Assimil Polish. Day 58

I’m now on Day 58 (or thereabouts) of the Assimil Polish course.

The Assimil courses consist of 100 lessons which are tackled in two waves: active and passive. The passive wave involves listening to the dialogs, reading the notes and becoming familiar with the translation and source language. The active wave consists of reproducing the dialogs – either in writing, aurally or both, starting from Lesson 1.

The active wave makes a lot of sense, as if you can reproduce these short dialogs, then you will be going some way to internalising some of the key grammatical language structures.

The active wave begins with Lesson 50, and so as well as studying lesson 50, you reproduce Lesson 1. The following day, when studying Lesson 51, you reproduce Lesson 2 and so on …

I’ve now been doing this (active and passive waves together) for eight days.

The initial lessons are quite short (although suddenly become longer and more complicated) and I haven’t had too much difficulty with writing them out so far, as well as saying them aloud.

However, I am unable do this and study a new Lesson, in thirty minutes, and I would say that an hour is more reasonable, and even that is probably not enough if you want to make rapid progress.

As you might guess, I’m now spending an hour a day to go through each new Assimil lesson (passive) and actively learn the corresponding earlier lesson (active).

If you are using Assimil, or thinking about doing so, do not expect to be able to complete each lesson in half an hour. I don’t think it is realistic unless you have studied another similar language, and I have never looked at a Slavonic language before.

Enough of the negative, after day 56, my overall view of Assimil is extremely positive, with a few caveats which I will write about when I’ve finished my initial run through of the course.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m still not chatting in Polish, and I don’t have a language partner. I suppose I still don’t feel it is productive in the sense that I can’t say enough to make it worthwhile. I like to chat. Soy un loro as they say in Spanish. Yeah. Fine. I can tell someone where I live, if it is raining and so on (in Polish), but that is not a conversation. I still don’t know enough Polish to have a conversation – in any real sense of the word.

I’ve spend an hour and a half chatting in Spanish today, but I like to talk about anything and everything. I don’t feel that intercambios at this point are a particularly helpful way for me to make faster progress in Polish. (I have reached the point in Italian, where I should speak more than once a week but I don’t have time).

At this point, faster means remaining focused on Assimil to be able to express myself (even badly) over a sufficiently wide enough range of topics that I can have a conversation. And I don’t mean ‘I live in … ‘, ‘I have a dog’!. Of course, the best way for passive knowledge to become active, is to use it, which in the case of speaking a language means of course to speak it!.



Polish Made Easy. Prepositions. Do and Na

Polish is choc full of prepositions.

Prepositions are words such as ‘at’, ‘to’, ‘in’ and so on. Do and na, are Polish prepositions and both used in the sense of to, as we do in English:

I am going to the shop.

There is only one version of to in English, and this doesn’t vary. So, ‘I go to the shop’ and ‘I go to the swimming pool’ both use the same preposition.

Polish uses a different preposition depending on the place to which you are going. This means that the first decision you must make is do I use na or do I use do?

Idę na basen ‘I go the swimming pool’.
Idę do domu ‘I go the house’.

Luckily, there is a rule to help you remember this, although with exceptions that we will come to later.

Big open places tend to use na. Small places tend to use do.

So, if you are going to a shop (a small place) the preposition do will be used.

Idę do sklepu ‘I go to the shop’.

So, if you are going to an airport (a big place) the preposition na will be used.

Idę na lotnisko ‘I go to the airport’.


There are of course exceptions. For example, poczta post office (not really big) uses the preposition na. But they are easy to remember if you associate the place with somewhere you know of, or have been frequently. Whenever you think of poczta, think of the largest post office that you have ever been too.

After a while na will stick. After all, post-offices are really huge aren’t they.


You can’t escape from cases if you want to speak Polish. Each preposition uses a special case, and the noun that follows the preposition must be put into the required case.

OK. Let’s start with the easier of these two prepositions.

Na + acc = to

Na uses the accusative case

The Accusative Case

Now the accusative case for inanimate objects, and this naturally includes buildings, swimming pools .. for masculine and neuter nouns is identical to the nominative.

The nominative case (the dictionary form) is the form of the word you find in the dictionary. It is the form that you learn. It is the form without any changes being made to the ending.

So, basen in the nominative and basen in the accusative are the same! Easy.

This leaves feminine nouns. In Polish, these mainly end in a. Change the a to ę and you have the accusative.

So, poczta in the nominative becomes pocztę in the accusative.

There are exceptions, but Polish Made Easy is about trying to be 90% grammatically correct with a few simple rules. The next 10 percent requires time, talking, practice and grammar books.

Once you know that you need to use the preposition na with a word. You are as we say ‘sorted’.

Idę na uniwersytet. Idę na basen. Idę na lotnisko.

Now, let us move on to do, which requires the genitive.

Do + gen = to

The Genitive Case

I will look at the genitive properly later, but for now do the following which covers many feminine and neuter words:-

If a words ends with an a in the nominative, change the a to a y.

If a words ends with an o in the nominative, change the o to an a.

Otherwise add a u to the nominative or dictionary form.

I’d like to explain the logic I’ve used here …

… for anyone who knows how the Polish genitve works, or who is interested in why this will give you a correct ending in 80 percent of the time. BTW 80 percent is a guess, it could be 50 percent or 90 percent. I have no idea. But when you are starting, this is more than you would achieve otherwise. Honestly, some of the grammar rules are so arcane it freaks me.

There are spelling rules in Polish which prevent a y from following a k or g. So the genitive of Polska is Polski and not Polsky, but essentially (to us English) they have the same sound. If you are speaking, no-one is going to know whether you mentally spell the word with a y or i.

Masculine words ending in a consonant, either have u or a added to the end, and you have to learn this! However, many ‘masculine’ common places that you are going to go to such as the park or pub, take u in the genitive.

Yes, there are also a lot of exceptions, but this is just to get you started!



Assimil Polish. Day 35

I’ve now being using Assmil Polish for 35 days, so I’m just over a third of the way through the 100 lessons.

The idea is that around half an hour is sufficient for each lesson, and after 100 days you can reach a level of between A2 and B1 on the CEFR scale.

Half an hour a day. Are they serious?

Well, I don’t know if I am particularly slow at language learning, but somewhere after Lesson 20 the lessons increase rapidly in complexity, and I’ve found that 30 minutes is not enough. In fact, it is not remotely enough.

Nevertheless, I’m not spending any longer than this for two reasons.

Firstly, I’m following the instructions as I don’t want to surcharger ma mémoire ‘overload my memory’, as explained in the intro. Who knows what damage that might do? A memory overload? It doesn’t sound pleasant.

Secondly, I don’t have more than half an hour. I’ve got other things to do like Fix taps. Etc.

What level can I (or you) reach?

I don’t know yet, but I imagine it will should be somewhere in the A2 range.

As I’ve discovered with Italian the difference between a weak A2 (almost A1) and a strong A2 (almost B1) is absolutely huge, so this category is not particularly enlightening.

Do you think the Assimil course is good?

In a word. Yes. When, I’ve finished I’ll write about my experience in more detail.

You Fix Taps. Really?

Yes. Although it would be more accurate to say that I’ve now fixed/replaced one tap. Ever. At this rate I’d need to live another 500 years to have replace ten.

I replaced our kitchen tap which had been dripping for months, thus saving the absolutely gigantic sum any self-respecting plumber would have charged us.

According to my wife, who knows about these things, I was stressed and irritable, while fixing said tap. In fact, she said muttered something like ‘if I’d known what a song and dance you would have made of it …’ . And so on. I focused on the job in hand rather than catching the end of the sentence.

Still, one sudden move and our kitchen would have been knee deep in water. Everything was hanging in the balance. Who wouldn’t be stressed? 

And that folks is life in the fast lane.



Assimil. Polish. Day 6

It is rapidly becoming clear that completing an Assimil lesson a day in only half an hour is going to be testing.

The difficulty is that Polish words don’t by and large have any relation to English words, which makes remembering them difficult. Lesson 6 which contains by way of illustration the word nadzieja (hope or expectation) and miejsce (place).

My memory is average and without constant reinforcement, I don’t retain new language. Tengo memoria de mosquito 😉

I don’t have time to spend more than half an hour a day on this, and so to increase my chances of success, I’ve made a play list containing all the lessons I’ve completed.

I’m going to listen to this while walking the dog. The next three months are going to be painful – mainly for me –  on the walk.

Well. No pain. No gain. No-one ever said this would be a walk in the park. Apart from said hound.

On a positive note, I like the exercises at the end of each lesson which show how you can combine elements that you have already learnt to make new sentences.

Back in the real world, and as we are having something of an Indian summer, I have the back door open. Cool eh!

But all I can hear is swearing from builders who are working on a roof  some distance from our gaff.

Perhaps they don’t realize how far sound travels. Take note kids!



Assimil. Polish in 100 lessons

I’ve been learning Polish since the start of this year, and frankly my progress has not been stellar.

The book I was vaguely using was called ‘krok po kroko’ , and I was using it for reasons which are now unclear to me. The astute reader will notice I’m using the past tense here. I’ve put it aside for the indefinite future.

I’m finding Polish is complicated and krok po kroku,  while no doubt having various strengths has in my mind one large weakness which is that everything is written in Polish.

This might be helpful in an immersive environment, but here in the UK has left me floundering in terms of speaking.

I’ve decided to change my approach and  so I have bought the Assimil Polish course. I’ve never used one of their courses before but have heard of them by reputation.

This particular course consists of 100 short lessons. You do one a day, and at the end of 100 days you have reached an intermediate level in the language. Each lesson is (up until day four ) based around a specific scenario, and has text in Polish and French. (I had to buy the French version as  Assimil is a French company and many of their courses only exist in French). There are explanations of how to use the course all over the internet. All slightly different!

I’m on lesson 4 and plan to do one a day for the next 96 days, at which point I’ll review the course thoroughly.

My initial impressions are positive but with some caveats:

I have a basic knowledge of the structure of Polish. Lacking this, the explanations given on each page would not make much sense.

The Assimil course is marketed as being for absolute beginners. Again, without any prior knowledge of Polish (or another slavonic language) the approach used might be confusing.

Each lesson is supposed to take around 30 minutes. I’m not so sure that this is sufficient time.

I’m only on day four and these points may be unfair but my hunch is that some sort of prior  knowledge is required (or certainly useful) before embarking on said course.

And back to Surface Language

Learning through short  bilingual texts (which is  essentially the strategy used by Assimil and other language products) is definitely a good way of improving languages. Assimil, Rosetta Stone and the old FSI courses etc all do the same thing. There are differences in presentation and style but generally you over-learn a relatively small amount of information.

I’m in the process of adding a similar learning mechanism to Surface languages. I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, but because of the difficulty of obtaining content have decided that (to keep it manageable) :-

1. My bilingual sentences will not be based around specific situations.

2. They will not  cover greetings, nor formal/informal use of language.

3. They will only use the singular of the present tense.

4. The texts will be designed for absolute beginners.



Polish vocabulary for beginners

I’m creating a list of Polish vocab for beginners for the crossword and word search generators.

As I’m learning Polish (and am still a beginner (boo, hiss) ), I am including all the words that I have learnt (or sort of know) over the previous year.

The good news for me is that I know more Polish words than I thought. Maybe as many as a 1000. I’ll find out when I finish this list. Yes, yes, yes, I know language learning is far more than lists of words. I chat in Spanish and Italian (with lots of mistakes!), but not yet in Polish. Soon though.

The good news for other Polish learners is that they are all words added by a beginner, and so suitable for beginners.

Of course everyone has different ideas as to what you should learn and what a list of words suitable for beginners list should contain. The answer is … there is no answer. It depends on what you want to do with your language. But still, I need a word list for the various crossword makers and generators.

This list is personal to me, and what I have learned so far, and as such (and I don’t know why) fruit and veg seem to be over-emphasised. Not every-one wants to learn the word for cucumber (ogórek, pepino and cetriolo in the languages I am learning) but it appears in the crosswords.

Other than this the contents are very generic – dog, cat, table, chair, man, woman, child  and so on.

Creating the word list for the Polish crossword generator has made me think again about the Italian crossword. This has two settings: easy and … difficult.

Difficult includes the entire dictionary of around 500,000 words.

The easy setting includes words chosen by me! My level of Italian is now (I suppose) a highish A2, and so the words I have chosen  for the easy setting, might well include words that a beginner has not come across yet.

And so …

… I’m considering using the Polish list as the template for all other languages for the easy word game setting.

This should work well, and if I am cunning I can automate the creation of these lists.

If I have time, I’ll also include a ‘medium’ option for the crossword, which will include the current contents of Italian and Polish. Maybe?

Decisions. Decisions.



A Polish Crossword. Part 2.

I’m sitting here listening to Melech Mechaya, and I feel pretty chuffed becuase …

… I’ve fixed all known bugs in the randomly generated Polish crosswords.  Happy days!

The key phrase here is ‘all known‘ as it is very rare for any piece of computer code not to have any hidden ‘gremlins’ within. Sad but true.

Now, these crosswords are currently generated from a list of two hundred or so words that I have written down over the past year.

As my Polish is still at a beginner level (sigh), the majority of the words in the list are the sort of words you learn when starting out with a language: cat, dog, black, white and so on. These are perfect for beginners.

I will add the remainder of my ‘known’ words soon. As luck would have it, I’ve kept a list of words that I know, should know, or maybe have learnt during the last year.

I’m interested in seeing how many Polish words I’ve managed to retain during this time period.

I’m thinking it could be as many as ….

…. five or six hundred????

This equates to around two a day!! Hmmm. While I’m not the fastest language learner in the world, this seems rather slow. Ho hum.


Moon Face.


Italian & Polish

It has been some time since I’ve mentioned either Polish or Italian in my ramblings, what with the dictionary issues and all. On that note, I’ve added the first one, and even finished the first of four dictionary based games.

So, all is going well on the programming side of things:)

But what about language learning?

At the beginning of this year, I set myself the (arbitrary) goal of reaching the B1 language level in both Polish and Italian. I already spoke some Italian (A1 ish) but not very much and no Polish at all, but SL is about languages, and I should learn them …

So where am I at?  (Don’t write like that kids if you want to pass your exams.)

My Italian is going well. I have a conversation partner and speak once a week. I’m starting to feel more confident in speaking (although with plenty of mistakes), and am starting to get a feel for how the language works. Success breeds success, and I’ve been spending more time on Italian than Polish over the last six weeks or so. Earlier in the year I spent more time on Polish, so I imagine the overall time spent will even out over the coming months.

I’m confident I will reach the B1 standard in Italian before the end of this year, and this will give me a good base going forward.

As an aside, I’m finding Italian grammar more complex than Spanish, but I don’t know if this is because it is more complex or just that I’m more accustomed to Spanish.

And now onto Polish.

Well, I was told by a Polish speaker the other day that Polish was very difficult for English speakers to learn.

I’m not going to disagree with that assessment.

If I had to guess my level, I’d say it is a low A1 – in other words I’m still very much at the beginner level. There is no way (this year) that I will reach B1 or even A2.

Surprisingly perhaps, I feel fine with this. Polish is a difficult language for english speakers to learn for many reasons. It is not impossible, but it is difficult. I am making progress, but slowly. The grammar is hard, most of the commonly used words are completely unrelated to english or romance languages, and there are a lot of consonants. (Actually, that isn’t a good reason for my tribulations with Polish, but there are a lot of consonants. How does this work playing scrabble. Is it easier or harder?)

I only have so many hours in the day, and so many hours to spend on Italian/Polish and while I will reach a good level in both (given time) I’m in no hurry – no tengo prisa, non devo sbrigarmi,  nie jestem w pospiechu (??). It is about the journey, and I don’t feel frustrated with my slow pace of learning. As long as I carry on improving, I will reach my goal.

But as well as this, I think that it is easy to forget how much there is involved to  reach a good A1 standard. I was ‘roughly’ assessed to be A1 in Italian at the start of the year, and I was surprised by how much I then needed to improve to reach A2.

So, I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved so far.

Anyway, it is a nice day, and I’m off to water some geraniums:)




Polish and some other stuff

I’ve added and now fixed a new word game on SL, and here is an example in  Afrikaans chosen at random.

This leads neatly into – because of the awesome programming of SL 😉 …

As a programmer I’m good enough and pretty much know what I’m doing, but when learning languages I feel much less certain. I’m writing this as I’ve just finished reading some motivational blogs re language learning to encourage me with my Polish struggles, and it amazes me how confident people are.

In real life, I’m quite outgoing, noisy even (maybe hard word if you are uncharitable?). But writing a blog I feel much less confident. I don’t like making definite statements in general and certainly not regarding languages. Life and learning isn’t black and white. There is often no right or wrong but subtleties, nuances and shades (of grey).  These shades are interesting. Apparently.

I don’t even like making definite statements about programming or running websites – areas in which I feel much more certain and have more experience. There is so often more than one approach to a problem. More than one way to skin a cat and One mans meat is another mans poison sums it up. I like maxims. Pithy and to the point.

So, regarding my slow journey with Polish, there is nothing definite, other than it is difficult but rewarding.


I’ve been learning Polish since the start of the year. Not full time. I have a family, job, dog, cat (low maintenance), this website and all sorts of activities going on – mainly arranged by my wife. Luckily. Otherwise I wouldn’t do much other than walk the dog.

The above are excuses  the setting within which I’m learning Polish – or trying to. Ok so where am I? The last time I wrote about this (a month ago?) I decided that I needed to focus on vocabulary acquisition.

Polish Vocabulary Acquisition

I learn Polish words and then forget them.

I’ve learnt about 1000 words. 🙂

I remember about 100 🙁

I can’t speak for anyone else, and I don’t think I am any worse at language learning than the rest of the world, but I am finding it difficult to retain Polish vocab.

What can I say in Polish?

It is not all doom and gloom.

I can introduce myself. I can say jestem rolnikiem (I am a farmer), jestem kelnerem (I am a waiter) or jestem studentem (I am a student). So I can almost say what I do!.

I can say where I am from ‘jestem z Anglii‘ and so on.

I can (more or less) order food – proszę frytki (chips please)

I can say what I like – lubię chodzić (I like walking)

So basically I can say a few things but it you were stuck in a lift with me (and only spoke Polish) it would rapidly become boring.

This will I think drive the next top secret  expansion of SL. This is sort of a hint as to how I hope to (time permitting) expand SL. Only five people read this blog yesterday, and if you five can keep a secret I’ll tell you now …

But what if one of you can’t? Hmmmm … the risk is too great.

So to change the subject :-

I’m about to add audio for the european portuguese pages. Yipee!!

With luck this should be done by next week – ready for the summer hols. So happy days for anyone going to Portugal – who doesn’t want to buy a language course!! And just wants to learn a few words and phrases. Actually quite a few. Over a thousand…




Or Madeira?




Polish and Italian

I haven’t written about my Italian/Polish year for some time. Well, there is no time like the present especially when you are trying to avoid something painful – see below.

I’ve had two Polish experiences this week. One on-line via Skype, and the other at my Polish evening class. I’ve also had an Italian lesson. Busy week?

The experiences are like chalk and cheese. I am making little progress with Polish.  Conversely, I’m very pleased with the progress I’m making in Italian. I can chat away – obviously I make a lot of mistakes, but I can make myself understood, and I’m retaining the language. Yay!

And Polish?

It is not going well. I find it is an order of magnitude more difficult than Italian.

It is a challenge. A big big challenge. Bardzo duży. Bardzo bardzo duży.

I accept the above and embrace it even. Perhaps a trifle reluctantly, but I recognise that I have a problem here and I need to address it to make progress.

So I’ve metaphorically sat back and considered where my biggest blocker lies with the Polish language. It is vocabulary acquisition or more accurately lack of. I am not retaining or maybe learning sufficient Polish vocabulary to be able to have a conversation. I remembered the Polsh word hard today trudny but the word easy łatny eluded me completely.

So, a big push on Polish vocabulary over the next six weeks.

I’m not going to worry about endings, grammar and so on over this time. I’m just going to learn a large amount of vocabulary – which is what I’m trying to avoid while writing this.

I want to able to communicate and then build from this.

Other news. Our dog sprained his paw while chasing a ball too energetically. He is playing up to the level of sympathy being offered. Soon, I’ll be carrying him upstairs.