01The name Poland is believed to have originated from Polans (Polanie), a West Slavic tribe which inhabited the territories of present-day Poland in the 9th-10th centuries. Historically, Poland is sometimes referred to as Lechia, named after Lech, the legendary founder of Poland. The Polish word ‘pole’ means field, which aptly describes most of the lowlands and low hills that dominate the landscape.
02The Polish language is often regarded as a difficult language to learn due to its tongue-bending pronunciation, complex gender system, seven cases, aspect as a grammatical category of the verb and a tendency to avoid internationalisms. Polish verbs conjugate for gender, person, mood and time, which makes over 25 forms of every verb. However, there are no articles in Polish, its word order is relatively free and there are only three tenses used in the language.
03There are only a few dialects that differ from the standard Polish language. In the northern area of the country the prominent dialects are Mazovian and Great Polish, while southern dialects include Lesser Polish and Silesian. Controversy surrounds the dialect known as Kashubian, which evolved as a separate Slavic language but for many is still considered to be a dialect of the Polish language. As it is threatened by extinction, a lot of effort is being put into saving it and it recently begun to be taught at local schools as a minority language.
04Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, was originally named Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski. Despite his fame as one of the most famous authors of the English language, he always considered himself a Pole, and didn’t even learn to speak English until his 20s.
05The Polish language stands out from other Slavic languages due to the fact that it is based on a modified Latin alphabet, rather than the Cyrillic alphabet. Its written standard is the Polish alphabet, which has 9 additions to the letters of the basic Latin script (ą, ć, ę, ł, ń, ó, ś, ź, ż) due to the use of diacritical marks.
06Whereas many languages opt for a you-thou kind of distinction between younger and older people and formal and informal situations, Polish speakers use titles: Pan and Pani meaning Sir and Lady.
07Polish serves as the official language of Poland, where it exists as the mother tongue of an estimated 38 million people.
Polish has the second largest number of speakers among the Slavic languages after Russian.
The Polish diaspora is also known in modern Polish language as Polonia, which is the name for Poland in Latin and in many other Romance languages.
There are roughly 20 million people of Polish ancestry living outside Poland, making the Polish diaspora one of the largest in the world as well as one of the most widely dispersed.
There are significant Polish-speaking communities in Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Russia, UK, Ukraine and the US.
As a result of recent migrating influx Polish is the second largest spoken language in the UK. Data from 2013 census reveals more than half a million people (546,000) in England and Wales speak Polish as their first language.
08The Polish Language Council (Rada Języka Polskiego) is the official language regulating organ of the Polish language. It is responsible for analysis and evaluation of the condition of the Polish language and advising on the state language policy. Its main tasks include promoting knowledge about the Polish language, establishing rules for spelling and punctuation, evaluation of the names for new commercial products and services, and developing the use of Polish in branches of science and technology.
What does Polish sound like? Listen to a Polish radio station here