Some pronunciation difficulties.
I'm having a bit of a difficult time picking up on some pronunciation differences.
"Stare" and "stary"
"Koń" and "Konie"
Also, I'm a little confused with "ę". I've heard that it's pronounced as "uh" unless it's in the middle of a word, at which point it's "en" like "mięso". However, I don't hear the "en" when she says "mężczyzna". And to confuse me more, my father's fiancé, who is Polish, says she pronounces "ę" as "ew" regardless of where it comes in the word.
Polish pronunciation can be difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it's not so bad since it always follows its rules. Is English your native language? I will try and explain the sounds as best I can in relation to English sounds.
Stare vs stary: Think of the "y" sound as being like the short "i" in English (as in "win," "sit," "smith," etc.) The "e" sound in Polish is a bit like a long "a" in English (as in "day") except that, when you say a long "a" slowly in English, you will notice the vowel sound glieds into an "ee" sound at the end. The "e" in Polish is a more "pure" vowel sound, with no gliding, a sound that we do not use in English. Try saying "day" but stopping before you let the "a" slide into an "ee" sound.
Koń vs konie: The trick here is to learn to pronounce the "ń" sound without adding a vowel sound after it. Again, this a sound that does not exist in English, but with practice, you will learn to hear the difference and to pronounce it yourself. So "koń" is only one-syllable, and "konie" has an additional vowel sound "e" at the end.
Regarding ę: As far as I can tell, there are some regional differences in the pronunciation of this character. I too have a Polish friend who always pronounces it as "ew" as you wrote, even at the end of a word (this is not like English "ew," but rather, you can think of a vowel that glides from an English short "e" as in "bed" into an "oo" as in "too" sound, but a little more nasal). But I think it is more common to hear it the way it is taught on Duolingo, which is like a normal Polish "e" at the end of a word, and nasalized (sort of like "en") in the middle of a word. To learn to produce this sound, try saying an English word with an "en" (like "ten" or "bend"), and then practice keeping the vowel sound exactly as it sounds when the "n" is present, without actually touching your tongue to the roof of your mouth to produce an "n" sound.
very good explanation. i would like to add that certain skills can only be developed after some while - sometimes it is easier to listen & re-try than reading an explanation (think of the guttural sounds of arabic)
as a polish native speaker my advice is the following: try to work with teach yourself, pimsleur or assimil. these language courses are great to get your ears used to new sounds :)
Thanks for the detailed explanations :) I guess I'll become more accustomed to it. As my native language, I've been speaking English for the best part of 25 years, and Polish for about 25 days lol. And I'll give those courses a look too.