Haha, true, in spoken language the only difference is between o/u, so if in German "kochen" means to cook (i don’t know how it is in Afrikaans, but I assume it may be simmilar) it may be tricky.
'To cook' in Afrikaans is 'om te kook'; and a 'cook' is 'kok.
The cook is cooking - Die kok kook.
And in German... Die Koch kocht?
In Polish it seems comparatively worse to mix those specific sounds up because of the distinct difference in parts of speech as well as the meaning.
I guess it is so in German.
Anyway I think in Polish there are bigger "distances" between vowels, there's no ö, œ, ü, æ, and so on. Additionally, in the case of kucharz/kochasz the u/o is accented so it should be easier to hear the difference. But I understand it may be tricky (and it intrigued me a lot).
Also kucharz is a noun, and kochasz is an inflected verb, so if you understand the context the word is used in, you couldn't really mix them up. "Kochasz liczy łyżki" wouldn't make sense, and I can't think of a sentence where you could exchange these words and it remain grammatical.
Does 'liczę' mean 'count' both as in 'rely upon' and in the numerical sense? Is it just like English in this way?
Yes, but just as English needs "count on", Polish needs "liczyć na" (+ Accusative). "Liczę na ciebie" = "I'm counting on you".