Life in Poland

Jesteśmy w Polsce i mówimy po polsku

Czy mówi Pan po angielsku? (Do you speak English, sir?)

Czy mówi Pani po angielsku? (Do you speak English, ma’am?)

Czy mogę mówić po angielsku? (May I speak English?)

How many times have I asked these questions? Maybe a hundred times or more. These are the kinds of answers I usually get:

Nie, nie mówię po angielsku. (No, I do not speak English.)

Nie, nie mówię po angielsku. Może po niemiecku? (No, I don’t speak English. Maybe German?)

Nie, niestety nie. (No, unfortunately not.)

Nie za bardzo mówię ale rozumiem. Prosze mówić po angielsku i ja po polsku. Damy radę. (Not very well, but I understand. Please speak English and I Polish. We’ll manage somehow.)

Tak. (Yes.)

Yes, a little.

Yes, of course.

Sometimes I get a nice surprise like with the insurance agent last year who inspected the Jeep. He had worked a few years in Scotland and in addition to being handsome, had a beautiful Scottish accent. Unfortunately, his cost projections for repairing the Jeep were considerably lower than our mechanics.

Or many years ago when I was in hospital in Gdynia and I met a nice sailor, well a retired sailor, in his seventies. Our conversation started when he invited me into the elevator saying in English, “Please go first. Beauty before age.” How sweet.

Or just recently the building inspector who came to check our new central heating installation at our house surprised me with her fantastic vocabulary, of course, concerning home installations – her specialty. It was a real pleasure to talk with her and ask her some questions about our home.

You see, it is a surprise and a pleasure when someone speaks my language. I don’t expect it from anyone. And why should I? This is Poland. People don’t need English in their everyday lives. These days, I try to do everything in Polish but when the issue is complicated or I am feeling especially tongue-tied, I occasionally give in to my weakness and ask if my conversational counterpart speaks English as I did this week. Now I have a new answer to add to my list. Can you guess what it is?

Nie. Jesteśmy w Polsce. Mówimy po polsku. (No. We are in Poland. We speak Polish.)

And that from someone who has authority over my children.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

  • Reply
    January 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    Was it Andrzej Wajda ?

  • Reply
    January 22, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I understand someone might not speak the language, but why be mean about it?

  • Reply
    January 22, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    That was plain rude.

  • Reply
    January 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Even worse – extreme nationalism, even chauvinism.

  • Reply
    Asia Prezentuje Prezenty
    January 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Chris, I am very sorry someone, especialy someone responsible fpr your kids, said something like that to you. I think it was rude, mean and chamstwo

  • Reply
    January 23, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Usually when people say things like that they just hide their ignorance. As we know, attack is the best defence.

  • Reply
    January 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Hee, hee, it wasn't Wajda unfortunately. I knew it was a long-shot but I, too, felt the response was unnecessarily rude. Oh well, the story goes on.

  • Reply
    January 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I identify with with post (I'll stay out of the exchange above). I too deal in Polish all day in the city, but occasionally I break down when dealing with some new topic . . . today was the first time in a while – the dentist! I sat down and realised I had absolutely no words to talk about what I wanted to say!I long ago stopped asking if people speak English – even if they do, the question seems to make them more nervous than its worth!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    I meant to say \”I identify with this post.\” 🙂

  • Reply
    January 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Hi Kolin- I am very experienced with dental vocabulary unfortunately, but I always ask them to repeat themselves when they tell me the cost. I'm good at birthing vocab as well if you are ever in need. I found it most useful to know \”push\” and \”don't push\” in Polish ;)I also stopped asking people if they speak English but this person was so fed up with my Polish that I thought we might speed things up if I could continue in English. Nope. Anyhow, the whole situation has gone to the higher ups and the outcome is more or less satisfactory for us. How cryptic am I???

  • Reply
    January 26, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    BTW, Poland for the Polish!

  • Reply
    January 27, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    When I lived in Congo, we were sitting having dinner when someone a very big burly man came over and asked if I was the lady who spoke Polish… I said yes and the next thing I knew he was pulling up a chair speaking very fluent Polish. He was educated in Poland He received a scholarship to attend the University of Gdańsk.He was an Engineer. He came back to Congo and was hired to teach at the University of Lubumbashi were we lived. It was great fun because we could talk and not a soul knew what we were talking about.. I believe he still teaches at this facility…Love Alli x

  • Reply
    January 27, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Oh Chris, I have so much admiration for you living in Poland!! And I appraciate that you are trying to speak polish …However. I would imagine that you ought to speak the language country you're living in.(generally speaking.) I know I know – you guys- born Americans, English – think that everybody speaks English. ALl over the world. And you're feel offended when you'll realize it’s not true, or shit happens, and somebody's rude. (Which btw in POland most people are)..I am sorry for that :(and- I hate when people being mean and rude, Just because..- so go for it girl! slap them;)

  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 9:33 am

    I got the same reply from my university when I asked them after my graduation if I can get the confirmation in English, because I was going to move abroad.Didn't they notice we're in the EU?

  • Reply
    January 30, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Alli – What a nice surprise. We've had a few situations like that in America but I certainly wouldn't expect it in Congo. Very nice.Ania – Yes, I know, I should speak Polish and I do, well enough to manage most situations. But this was a highly emotional situation and I was hoping to use English for a minute because in Polish I couldn't get a word in edgewise.heksita – It must be something with educational institutions. That's where my unfortunate comment came from 🙁

  • Reply
    February 2, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I would hope that in any situation a person would be more open to effective and respectful communication over enforcing a strict use of one language over the other, especially in an emotional situation. I can't wait to \”master\” the Polish language but for goodness sake, we're all just trying to live on this planet, the least we could do is help each other out a bit every once in a while when we're being mis-understood. Not looking forward to these struggles, you have to have a strong back-bone and not take things personally. I hope I can do that.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Heksita – Yes, Poland is in UE. Polish is one, alon with 22 others, of the official languages of UE. Acording to UE law it has the same status as Engilsh, German or Maltese.

Leave a Reply