Is Polish really as difficult as many people say? Is it possible to learn basic Polish phrases on your own? What are the most common mistakes that Polish students make when learning English? Find out from the interview with Christopher McConneaughey, an American living in Gdańsk.
My name is Christopher McConneaughey. I am an American from the state of California. I came to Poland to study at the University of Gdansk, so I can earn my Master’s in International Business and to see a new country and culture first hand. I have been teaching English as a second language for 2 years at the Institute of Native Linguistics. When not teaching, I enjoy reading, cooking, and physical fitness.
Why did you start learning Polish in the first place?
I started to learn Polish because I had planned on studying in Poland, and knew that learning Polish will be a great help to me during my studies.
How does Polish sound to you? If you had to compare it with another language – which one would it be?
Before I became familiar with the different sounds in Polish, it sounded like a “softer” form of Russian with a cadence similar to Spanish.
Is Polish a difficult language to learn? What is your opinion from a point of view of a language teacher?
Polish is a difficult language to learn at the beginning, due to many words having so many conjugations, but there is logic to the grammar and after the initial hump it starts to get easier.
I know that you are using our flashcards FISZKI – Starter – Polish. How are they helping? Would you recommend this set to foreigners who want to start learning Polish?
The cards provide many useful phrases in Polish with English phonetics, which makes pronunciation much easier. I would recommend the flashcards to foreigners, because they teach very practical Polish, which can make everyday interactions easier.
You teach English at the Institute of Native Linguistics in Gdansk. Would you say that Polish people learn foreign languages with ease?
It really depends on the language. I find Polish people don’t have much difficulty with other Slavic languages, Spanish or Romanian, because there are a lot of similarities. A lot of my students have some challenges with English, because they have a habit of translating Polish into English or comparing the grammar rules of English to Polish, but once they become more familiar with English, I find my students pick it up fairly quickly.
And what are the most common mistakes in English that your students make? What are they struggling with?
The most common mistakes my students make are confusing the tenses in their sentences, especially when trying to speak in the past tense. And of course pronouncing English words as if they were Polish words is very common, which is what I like most about the FISZKI flashcards. They show how to pronounce word in a way that avoids the mistake of reading foreign words like your mother tongue.
What are your favourite language learning methods?
I tend to teach my students based on which method I feel works best for each individual. The direct method, the structural approach, and so called “desuggestopedia” are the language learning methods I gravitate towards the most. I find having a clear start and finish in the language the student wishes to learn, while also making him feel comfortable, relaxed and without a fear of making mistakes, allows the student to really absorb the language.
The most difficult Polish word to pronounce is…
Trzysta trzydzieści trzy is the most difficult Polish phrase for me that I have learned. My mouth refuses to make the sounds.
And the most beautiful Polish word is…
Naleśniki, it sounds so beautiful to me and it’s really fun to say.