Russian vs Polish
Ok, so I'm well aware that difficulty is very relative when it comes to languages but I'll try to narrow this down a bit.
Which language is more difficult for a native English speaker, from a grammatical standpoint, who has no experience with Slavic languages yet can read Cyrillic? Polish or Russian?
In Polish you have to learn "alternative latin" anyway. Knowing "common latin" won't help to read sometinhg like "Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz"
I find Polish considerably harder. Although both languages have complex case systems, I find that in Russian, there are fewer cases that require a modification of the words. I also find that Russian has more borrowed English words than Polish, which makes the vocabulary a bit easier to master. (English words adapted to Russian are also a great way of learning Cyrillic faster)
I really enjoy both languages though, and one thing is for certain: knowing a bit of one makes it much easier to learn the other.
Polish also retains forms (for instance the months) that are unrelated to common Latin- or Greek-based words that almost all other languages have adopted. I think it is one of the only languages that has not adopted tea/chai, as another example. I know of no other language that calls tea something along the lines of "herbata".
Yeah, I'd like to see them, too. I remember I once read about 20 forms of "two". :) When I looked at them I realised that these effectively included a few words like "couple", which are close but different words. Admittedly, I do not speak Polish but if you know Russian the words are recognisable if you read them carefully (effectively, dwa suddenly switches to dwoje and dwojka at a certain point).
If you look at English words, you could include second, twosome, twofold, twice, couple, pair, double, binary, doublet, and duo as the forms of "two".
At least, as long as the person you are trying to shock does not know much English ;)
"At least, as long as the person you are trying to shock does not know much English ;)" Polish numerals don't work like you think :)
In Polish is 11 forms (numerals, nouns, pronouns) that works like numerals (they give you the number for countable nouns or quantity for uncountable nouns). But only 9 "works" with "2":
1) cardinal numerals (dwa = two)
2) collective numerals (dwoje = two)
3) fractional numerals (jedna druga = 1/2, trzy drugie = 3/2)
4) collective denumerative substantives 1)+2) (dwójka = two; para = pair, couple, dyad, twain, duo - this words don't works for 3 (trójka), 5 (piątka) or 10 (dziesiątka), of course we can say in Polish: duet (2), tercet (3), kwintet (5), nonet (9) but we don't have word for 10 and more)
5) ordinal numbers (drugi = second)
6) iterative numerals (dwukrotny)
7) multiplicative numerals (podwójny)
8) multiple numerals (dwojaki)
9) adverbial numerals from:
a) from 1 (po dwa = two ... each)
b) from 2 (na dwoje = for two)
c) from 3 (po dwie piąte = two fifths)
d) from 4 (we dwójkę = the two of us)
e) from 5 (po drugie/po wtóre = secondly; po raz drugi = a second time)
f) from 6 (dwukrotnie/dwakroć/dwa razy = twice)
g) from 7 (podwójnie = twofold)
h) from 8 (dwojako = doubly)
1)-3) it changes like numerals (there are 4 types)
4) it changes like nouns
5)-7) it changes like adjectives
9) it works like adverbs, so it doesn't change (exc. a - like numerals)
So forms of "two" or "second" don't count words like "couple, second, twosome, twofold, twice, couple, pair, double, binary, doublet, or duo" :) - because they aren't words with the same value and just describing different nouns
We can count every form of "two" ("dwa, dwoje, dwójka") for each case (54+1) http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#90105/dwa http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#6287/dw%C3%B3jka or just words (19+1): dwa, dwóch, dwu, dwóm, dwom, dwoma, dwa, dwie, dwiema, dwoje, dwojga, dwojgu, dwojgiem, dwu+, dwójka, dwójki, dwójce, dwójkę, dwójką, dwójko ["dwójki: dwójek, dwójkom, dwójkami, dwójkach" means "in twos" so I didn't count it because they don't connect with nouns]
We can count every form of "second" ("drugi") for each case (63+1) ( if you count older word "wtóry", it's x2) http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#104784/drugi http://sgjp.pl/leksemy/#154343/wt%C3%B3ry or just words ((11+1)x2): drugi, drugiego, drugiemu, drugim, drugie, druga, drugiej, drugą, drudzy, drugich, drugimi, drugo+
Number of numeral's forms in Polish isn't the biggest difficulty, but when and why you can use this form and not the other.
Oh, and if we compare Polish to Russian, in Russian you have: a) 37 forms of "two" - 'два́' and 15 words: два́, две́, дву́х, дву́м, двумя́, дво́е, двои́х, двои́м, двои́ми, дво́йка, дво́йки, дво́йке, дво́йку, дво́йкой, дво́йкою, https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B4%D0%B2%D0%B0 https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B4%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B5 https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B4%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%B9%D0%BA%D0%B0 b) 37 forms of "second" - 'второ́й' [but I don't know if this is official division] (if you count 'друго́й' x2) and 12 words: второ́й, второ́го, второ́му, вторы́м, второ́м, второ́е, втора́я, втору́ю, второ́ю, вторы́е, вторы́х, вторы́ми https://pl.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B2%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BE%D0%B9 https://ru.wiktionary.org/wiki/%D0%B4%D1%80%D1%83%D0%B3%D0%BE%D0%B9
BTW, only "2" is this complex; from 5 is a lot easier: Russian - 25/13, Polish - 29/ 13+1 (only because we have vocative) - so it's the same structure
+1 (dwu+) - means that when number = 10^3, 10^6, 10^9 etc. you need use this form, eg. 2000 = dwutysięczny rok 2001 = dwa tysiące pierwszy rok
Wow! Your elaboration is immensly impressive! I appreciate your effort, really. There’s one doubt I have: when would you use „dwom”? I’m trying to think of a use case and I’m almost certain it doesn’t exist...
BTW, since you mentioned the slightly outdated form „wtóry” - there is this beautiful archaic form „samowtór” (=me+another person together) but I would be surprised if anyone understood its meaning nowadays ;)... it’s just a snobbish joke I suppose.
Polish, Russian and Czech are considered a Category 3 language for a native English speaker. Chinese Mandarin is a category 4 which is considered the hardest. Interestingly Farsi and Arabic are level 3 with German a Category 2 and French, Italian and Spanish a Category 1 (the easiest) category.
I studied Polish first then Czech. I found Czech much easier than Polish. Polish has exceptions to the exceptions for rules! Czech is far more regular with noun declension. I have friends who learned both Polish and Russian and they all say Polish is harder.
Actually, Russian and Polish are from quite different branches of slavic languages. Many similarities you'll discover will confuse you rather then help. The language pair is full of 'false translator friends'.
For example: czas~час = time~hour, dosadny~досадный = expressive~annoying. And most famous: uroda~урод = beauty~ugly.
Even within the same branches there are always plenty of false friends. Polish is very similar to Czech and Slovak yet there are numerous misleading or even opposite meanings, the famous false friend being the Polish verb "szukać" (to search) that in Czech means "to shag", not to be too vulgar.
Yeah :), try „śliwki” (=plums) in Polish vs „slivki” (=cream / śmietana) in Russian. Also „łyzhe” in Russian (=skis / narty) in Polish, with „łyżwy” in Polish meaning „kan’ki” in Russian AND „koniki” in Polish = little (diminutive) horses...
It’s crazy for a Polish person because (I suppose) we benefit from the initial easiness of grasping both Russian and Czech intuitively and then at a more advanced level the same intuitiion leads us very much astray ;)!
You know that there is ~6000 languages on our planet? You know that there are languages that need a whistling, or are tonal, or have very complicated alphabet or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btn0-Vce5ug
Be happy that you use Latin script and don't need learn it to write comments on Internet :) and stop complaining :)
Polish grammar is not easy, but reading? - it always the same (of course I omits phonetics: combinations of sounds gave new sounds - but every slavic language has it) . Stress in Russian is really not easy (you don't only must learn where is the accent in Nominative but in the every case). And how do you think you can learn this accent? Probably only listening to this language because in books, comment on Internet it isn't placed. But because of this they have very melodic language :)
The Cyrillic alphabet, you can pick up in a day (if you don't count cursive, which can be confusing the way it is written). It will take even less time if you know the Greek alphabet, with which it shares many characters, and I believe 7 letters are the same between Roman and Cyrillic alphabets?
Some people think that the alphabet makes it hard. It's not learning thousands of letters in Chinese.
I would say, having learned both, that Polish is definitely harder, pretending both languages were written in the same alphabet.
With the exception of shortened adjective forms, almost every aspect of Polish retains more forms, more exceptions, consonant changes, an extra case, extra endings in the past tense, retention of "to be" in the present (although I like this one, and think Russian sounds silly, like slang saying things like "I Ira" for "I am Ira".
The locative case in Polish is particularly challenging. Russian is regular here and has very few consonant shifts like Polish does. Russian does not have nasal vowels, or vowel shifts in myriad forms like Polish does, either.
The sole other case where Russian may be harder is that - like in English and most other languages - accent is variable, whereas in Polish it is fixed upon the penultimate syllable except the past plural tense and a few other exceptions. But, as an English speaker, you are used to this.
I hate to say it, but with far more speakers, Russia is more versatile, as well. Only advantage to Polish is that if you learn it and go there, it's a - mostly - free, democratic country with free elections. Critics of the Polish government may occasionally be charged under archane laws, but they don't "throw themselves out of windows" or "poison themselves" with nuclear isotopes.