Cultural Musings

Why doesn’t anyone speak English to me anymore?

It’s incredible really. When I first moved to Poland (let’s be honest, for the first three years I lived here), I really didn’t speak Polish at all. I was lazy, wasn’t really sure I’d need it in the future, just kept putting it off. So everyone who could spoke to me in English. Finally, because of my husband and his family, I learned Polish. Painstakingly, but alas, wreszcie! I can manage myself without nearly having a heart attack before every single interaction. But recently it’s become apparent that almost nobody speaks English to me anymore! And honestly, it sucks. 

Assimilation feels good!

It’s such a funny turn of events. I used to be so embarrassed that I couldn’t hold a conversation in Polish or that I couldn’t understand what people were saying or what have you. All I wanted so desperately was to be normal and to be able to speak like everyone else. Now I can more or less, definitely not “normally” but, let’s say, “acceptably” and now I can’t get anyone to talk to me in English! What gives?!

It’s a great feeling when you finally get to that point and I’m really happy about it. I feel so much better about my life here – like I’ve actually assimilated. I don’t have that horrible feeling like I’m a complete and total outsider anymore. Even on my birthday my friends sang “Sto lat” to me, not “Happy birthday”! That’s really bizarre. 

But I miss speaking English

But you know what? I want to speak English with my friends sometimes. Why don’t they understand that? I made a deal with one of my friends, also an English teacher, that we could speak English at one meeting and Polish at the next, so now we trade off. That’s really cool. I leave our English meetings feeling better than our Polish ones, but they’re both good. But I have some friends, nay former STUDENTS, who won’t even speak English to me. People who used to pay me to talk to them in English and now won’t say a single word in the language to me. What the hell?!

Why should I always be the one to speak the other language? I know they can speak English too, some better than I speak Polish, probably most, frankly. Do they now feel uncomfortable about their English skills knowing I speak Polish? Or do they think we should be speaking Polish since we’re in Poland? Or maybe they just don’t want to speak English? One of my friends said she speaks Polish with me because she thought I’d appreciate the practice. Honestly, I get plenty of practice with the people in my life who don’t speak English at all. With my friends, I’d like to relax. I’m sure they feel the same way – they’d like to speak Polish because they feel comfortable and can just chill. But maybe we could trade off on occasion? Even when I say a few words in English and try to switch, they’ll just answer in Polish. Fine! I just have to accept it.

What it comes down to

I guess the real reason is that we’re here in Poland, so generally the conversation is in Polish as I’m the only one who prefers English usually 🙂 But when I’m one-on-one with someone, I think it’d be fair to switch off sometimes!

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16 Comments

  • Reply Robert 3 March 2020 at 15:34

    It seems like a compliment to me. You have been so successful in your assimilation that you are being treated as “one of the gang”. Enjoy it; you’ve earned it through hard work. If you feel the need to speak English, post here; we’ll be glad to indulge you!

  • Reply Kris 3 March 2020 at 15:50

    I get what you feel, but kinda the other way around. I’m Polish, but I use English everyday for reading and watching stuff. So much so I often prefer using English while talking about certain topics. In fact I think in English too, so speaking Polish is getting harder and harder for me (somehow, I have no idea how I got to this point). And most of my friends don’t get it, and most of them don’t even like to speak English. And speaking only in Polish is boring. It was so hard to meet someone who not only is willing to speak only in English during meetings but also wants it and is happy that they have someone to talk to in English too (and they’re Polish too, but with great British accent somehow :))

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 4 March 2020 at 12:51

      Huh that’s really interesting! I really wonder how you got to that point. I wish someone wanted to speak English with me too 🙂 Other than my husband haha

  • Reply Lilianna 3 March 2020 at 17:48

    Now that’s a shame, really! I would do a lot for a chance to speak to a native speaker on a regular basis… I meet my German teacher once a week and every time I leave with a feeling it wasn’t enough.. as for your students.. maybe they feel, when they paid, you HAD to listen to their mistakes and now that you don’t, they feel embarrassed? Anyway, I hope this post makes a difference and now that you’ve let everyone know how you feel, things will change!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 4 March 2020 at 12:52

      Maybe you’re right about my students. Maybe they think that since they paid in the past that now they can’t just get it for free since it’s my job? I mean that kinda makes sense but still… no problem if we’re friends, right?!

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 4 March 2020 at 12:53

      Actually a few of my friends are like “your last post made me feel silly!” And now I feel kinda bad haha!

      • Reply Lilianna 5 March 2020 at 11:15

        At least now it’s out in the open so hopefully things will change for the better 🙂 Sometimes small hints just don’t do the job, you need to hit someone over the head with a frying pan 😉

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 25 March 2020 at 10:38

          It has definitely made some of my friends change their perspectives. And I’m really happy about it! It makes me feel good that we can use both 🙂

  • Reply Piotr 7 March 2020 at 01:49

    It`s really interesting what you have written. I suppose that your surrounding prefer talking to you in Polish because they link English language with lessons not with everyday life. Furthermore, speaking a native language is a natural ans obvious thing for every person. Mother tongue let us express our reflections and emotions better than the foreign one. Speaking different speech may be really diffficult if you don`t master it, right? If you aren`t prficient in some language there always will be something missing-slang, some idioms, a few rarely used phrases… Humanity seems to be a bit lazy sometimes, so they aim for the easiest things if possible. I reckon that explains a lot. The trouble is that your first language and ours are totally different. Therefore, nobody will be totally glad.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 25 March 2020 at 10:37

      I agree – that’s for sure what it is. But they should consider the fact that it’s completely opposite for me! But some of my friends have actually starting speaking English with me after this… so it seemed to have been effective 🙂

      • Reply GABRIEL 18 May 2020 at 13:08

        What if you speak English to them and they speak polish back? Everybody would be speaking their best language. In my daily life I use a mix of English and Polish, and none of them is my native language

        • Reply Leah Morawiec 18 May 2020 at 14:40

          That’s what I mostly do with my husband 🙂 But with other people it’s kinda awkward. Actually, now, as a result of this post, we switch between the languages with a few friends and it’s really nice.

  • Reply Mass 12 April 2020 at 15:47

    I have another problem. My Polish girlfriend still translate for me what they say on TV however I understand. Im speaking Polish now and two months ago I passed the B1 exam. Seems she doesn’t believe :))

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 14 May 2020 at 10:37

      That’s amazing! I would like to take that exam one day. How was it?

  • Reply crulova 29 May 2020 at 16:00

    Why would they speak Engish to you ? You live in their country. You say that you are the one that has to do the effort. Yes, but I suppose that before you learnt Polish, it was the contrary. You learn a language to use it. So don’t complain. Why would they sing “happy birthday” if you are in Poland ? It’s normal to sing Sto Lat.

    • Reply Leah Morawiec 29 May 2020 at 21:15

      We’re not talking about random people, we’re talking about my friends. I wouldn’t expect random people to speak English to me. It’s actually not that strange to switch off languages once in a while in a case like this one.

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