. Find a teacher (or school) you can trust and like and who is flexible enough to adjust to your learning style.
I also recommend you to find language partners (for example in HelloTalk) or/ and study buddies with whom you will be sharing your doubts and who will help you maintain motivation.
Get right materials
Not every book is for everyone. If you have decided to take classes in a language school – they will provide the best materials for you. But if you are an individual learner – don’t listen to people who just recommend the same books again and again without even realizing most of Polish course books are made for groups. They can be adjusted to one-to-one classes but you will struggle if you want to do it yourself.
Most of recommended books (“Krok po kroku”, “Hurra”) have instructions exclusively in Polish so if it irritates you, think more about books like “Teach yourself Polish”.
Once you started learning theory, you will quickly notice you need a lot of practice and the exercises in your books are not enough. Then you will look around for some worksheets. Sign up to my website and you’ll discover oodles of exercises for all levels. There are new exercises coming every week so you’ll be set for all your studying time. 🙂
Diversify your input
We tend to say everyone has learning preferences. Some people tend to remember word better when they see it, others when they see. The truth is – neither visual nor audio learning is enough if it’s done exclusively. You need to diversify your learning and immerse yourself in various ways. Do your grammar drills, revise your flashcards but also read stories and listen to podcasts because the more you immerse yourself in language and culture of this language, the less painful will be your studying and the results will come way faster.
Speak, speak, speak
You won’t have conversations in Polish unless you practice speaking. I understand you may feel uncomfortable making mistakes speaking. I had students who didn’t want to say a word until they were 100% sure their grammar will be immaculate but that’s not the way. Trust me, students who speak with mistakes will reach their goal 10 x faster than students who feel they have to be perfect. Put your perfectionism aside and push these wooden sentences out. Once you do it it can be only easier in future.
As I said before – find a language partner, arrange Skype calls or record voice messages. Whatever you choose is fine as long as you push yourself to have conversations.
Practice makes perfect
We all know it’s true. Michaelangelo hadn’t become a great artist in one night (well he never mastered sculpting women…) and you won’t become a fluent speaker after one lecture. It’s completely normal to forget but that’s why we have to come back to our notes all the time and keep doing these exercises to make grammar and phrases automatic. After some time of this hard work you will feel you don’t even have to think to choose the correct case or ending. You will just speak. Why? Because you already thought this phrase 10-100 times before and now it finally sounds correct. You can do it!
I think this is the key answer to your question “How to learn Polish?” Let’s be honest – Polish is not a language of business, science or pop culture. Most probably you don’t NEED it. But you want to learn it anyway. For different reasons. That’s why you should enjoy it. Don’t treat your language classes like a burden. Don’t take them to please your wife or boyfriend or anyone. Please yourself with learning new skills, getting satisfaction with conversations and meeting new people who share the same hobby. If you enjoy the learning process, you will soon make a great Polish speaker.
All the best!