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How similar is Polish to Russian?

I am considering starting Russian course. How similar is it to Polish? Of course I am aware both have different alphabets, I mean how many similar words they have in common despite the alphabet.

December 20, 2016



I am a native Polish and the Russian course was surprisingly... easy to me. Although when something is grammatically different, that's a big confusion... There are more similar things than the different ones, though.


I would say that it is similar enough to make you progress a lot faster than people who don't know either language, so go for it! Many words have the same roots and grammar is similar as well.


Level of similarity between polish and russian is similar to one between spanish and italian, If polish speaker will listen carefully he will get main meaning of russian sentences, there are many words that sounds the same in both languages but also few false friend words. And the biggest difference is that when you are learning russian vocabulary you have to remember where the stress falls in each word you learn because changing its position may change meaning of the word.


Depends on how strongly you examine it. I believe it to be very similar. In my opinion it would be easier for a Polish person to learn Russian than the other way around. For example, Russian no longer has nasal sounds, so all non-palatalized nasal sounds in Polish will convert to an "ę, ą" - "y" (u). You can't do this the otherway around.

Another example you will find is that a palatalized "t" in Polish, e.g: "ci cie cia ciu cię cią" does not morph in Russian. Likewise with the rz clusters.


  • (pl) "ciocia" - (ru - phonetic) "tiotia"/"tjotja"

  • (pl) "rzeka" - (ru --) "rieka"/"rjeka"

  • (pl) "lot" - (ru --) "liot" "ljot"

Phonetically speaking though, untrained ears from speakers of both languages will have severe difficulties deciphering speech. This is the hardest part for me. I can pickup usage differences in Polish pretty easily, but not the speech.

Russian stress is highly variable, where as in Polish it's fixed. In Russian, мука, depending on the pronunciation of stress on the y, can mean different things. It can mean either flour ("mąka"), or torture ("męka") In which I also show an example of the denasalization rule.


I can speak Russian and I understand a few words here and there, but I can't really understand it.

  • 1938

IMO polish grammar is a bit more difficult, but all the concepts are the same, so you will not meet problems there. As for words... Even if they have the same Slavic origin, in many cases it will be difficult to see the cognates.


Similar enough that a strong background in one will help you with the other in some respects. Different enough that you will need to keep an eye on the differences, deal with confusing vocabulary, etc.

Past tense is way easier in Russian. With the disclaimer that I've done almost nothing except finish the tree in Polish, I feel like the cases in Polish are a little more unpredictable. Besides the alphabet, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending how you look at it, I'd say the balance is all in favour of Russian being a little easier. Not by a country mile, but easier. I think if your Polish is solid, Russian will feel fairly kind by comparison.

The numbers are all IME very similar, and the same numbers take the same cases, as far as I remember. That is consistent across a whole bunch of Slavic languages, which is nice.

Some false friends - for example, Polish owoce and Russian овощи fairly clearly come from the same root, once upon a time, but in Polish it means fruit whereas in Russian it means vegetables 8-o but there are at least as many if not more things that will help you.

As a non-native-formerly-fluent Russian speaker, there were sentences in Polish that I understood at first glance; I imagine the same will be true the other way around, once you have got used to the alphabet. Just to pick a random one:

"Pomidory są pomiędzy mięsem i jajkami."

"Помидоры — между мясом и яйцами."

Once you have the alphabet down and accept that Russian generally omits the copula in the present tense, you can basically read that sentence with decent Polish.

Overall, the basic grammatical layout of the language is liable to feel fairly familiar, even if the details and the vocab are not.


about 40% or a little over


If it is any good to have another opinion, from another non native, I would say that knowing one will not help you automatically understand the other in any way. Slavic languages are very close, and I have read lots of stories of people only needing a couple months exposure to learn their neighbours language, but that is people who are already rock solid fluent in their own Slavic language. With my much weaker understanding, I have not experienced this effect at all, except with written stuff (which is always much much easier anyway)

Knowing one though, will make it 10 times easier to learn another. If you have already spent a lot of time on the Polish course, you'll instantly recognise many words that are almost the same, and the grammar will be much less intimidating.

It might help you to keep some notes on which words are false friends, or markedly different - or even just keep some notes for all the words, so you can also get an eye and an ear for how a true cognate changes between Polish and Russian. (I'm suggesting you do this from the start, because I have as yet been too lazy to do it myself, and am annoyed with myself as a result :/ )


I reached level 6 in russian a long time ago and stopped because i found it too difficult even without cyrillic. However i just started the polish course 2-3 weeks ago and reached level 7. I found the first 6.5 levels a breeze and now it’s suddenly getting difficult. I kept making connections in my head and not always knowing why. I think it’s because of the faint memory of russian as well as random words being related or similar to words from various other languages i’ve studied. But also some things have been confusing - false cognates with English and other languages. Like “my” makes me think “me” and “wy” makes me think “we.” “Lubie” makes me think “love ya.” (Lol) On jest reminds me of “on est” (french). Ty jesteś reminds me of “tu esti” (romanian).

I think I am going to finish the polish tree before russian even tho I feel like it should be other way around due to usefulness. But i think polish will make learning russian much easier. I feel like i am never going to learn russian if I don’t learn another slavic language first.

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