I know foreigners speaking Polish is some sweet, adorable thing that Poles almost never get to hear. I know, I get it. When someone speaks English as a foreign language it’s totally normal and obvious. And I understand people are shocked when you attempt to speak Polish and some people are so so nice about it. Like when our friends get drunk, take my hands in theirs, and say “Leah, to bardzo fajnie że próbujesz mówić po polsku. Na prawdę.” That, I love. But these other things… please consider how irritating they are before you do/say them.
Ask someone to “say something in Polish”. This is the absolute most irritating question. I am not a monkey and I do not do tricks. My typical response to this is “dupa”.
Speak the same speed as you normally would. Look, when I speak English to people, I judge the person’s language abilities and change my speech so as to make them feel comfortable. It’s awkward when you say something to someone and you can see that they’re embarrassed because they don’t get it. This is a common courtesy which I think should be observed by all (trust me, I know that English speaking people are guilty of this as well). My husband’s grandmother does this for me and she’s 80-something. She gets it. Why is it when I talk to young people, who should understand my situation, I have no idea what they’re saying?
Compliment them after they say one word. “Wow your “dzień dobry” is so good.” Yeah, I can say good morning. Thanks. Now I feel like a child.
Listen intently as a group with all eyes on them. This is the thing I hate the most. Finally you work up the courage to start speaking Polish in public around only Polish people and suddenly everyone who was afraid to come within 1 meter of you is now incredibly interested in what you ate for breakfast this morning. Then you’re sweating and can’t pronounce anything correctly.
Ask silly questions like “what language were you using when you were talking to —person who obviously doesn’t speak English—?” Yes I went to Żabka and asked the lady “excuse me, but do you have peanut butter here?” What, do you think I’m an idiot? Of course I asked “Przepraszam, czy ma Pani masło orzechowe?” To ma sens, nie?
Don’t be afraid to start or keep up a conversation with them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started conversations with people, which is harder for me than it is for them, and they’ve just kind of answered my questions and not asked me anything. It’s like, ok, I don’t know what else I can do. I would be so happy if someone just asked me something which was relatively easy and kinda helped me along.
So these are a few basic things to remember when speaking with foreigners in Polish. Overall, small groups are much appreciated and a couple hints when I don’t know the right przypadek. Help a girl out, y’all!