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To Know in Polish: Wiedzieć, Znać and Umieć

One English verb “to know” has three equivalents in the Polish language: wiedzieć, znać and umieć. It’s not surprising that many Polish learners struggle to understand the difference between them. Today, I’ll explain to you how to know when to use them.

Znać

The verb znać is used for general knowledge and knowing people. It’s followed by nouns or modifiers with nouns (pronouns, adjectives etc). It’s NEVER used with a subordinate clause. Here are some examples:

Znam Piotra. – “I know Piotr.”

Znać + noun

Znam rosyjski alfabet. – “I know the Russian alphabet.”

Znać + adjective + noun

Znasz jakieś dobre restauracje w Sieradzu? – “Do you know any good restaurants in Sieradz?”

Znać + pronoun + adjective + noun

On zna trzy języki obce. – “He knows three foreign languages.”

Znać + numeral + noun

Wiedzieć

Wiedzieć is a verb used for knowledge about something specific. It often introduces a subordinate (dependent) clause with words such as że (“that”), czy (“if”), kto (“who”), co (“what”) and similar:

Wiem, że masz rację. – “I know that you’re right.”

Nie wiem, czy pójdę na tę imprezę. – “I don’t know if I go to this party.”

Nic o tym nie wiem. – “I know nothing about it.” (about this particular issue)

Wiemy, gdzie on jest. – “We know where he is.”

Wiem, co masz na myśli. – “I know what you mean.”

Umieć

Umieć means “to be able to do or make something“. This verb is also used in the context of tests and exams. This verb is most often followed by another verb in the infinitive (unconjugated) form:

Nie umiem pływać. – “I don’t know how to swim.”

On zupełnie nie umie śpiewać! – “He can’t sing at all!”

Umiecie robić pierogi? – “Do you know how to make pierogi?”

Umiesz mówić po włosku? – “Can you speak Italian?”

Nic nie umiem. – “I don’t know anything.” (something often said before exams)

More Examples

Let’s have a look at some more examples comparing these verbs so that you can understand the difference better:

Znam Annę. – “I know Anna.”

Wiem, kto to jest Piotr. – “I know who Piotr is.”

Umiem rozpoznać Piotra. – “I know how to/I’m able to recognize Peter.”

Can you see the difference in use?

Znam dobrą książkę kucharską. – “I know a good cookbook. “

Wiem, który przepis wybrać. – “I know which recipe to choose.”

Umiem ugotować tę zupę. – “I know how to/I’m able to make this soup.”

And now?

Nie znam prawdy. – “I don’t know the truth.”

Nie wiem, czy to prawda. – “I don’t know whether it’s true.”

Nie umiem powiedzieć, czy to prawda. – “I’m unable to say whether it’s true.”

It should definitely be clear by now!

Summary

Here’s a quick summary that you can also use to refresh your knowledge at a later stage:

You should use znać to talk about general knowledge and knowing people. It follows the structure:

ZNAĆ + noun

ZNAĆ + modifier(s) + nouns

You should use wiedzieć when referring to knowledge about something specific. The most common structure is:

WIEM + a word introducing a subordinate clause

You should use umieć when talking about your ability to do or make something as well as knowledge you may have (or not) for exams. The most common pattern is:

UMIEĆ + verb

I’ve really done my best but let me know in the comments’ section, if you still have some doubts.

Check Your Understanding

Use the exercise below to check your understanding. The correct answers can be obtained by writing your own answers as a comment 😉

1. Martyna _________________ polski i angielski. (Martyna knows Polish and English.)

2. Wojtek _______________ mówić po niemiecku, angielsku i polsku. (Wojtek knows German, English and Polish.)

3. Nie _______________ jak ludzie uczą się więcej niż jednego języka obcego. (I don’t know how people learn more than one foreign language.)

4. ____________ jej brata. (I know her brother.)

5. Nie __________ co ci powiedzieć. (I don’t know what to tell you.)

6. Nie __________ nic na ten egzamin! (I don’t know anything for the exam.)

7. ___________ takie przypadki. (We know (of) such cases.)

8. Ma dopiero 5 lat, ale już ______________ czytać. (He’s only 5 years old, but he can already read.

9. ___________, że to nie jest łatwy wybór. (We know it’s not an easy choice to make.)

10. __________ tę piosenkę. (I know this song.)

I hope you’ve taken your Polish to a new level with this lesson! Now it’s time to say goodbye for now, Mein Schatz. поговорим позже!

The Difference Between Bardzo and Dużo in Polish

The difference between bardzo and dużo seems to be particularly difficult to understand for learners of Polish. In the first instalment of my new series Polskie poniedziałki (Polish Mondays) I’ll explain the main difference between these two words.

Bardzo and Dużo: Main Differences

The main difference between the two words is that bardzo translates as “very/really“, while dużo is closer in meaning to “a lot/many/much“.

This means that bardzo usually describes adjectives and adverbs:

To bardzo młody naukowiec. – “It’s a very young scientist.”

Jego samochód był bardzo tani. – “His car was very cheap”.

W tym sklepie jest bardzo drogo. – “This shop is very expensive.” (literally: It’s expensive in this shop.)

Dużo, on the other hand, is more often seen hanging out with verbs and nouns:

Mam dużo pieniędzy. – I have a lot of money.

Za dużo wydajesz! – “You spend too much!”

Moja żona dużo pracuje, czasem nawet w weekendy. – “My wife works a lot, sometimes even on weekends.”

Fringe Cases

Sometimes the general rules regarding which parts of speech these words go with simply don’t work. This is why it’s good to remember the second rule about them. Namely, dużo has to do with quantity and bardzo with intensity:

Bardzo kocham moje dzieci. – “I really love my children.”

Bardzo is used with a verb here but speaks about intensity of feelings.

Jesteś dużo wyższa ode mnie. – “You’re a lot taller than I am.”

With comparative adjectives such as wyższa (“taller”), we use dużo. Note that it’d still translate to English as a lot/much.

Sometimes we can also use both words together:

Ona bardzo dużo je. – “She really eats a lot.”

Dużo is an adverb so bardzo can be used as its intensifier. Compare the sentence above with the examples below:

Ona dużo je. – „She eats a lot.”

Ona je bardzo często. – “She eats very often.”

Bardzo and Dużo: Summary

Here’s a short summary for ease of reference:

Bardzo is used to talk about intensity. It’s usually used with adjectives and adverbs but sometimes it be used with verbs, particularly when describing intensity of feelings.

Dużo is used to talk about quantity with verbs, nouns and with comparative adjectives.

Check Your Understanding

Here’s a short exercises to check your understanding of the difference between bardzo and dużo:

1. Ona ________________ się uśmiecha. (She smiles a lot.)

2. ____________ cię lubię. (I really like you)

3. Maja ______________ czyta. (Maja reads a lot.)

4. _____________ zapłaciłeś? (Have you paid a lot?)

5. Twój chłopak jest _____________ miły. (Your boyfriend is very nice.)

I hope it’s been useful! Are you looking for answers? Oh no, Mein Liebchen! You’ll have to write your answers in the comments’ section and I’ll let you know whether you were right or not 🙂 So long! пока!

How to Use Instagram to Help you Learn a Language

I’m not a fan of social media. I deleted my Facebook over a year ago and it was one of the best decisions in my life in terms of saving time. I think anyone who uses social media knows how easy it is to scroll mindlessly through pictures of children and weddings of people one no longer care about. Here, here.
I do find a lot of value in terms of language learning on Instagram, though. Yes, I’m fluent in French and Italian but it doesn’t mean that I can just stop working on these languages. This is why my feed on magda_linga is full not only of Russian but also if Italian and French resources.

Who to Follow?

Instagram has a lot of good accounts with language learning content. There are three main types of accounts that you’ll see out there:

  • Studygrams – this is something I don’t understand at all and don’t find useful for language learning. Learners on studygrams post what they learn on a given day and what resources they use to do it.
    It’s often location specific as resources include books you can’t get everywhere and it’s difficult to learn anything from following those accounts. Occasionally, there are some study tips but this doesn’t seem to be the main point.
    In my opinion, it’s a great place for moaning and commiseration about the difficulty of a given language but in general talking about productivity and watching other people’s productivity makes you less and not more productive.
  • Polyglot accounts – polyglot accounts are useful not only for people who speak many languages. Yes, there’s a bit of nerd content there such as info about Polyglot Gathering 2020 and polyglot specific content but such accounts are also full of language learning tricks and tips. They rarely focus on a specific language, rather go to the “backend” of language learning providing you with super useful hacks on how NOT to spend 10 years learning a language in a language school and still don’t speak the language well.
  • Language specific accounts – language specific accounts are useful for learning vocabulary and some grammar. They do miracles for beginners but they’re also useful for intermediate and advanced students (even just as a refresher). Such accounts are created mostly by language learning enthusiasts, teachers and language schools.

How to Find the Right Accounts?

Search for language learning hashtags and see what comes up. Start with something simple like #learnrussian. You can review accounts that pop in your search and have a look at them. You’ll also see more related hashtags that you can use to continue with your search.
Add accounts that look good to you. Don’t always let the number of followers to sway you one way or another. People often go for what’s visually appealing and not for what will really help you increase your vocabulary.
Observe an account for a week and, if it’s not working for you get rid of it. Your feed shouldn’t have more than 10 accounts (ideally half of that!) for one language because you won’t be able to get value out of it. Remember to be ruthless and unfollow if that’s not what you’re looking for.

How to Use Such Accounts to Learn?

Polyglot accounts are full of language tips. Make notes and check in practice whether they work for you. It’s really the case of different strokes for different folks.
There are rules that are universally true like, for instance, you can’t learn the language without any effort. However, a lot of language learning has to do with your language goal and with your personal preferences.
True polyglots mostly know what they’re talking about so you can trust them to help you actually learn the language and not just spend money in the process.
Language specific accounts give you a lot of vocabulary, often used in a context and with pronunciation. Use them to build your vocabulary and engage with the people you follow to practise your language skills. Even simple replies to posts you write over time will help you a lot in expressing yourself in a language.
Last but not least, remember that Instagram is an additional tool and it won’t work as a principal tool for language learner. If you need to prepare a crash course for yourself, click on the link to get some tips.

Instagram, if used wisely, is a wonderful source of quality language learning content. Fill your feed with words and expressions of a language you’re learning and your time spent scrolling on Instagram won’t be wasted.
Stay tuned for language specific Instagram recommendations and let me know in the comments’ section what you use for language learning.

Polyglot Gathering 2020

Believe it or not I didn’t know that Polyglot Gatherings were a thing until someone told me about them yesterday. What’s more, the next Polyglot Gathering takes place very close to Warsaw were I hail from.

Unfortunately, I’ll miss this amazing event where polyglots from all over the word can share their experiences with language learning and passion for languages. I’m popping in for a quick visit to Poland in July 😦
If you can attend please do and take pictures! You can enjoy Polyglot Gathering 2020 between May, 26th and May, 30th in Teresin, 40 km from Warsaw.

Have you ever attended such an event? Let me know in the comments’ section!

Best Resources to Help You Learn Polish in 2020

Learning any language isn’t easy and every language has specific concepts that are difficult for language learners.
Thanks to my experience with articles about learning Polish and teaching Polish I’ve discovered a number of really useful resources. Here goes.

Cooljugator

Polish verbs undergo conjugation. This means that a verb has different forms depending on a person and gender. Have a look at the sample sentences with the verb jeść (to eat):

Jem obiad o pierwszej. – I eat lunch at 1 o’clock.

Zosia je obiad o pierwszej. – Zofia eats lunch at 1 o’clock.

Jemy obiad o pierwszej. – We eat lunch at 1 o’clock.

In Polish I have to use three different forms of the verb, while in English all persons in both numbers would have the same form. The only exception is the third person singular which gets an additional “s” (eat -> eats).

Cooljugator shows you all verb forms for different tenses. Due to numerous rules governing Polish conjugation it’s a great tool to increase your familiarity with the forms as well as a verification tool whenever you’re in doubt how to conjugate a verb.

Online Polish Dictionary

Online Polish dictionary gives you many things.
First of all you get noun declensions. Polish has cases which means that the form of the noun will differ depending on the context. For instance we say:

Widzę drzewo. – This is a tree.

Nie widzę drzewa. – I don’t see a tree.

Marek schował się za drzewem. – Marek hid behind a tree.

Yet again, the same word in English has many forms in Polish. The dictionary will provide you with the standard form in the nominative mianownik, even if you insert a word in a different case. You’ll also be able to see all noun forms.
When it comes to verbs you can see forms of a verb in all tenses, similarly like with the cooljugator. You’ll also learn what case follows a given verb. Last but not least, you’ll find out what aspect does a verb carry.
Wait…what’s an aspect? Brief, it’s what tells us whether a verb is ongoing or completed. In English an aspect is expressed with a tense, while in Polish there are different verbs called imperfective (czasowniki niedokonane) and perfective verbs (czasowniki dokonane). Have a look at the following examples:

Marysia ogladała telewizję, gdy zadzwonił telefon. – Marysia was watching TV, when the phone rang.

The verb used in the sentence above is the imperfective oglądać.

Marysia obejrzała ciekawy program w telewizji. – Marysia watched an (episode of an) interesting TV show.

The verb used is in the sentence above is the perfective obejrzeć.

As you can see, this dictionary is more thorough than Cooljugator but I find it less user-friendly.

Quizlet and Anki App

Quizlet and Anki App are both great for learning vocabulary. Quizlet has a number of advantages over Anki: there’s an interactive learning mode and different ways of studying, you get access to many study materials created by other students and teachers and you can choose which set you want to practise with.
Anki, on the other hand, certainly wins in terms of simplicity. You create your own study sets and the app tracks your learning progress.
Check them both out and see which one works better for you. They’re both really cool for learning on-the-go and I’m a massive fan of NOT wasting time. I use these apps whenever I’m queuing. A big plus is that they don’t make any sounds so you don’t have to fear embarrassment.
Polish is particularly rich in verbs because of the perfective and imperfective aspects I’ve mentioned above. Make sure to pay special attention to learning them.

Duolingo

Duolingo is amazing for beginners. You won’t learn a lot of grammar or understand the rules governing the language but you’ll definitely get a lot of basic vocabulary and phrases that will allow you have simple conversations in Polish. It’s also a fun and interactive app so it keeps you motivated.
Duolingo shouldn’t be your only resource for learning. If you want to see any progress with the language, you should get a language tutor or a partner to practise your speaking skills with. You should also either read about grammar concepts and do exercises online or get some structure with a language learning book.

Clozemaster

Full disclosure: I have written an article for Clozemaster’s blog. It doesn’t change the fact that I love the oldschool look of the app and I use it extensively for my Russian. The Polish course isn’t aimed at beginners as it will mostly speak Polish at you. You can start with Duolingo or a different app and then practise with Clozemaster once you’re more or less intermediate.
The big advantages of Clozemaster is that it makes you fill in sentences in a given language, improving your contextual understanding. You basically learn phrases and the way people speak in Polish without even noticing. Super useful for a language that has a lot of variables that change the way you should make a word look like in a sentence or a phrase.

E-polish.eu

E-polish.eu is probably the most comprehensive Polish learning resource out there. They have uploaded content of two books to an interactive platform with loads of different exercises to help you work on your Polish skills.
There are MANY exercises testing the same thing but it’s a good thing. No one learns a form of a verb by forming it correctly once so a variety of exercises on the same topic will really help you grow your vocabulary.
Yet again, you’ll need someone to practise your speaking skills with. I know I’m repeating myself but the worse kind of a language student is someone who thinks they can just learn a language in a vacuum. You can’t and you won’t so please start practising with someone who’s friendly and willing to help you before you deal with actual native speakers on the Polish streets. And I’m really not saying anything about Polish people here. Really.

That’s all for today, my fellow language enthusiasts. If you’re trying to brush up on your Polish for a weekend trip in Cracov, my post “How to prepare a crash course for yourself” will be more relevant.

How to Prepare a Crash Language Course for Yourself

Learning a language and becoming fluent in it is a long process. Sometimes you don’t have time for that or you simply don’t need to be fluent in a given language for your purposes. Is there a way to cover the basics in a short time? Of course! You’ll just have to prepare a crash language course for yourself.
All the apps and resources I mention in this post can be used for free. All you need is a bit of effort, some planning and motivation.

Get a Timeline

How much you can learn depends to a vast extent on how much time you have. 90 days is much easier to work with than 30 days but with enough commitment, you can become conversational in a month.
Once you know how much time you have, make an actual plan of action.
Try to be realistic about how much time you can spend learning. Half an hour daily is enough and you’re likely fail, if you promise yourself to do more than that. Life is busy and unless you have plenty of time on your hands it’s difficult to free up more of it for something that would be nice to do but what isn’t your priority.

Focus on What You Really Need

You have to be realistic how much you can achieve in a short time. If a language you’re learning uses the alphabet you already know, you’re winning.
Remember that for the purpose of basic communication skills, you don’t necessarily need to be able to write. I’d still recommend you use apps such as Duolingo or Clozemaster to learn words but don’t obsess too much about your spelling skills. As long as you can read simple signs and items on the menu, you’re going to be fine. Any forms you’d have to complete will likely be in English, anyway.
Now, it’s a bit more difficult if you don’t know the alphabet of a given language. In this case you should spend the first week simply learning how to read and practising writing words. Trust me, you’ll need it to get around.
One thing that you’ll need in both cases is learn a lot of vocabulary. Focus on learning as many words relating to what you need as you can. If the language has unpredictable plural forms, remember to memorise them along with singular forms.
You absolutely have to cover the following topics: food and drink, asking about directions, numbers, attractions, presenting yourself and having very small talk. You’ll be okay, if you cover that. Remember also to learn basic verbs in useful forms such as “Do you know where…?”, “Could you…?”, “I’d like to…” and similar. If there’s anything that’s important to your well being, for instance, you’re allergic to something or have food preferences such as vegetarianism, learn the whole phrase.

Ignore the Rest

Don’t try to read lengthy articles to remember vocabulary and don’t watch movies to learn either. If you have more time, you can try to surrounding yourself with the language more by doing these things but this isn’t what you need to learn during your crash course.
Your should focus on the basics. If you have 30 days to speak conversational [insert language] there is simply no time for everything. You may decide to continue your language journey later on but during your crash course, you should focus only on what you really need to survive, if it turns out no one speaks English or another language you already know.

Plan Your Practice

You should plan your week in advance (including finding the right resources, downloading apps) at least a day before the next weeks starts. A sample one week course plan, let’s call it Food and Restaurant week, would look like this:

  • Day 1: 10 minutes with Duolingo, 20 minutes of local dishes vocabulary practice list found online
  • Day 2: 30 minutes with fruit and vegetable vocabulary sets on Quizlet
  • Day 3: 30 minutes with “At the restaurant” lesson with Busuu
  • Day 4: 30 minutes of conversation practice with a tutor or a language exchange partner with focus on shopping for food
  • Day 5: 30 minutes with Busuu “Food and Drink” vocabulary
  • Day 6: 30 minutes of conversation practice with a tutor or a language exchange partner, focus on restaurant vocabulary
  • Day 7: Revision of the vocabulary learnt with AnkiApp

Of course, this is just a sample but what you definitely should have in your plan is: vocabulary, conversation practice with the use of a given vocabulary topic and listening.
Add all new vocabulary to AnkiApp and create separate sets for each vocabulary group to track your progress better. That way you have all the vocab always available to practise on-the-go. Learning is important but in order to truly remember what you’ve learnt, you also need to do revisions. A once a week revision is a must. You can also add some additional revision time with AnkiApp to your 30 minutes every day, when waiting in a queue…or on a toilet!
Conversation practice with a different person is non-negotiable. You can’t just learn the vocabulary and hope you’ll be able to use it in real life for the first time. You’ll get a stage fright and you’ll go blank. To be able to do something, you need to practise it. Remember to give instructions to your language tutor or exchange partner such as “Today I want to practise dialogues I’d have when shopping for groceries.”.
If your language tutor isn’t flexible and is insisting you follow their lead, change them. These people aren’t the right choice for you given your goal. You can learn more about finding a language tutor in my post How to find a good language tutor.

Get Over Yourself

Surprisingly, the most difficult thing to do when you prepare a course for yourself isn’t simply being systematic. Don’t get me wrong, some people will not manage to study as planned but these people are also unlikely to expect to manage to have a conversation in a foreign country. Actually doing the work is necessary to see results.
A much bigger issue is that people who actually do the work, often don’t manage to communicate. Why? Because their perfectionism and/or fear of embarrassment wins with their desire to communicate and put their skills to work. This is why you need to get over yourself.
You’re not going to speak the language perfectly after a crash course, you will make mistakes and you will sometimes sound funny. That’s okay! Your goal is to manage to order that coffee in a given language or to negotiate the price. It doesn’t matter how you do it. People will realise you’re a beginner so they won’t be too harsh about your mistakes. Many will also feel happy that you’re trying to learn their language (particularly true for less popular languages). Focus on your objective and ignore the rest. Good luck!

Do remember to comment, if you end up preparing a crash course for yourself 🙂

How to Find a Good Language Tutor?

Throughout the years of learning languages, I’ve realised that a good teacher can make a massive difference. Unfortunately, a decent tutor isn’t always easy to find. Read on to discover how to improve your chances of discovering a gem.

Think Outside of the Box

It’s surprising that so many people still rely on traditional tutoring where a teacher comes to you or you come to your teacher. Fair enough, if you have no access to technology but otherwise? Such a solution is a massive waste of time either for the person doing the commute. Why to do it when you can have an online teacher?
You can spend the time you’d otherwise spend on commuting on reviewing material, a session with Duolingo or on something completely unrelated to language learning.
I don’t think I have to convince anyone that more time is better, do I?

Why Is Online Teacher Better?

Online teaching has been growing over the years with people recognising that it saves you not only time but also money.
People charge less online for the following reasons:

  1. They live in a country where the cost of living is relatively low
  2. They’re new to a given platform or have little experience with teaching
  3. They’re bad at what they do

People who are bad at what they do often are desperate for money and will accept the lowest rates just to keep afloat. That’s how they win with their competitors. Don’t trust someone just because they provide a service. Check for yourself whether they’re any good.
People who simply don’t have much experience on a given platform or as teachers can be cheap. You can luck out with an inexperienced teacher but be careful with them. You may end up with someone who rides the wave of simply “being a native speaker” and has no idea how to teach or learn a language.
Your chances of getting a good teacher who doesn’t charge much are the highest if that person lives in a country with a low cost of living. However, even a more expensive teacher on an online platform often costs less than a teacher in your country.

Where to Find an Online Language Tutor?

Just google it. The only platform I could recommend as it’s the only platform I’ve used is Italki. I’ve been learning languages there and I’ve been doing some teaching too. It’s good but I can’t tell you that it’s the best choice as I haven’t used any other platforms. Perhaps the fact that I didn’t have to look any further speaks of its quality, though.
I’m also aware of the existence of Verbling, which could be quite good as the platform only hires native speakers with teaching experience. Now, I don’t necessarily think that native speakers are always the best teachers but that’s a topic for another post 😉

How Do I Know a Teacher Is Good?

I trust people more than I trust qualifications. If I see many positive reviews with people giving specific comments about how a teacher has helped them, I’m interested.
If I just see generic comments such as “A great teacher!” I’m more careful, even if someone graduated from Harvard. People often say nice things just after a lesson because they feel obliged to do so. Specific comments speak more of the teacher’s quality than about a student’s compliance to social norms.
A teacher should also let you speak. The golden rule of teaching is limiting the three T’s: teacher’s talking time. If a teacher talks at you or goes on about their private life, ditch them. You’re not their therapist.
Good teachers also give homework and suggest resources. They pay attention to your needs and focus on your mistakes as well as the ways to improve them. They should have something prepared for you for every lesson, be it a conversation topic or exercises.
Last but not least, they speak the language well, which isn’t to say they’re an online dictionary. Whether the teacher is a native speaker or not, they may take a while to find the right work for a given context.

Big No-Nos of the Search for the Right Teacher

There’s also a number of things you should not do when looking for a good teacher:

  • Focus solely on the price – if you’re looking for the cheapest teacher out there you may be missing out on great teachers based in locations more expensive to live in
  • Stick with the first teacher you find because you’re don’t feel like looking – if you find a teacher you like immediately, you’re lucky. Usually, to find the right teacher you’ll have to try a few out and that’s okay. (Almost) nothing worth having comes easy.
  • Stay with a teacher you no longer want to work with – some people make a great first impression but longterm they’re not the right match for you. You don’t owe your teacher anything, they’re a service provider and if you don’t like the service you should replace them

Finding a good language teacher isn’t simple but the world of online teaching has made it easier than ever. You have countless options. Use them and find someone good at their job spending less time and money than you’d on someone from your country of residence.
If you’re wondering whether you need a teacher at all, check out my previous post.

Do I Need a Language Teacher?

Well, do I?

While all of methods have their advantages and disadvantages, I find a mixture of learning with a tutor and self-work with apps and other resources to be the most effective way of mastering a language.

Is It Possible to Learn a Language for Free?

It’s definitely possible to learn a language for free. In fact, I have a friend who has learnt French on her own and boasts about having learnt it without spending a dime in the process. I can also attest that her French is excellent.
It’s certainly possible to get to a high level in a foreign language with no paid help. There are plenty of free resources around the web, materials, events organised by language institutes, language exchange partnerships and language learning groups.
Having said that, I have to admit that to learn solely in this manner you need to 1) be VERY motivated and 2) to know what you’re doing. If you have both, you definitely can succeed. Otherwise, you may decide to make your life a bit easier by getting a language tutor.

What a Teacher Can Help With

First and foremost, a good teacher will give you structure. You don’t have to worry about what to cover next, everything is prepared for you. Be cheeky and keep asking for suggestions on how to work on certain skills more, in your free time.
Another advantage of 1-on-1 tutoring is, of course, that you have your teacher’s full and undivided attention. This means that as they notice what kind of mistakes you make and what you struggle with, they can prepare tailored-made lessons for you.
Last but not least, a language tutor means a certain level of accountability. Yes, they’re a service provider but you’ll see for yourself how it feels to cancel a few lesson in a row, when you’ve shared with them how serious you are about your goal of becoming fluent in a language.

What a Teacher Can’t Help With

A teacher can’t help you, if you don’t want to learn. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning a language because you should or because you want to, you need to go through the motions.
At minimum it means that you need to show up for a class, participate actively in it and do your homework. Ideally, you should spend some time learning the language every day by reading a short article, listening to something or learning some vocabulary.
The most important thing to remember is that a teacher can’t do the work for you. If you just come to the lessons with no interest you’ll eventually get to an intermediate level and stay there. I’ve seen it many times, particularly working as an in-company language teacher.
Part of the problem is that the more time you spend learning without seeing much progress, the less motivated you are. In the words of Yoda: “Try not. Do or do not. There’s no try.“. If you just want to give it a try, rather wait until you feel stronger about language learning.

The short answer to the question “Do I need a language teacher?” is: “It depends.”. If you’re very motivated and you really can’t spend money on language learning, you can do without a tutor.
If, however, you don’t mind to spend a bit to make your life easier, you should get a teacher as they are real benefits to having one. Now, how to find a good tutor? That’s a question for another post 🙂

Just a Short Introduction

I’ve promised myself to write one post a week in 2020. I’ll start with an introduction which is a bit of a cheat, but chances that anyone will read my first post are low ;).

What I’ll write about

This blog is devoted to my passion, language learning. You can expect tips, tricks and exercises prepared by me as well as recommendations on tools, apps and similar.
I want to help people hack Polish in particular, because it’s definitely the most challenging language among the ones I know.

Why you should trust me

You may remember a line from GOT (Game of Thrones for non-nerds here) that “any man who must say ‘I am king‘ is no true king at all”.
There are people who know more languages than I do and those who speak them better. Still, I’m pretty good at both language learning and language teaching.
I have a bilingual proficiency in Polish and English. I speak French and Italian fluently. I’m learning Russian. I have also spent the last 10 years working as a language service provider, making use of my various language skills as a writer, researcher, translator and teacher. Do you feel convinced? Then stayed tuned for more content!

Do zobaczenia! See you soon! À bientôt ! A presto! And of course, увидимся!