Katherine’s Journal #2: Things I Can and Can’t Do in Polish

Title: Things I Can and Can’t Do in Polish


Sometimes, I get mad at myself because I haven’t made as much of an effort to learn the language as I should. Sometimes, I’m surprised at how much I know. Here are a few very important things I’ve learned to do in Polish, and one thing I need to work on.


Yesterday, I went to the grocery store. When I went to check out, the woman at the cash register told me I had to leave my basket with her. This was a problem. I didn’t want to buy plastic bags (bad for the environment), and I had no way to get my food to my backpack!

I should explain that when I go to the grocery store I always bring my backpack with me. Most big grocery stores are in something like a mall, and there is a place with lockers where you have to put large bags. I always lock my bag up, buy my food, and then take the cart over to the locker so I can put the food in my backpack.

I tried to explain to the woman what I wanted to do, but I didn’t have the words. It was really, really frustrating! How do you say in Polish “I am not a basket thief! I always put my baskets back!”

Eventually, a nice woman in line loaned me one zloty so I could go rent a big shopping cart. I felt really stupid. To make myself feel better, I made list of things I can do with the Polish language.

I Can Read Signs.



Title: Used Clothing

Caption: When I got to Lublin, the only word I could read was tanie or “cheap”

Strangely, reading signs and billboards has helped me a lot with my language. Sometimes, to practice, I read the signs out loud and translate them. Some are pretty funny. Chuck Norris is really popular in Poland, and he gets paid to appear in commercials and in ads for a Polish bank.

I also do pretty well with signs posted at my university, announcements for concerts, and things like that. A couple of months ago, I couldn’t read very many signs. My husband and I accidentally sat in a train compartment for pregnant women. How embarrassing!


Title: Billboards

Caption: Are you interested in becoming a private detective in Poland?


Title: Chuck Norris

Caption: I can’t read this sign yet, but Chuck Norris under piles of zloty is pretty great!

I Can Order Food.

I know a lot of Polish food words. This is important, because I like to eat. One of my favorite places to eat is the cafeteria at my university. Don’t laugh! Polish school cafeterias serve some tasty food! Today, I ordered kurczak hawajski (Hawaiian chicken) and sałatki z brokułem (coleslaw with broccoli). That, and mashed potatoes is a pretty typical Polish lunch.

I’ve realized that I can pretty much read any menu, anywhere. This is a lot better than when I lived in China and couldn’t read anything at all! Being able to order food and know what you’re getting is a great thing.


Title: Lunch

Caption: How is your school lunch today?

I Can Pay Bills.

In Poland, you have to go to the bank or post office to pay your bills. The first time I paid my cable bill, I had no idea what I was doing. I had to go back to the post office three times. Now, it takes me ten minutes.


Title: Post Office

Caption: Paying Bills

I Can (kind of) Translate Song Lyrics

My favorite Polish group is Kult, and my favorite Polish rapper is Donatan Równonoc. Kult is a rock band that formed in 1982. They are famous for the song Polska, which is about living in Poland under Communism. It was written in 1987, and was very much a protest song. My favorite part of the song is the chorus, which goes “Polska, mieszkam w Polska, mieszkam tu, tu, tu.” It means “Poland, I live in Poland, I live here, here, here!”

Donatan is really popular right now. His latest album, “Equinox: Slavic Soul,” is really cool, because it mixes traditional Polish music with hip hop. My favorite song is “Nie Lubimy Robic,” which means “We Don’t Like to Do It.” It’s about living in rural Poland.

Life in the Polish countryside is pretty tough right now. There aren’t a lot of jobs, especially for young people. This is what the song talks about, but in a funny way. There was a lot of slang I didn’t know, so I had to look up the words online.

Every day, I learn a bit more Polish, just by living here. To learn a foreign language, you have to spend some time interacting with it. My new goal is to try to talk to people more when I’m out, so I can learn some more words that are good for everyday conversation. I also want to translate more songs. There is some great music in Poland, but not very many people outside of Poland know about it.

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