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To be honest, in very informal and slang language I've heard the word "przepraszam" replaced with some variation of the English "sorry". From actual "sorry" (but pronounced as if it were a Polish word "sory"), to "sorki", and even simpler "sry". You should only do that with your friends and if it's not anything serious, otherwise it would sound like you don't really mean it.
In which context would one use "Przepraszam"?
1) When one is trying to walk past someone
2) When one accidentally bumps into someone and would like to apologise
3) When one is trying to grab someone's attention (eg. a waiter, attendant etc)
4) When one is apologising and asking for forgiveness
I second this question-- the 'rz' digraph makes me think the p is silent and it begins with a soft j sound as given here: http://mowicpopolsku.com/polish-alphabet-pronunciation/. but forvo makes it sound like 'sh'? http://forvo.com/word/przepraszam/#pl
I don't think there even are any silent letters written in Polish - I've always found those confusing in English and French. P is not voiced, so it makes rz to not be voiced, and not voiced equivalent of rz is sz - exactly the sh sound. So yep, you are hearing that well :). The prz combination is rather common in Polish, BTW.
One could say that in standard Polish the letter "c" in the "ch" digraph is silent, but etymologically speaking this would be a simplification. Some dialects, especially in the east, still differentiate "h" and "ch" in pronunciation (akin to Ukrainian г and х or just like in Czech) and it is "h" that merged into "ch" rather than the other way.
As far as I can tell, "p" is not voiced in general, because I have yet to see a language which has it pronounced in a way that would be loud and make one's vocal chords vibrate (touch to one's throat when saying stuff makes one feel the difference between voiced and not voiced. But I'm not a linguist either, I quote a special ed sort of definition.)
Polish "przepraszam" can mean "Excuse me", "I am sorry" or "Pardon" depends on context. http://en.pons.com/translate/polish-english/przepraszam
Cyrillic and Latin are both alphabets. On itself, neither gives inherent advantage over the other in terms of pronunciation. Many supposed shortcomings of the current orthography over the Cyrillic could be simply solved by modifying the current alphabet rather that full out conversion (and even then actual Poles don't consider those a problem enough to warrant such change).
So what would the pros and cons of conversion would be?
+Increased written comprehension between Polish and East Slavic languages (and to some extent with South Slavic as well) in two ways. Poles have probably more to gain here than other Slavs, since probably more people would learn Latin script anyway for another language (Cyrillic is less popular, but I've heard about people, me included, who learn it just to make it possible to sound out Cyrillic words for limited comprehension).
+The increase in popularity for Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian in Poland. The new script is only a slight barrier to entry, but for some potential learners it might look taller than it really is.
-The conversion costs would be gigantic. From roadsigns, to documents, to books… everything now had to be rewritten.
-For a long time there would be a case of biscriptism in written material. People would need to be proficient in both old and new script to live comfortably.
-Over time the older texts would become harder to read, as the old Latin orthography would come into misuse (and people would know Latin letters only from their experience with other languages, like English). Modern technology, digital ones included, allows for texts to survive for even longer than before. If we could do the conversion in the past, now it's pretty much a bit too late (and it will worsen over time).
-Many places only "accepts" Latin scripts (like names on sports teams' shirts). This would require us to perform the full romanization. Currently we can use the original spelling for names in such places (worst case scenario, it only undergoes a simple ASCIIfication).
-I simply don't see the social support for such change. We have to admit it, Poland and Russia has been political rivals for centuries. And while I know examples of friendships between people of those nations and don't find them surprising at all, this is not something the general population would accept. As Jellei alluded to, even 123 years of being a part of tsar Russia could not make us convert (I've heard of such ideas, but never fulfilled). The communists after WW2 probably didn't even try (especially since at that time we were just after the orthographic reform of 1936 which finally established the spelling we pretty much use today).
-We would have a harder time with font support. How many of the fancier looking ones remember to include Old Church Slavonic letters (which we would need at least two of, four if we include iotified variants)? Getting a couple of extra letters from one of the Latin extended blocks included in the font is probably easier than a few Cyrillic letters only we would use today. Similar issue with incompatible encoding (not common today, but something not entirely nonexistent); at worst we lose some letters here and there and you might be able to relatively easily reconstruct the original. If written in Cyrillic, it would be completely lost unless you are an expert with a lot of time or have a deciphering program.
-The argument about similar languages using Cyrillic is a little… strange. The entire West Slavic branch uses the Latin script, so unless you proposed a group change, then we would have even closer languages suddenly using another script.
-Let's admit it, English is the world's language. While you've just removed a barrier between Polish and East Slavics, you've just created one for English.
-Programming use English commands. Switching the script to Cyrillic would create additional hassle for anybody who ever needs to do some programming or use markup language. Web addresses also are written mostly in Latin script (even in Cyrillic-writing countries (it's in fact technically possible in some top level domains, just almost nobody does it)).
You're right! And not only that, many countries have switched to Latin alphabets and have thrown formerly Cyrillic alphabets into disuse.
Romania (very long ago), and Moldova, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan after Soviet times, and Bosnia/Herzegovina and Croatia after Yugoslavian times. And Belarus developed a precise Latin version of their Cyrillic alphabet (similar to Polish) for ease of exterior use.
I hope others took my comment as the joke it was intended. I am not a linguist so I merely made what I thought was an obviously humorous rhetorical comment/question for those who struggle learning Polish like I am. I come from a Russian background so for me it is a lot easier to read text in Cyrillic, where pronunciation is usually straight forward. I am able to guess the meanings of many Polish words with my Russian (and tiny bit of Ukrainian) knowledge yet figuring out the pronunciation is a whole other matter.
Thanks for all the comments. Some of you really went back in history with your responses. : ))
Because of the religion. Back in time, there were two christian rites in Europe: Western (Roman) and Eastern (Greek). Depending on which rite the country chose to be baptized in, there was also writing system in the package: for the Western rite it was Latin alphabet and for the Eastern rite it was Cyrillic. Since Poland was baptized in Western rite, here you have your answer why do we use Latin alphabet. :)
Rarely, you say "pardon" in Polish, that sounds rather formal. Generally both those are "przepraszam".
In informal Polish, English 'sorry' entered the language and we commonly say something that sounds more like "sory", it can also be changed to "sorki". But that's not something that would be accepted in a language course ;)