I am soon to embark on what I hope will be my last, or przed-last string of formal Polish language lessons. As a part of the assessment process they connected my brain to a series of electrodes that measured how much Polish I already have. The results are shown below. Top left corner is the easy stuff (like yes, no & beer) and then it runs in thin lines left-right all the way down the square until the bottom right corner is giving Mickiewicz a run for his money. White colour = no knowledge, black = fluent.
As you can see, many years of uncontrolled exposure to the language has turned me into a bit of a challenge for the language school! They were rather hoping it would look more like this;
..so then they could just defragment my brain and get out the “intermediate” text book.
The biggest problem and not an unusual one, is the yawning gap between my understanding of Polish and my ability to speak it, without my head exploding. Understanding does not require me to know all the grammar, nor for me to know all those gluey bits that string a sentence together because I just assume the speaker knows their own language. So, as long as I can understand most of the words and am familiar with how many of them can be twisted around I pretty much know what’s going on. Of course there are are also gaps in my vocabulary and when I meet those, I’m stuck.
Part of the test was to look through a newspaper article and see how much I understood. This was Gazeta Wyborcza, business news. I was surprised how few words I had to circle as being either completely unknown or known but forgotten (or in a case I didn’t recognise), but they were in most cases quite important ones! Things like verbs and stuff, so whilst I had got the hang of the article, I wouldn’t be able to explain it in any detail or certainty to anyone else.
We shall see how it goes, I’m not the best student in the world but I’m prepared to make one last push! Not cheap though, is it! I’m kicking off with 15 hours that will cost me about 350 quid, 1600 PLN. No idea if that’s normal price or not, for a recognized school.
In the meantime I continue my quest to use more Polish in everyday life. Today, I did this:
“Czy moge się obciąć teraz?”
Strictly translated this is “Question, may I cut myself now?” in fact what I was asking is “Would it be possible for me to get a haircut now?”. Apparently, none of the words I already have associated with hairdressing, which are all something around fryzier, fryzury….etc need to be used to ask for a haircut. Because you are standing in a hairdressing salon, asking if you can cut yourself, is good enough to get the message across!
The conversation then went on (in Polish) – “Yes, sure take seat”, “Oh dear, that’s a big queue, will it be better later?, “I don’t know, we don’t make appointments here”, “Okay, I’ll try later”, without too much of a hitch.
Standard practice up until today was something like “Czy moge…………teraz?” where the ……. is me making scissor-like actions with my fingers in the general direction of my hair! So we are finally making headway in the haircut department. :)
Mind you, there are advantages in not being able to talk too much when having a haircut. You don’t have to indulge in all that bitchy chatter that hairdressers like to heap upon you! They assume you don’t know your pupa from your elbow and just get on with the job in silence.