Retaining Polish, translating and having a conversation.


Something i would like to talk about today is retaining polish, as in remembering it and translating it, in my head.

Firstly, i have only been learning polish now for about a month or two, so I have a lot to learn. However, a problem i find with learning this language on Duolingo is retaining what i have learnt.

When i read it, or hear it when i am out in public, i understand it, but if i am trying to form a sentence in front of someone, i seem to forget.

Another thing is translations.

When you listen to someone in your native language and they are talking to you, you understand what they are saying instantly and i feel that should be the case with any other language that you learn, or am i wrong?

my questions are:

  • How can i retain what i have learnt better? I.E. Writing out sentences, speaking in polish, learning on Duolingo better. etc.

  • How much do i have to learn before i can have a conversation in polish?

  • and will i ever be able to understand polish in the same way that i understand my own language. almost instant translation or will it always be slightly slower in my head?

Dziękuję i miłego Dnia! - Helen.

January 3, 2019


It's going to take a long time to get to the level of fluency where you can understand someone without having to mentally translate. I grew up with the language around me, and spoke it with my grandparents, and even now I wouldn't say that I'm fluent and I still do some mental translating into English before I can come up with a reply.

Having formal classes helps a lot. Or even just working through a textbook on your own. (I recommend First Year Polish by Oscar Swan.) I find that Duolingo is great for reinforcing things that I have learned, but not so good as a primary way of learning the language and knowing which endings to use and why.

You will get there with consistent practice, it is just a slow and steady process. I like to write down all of the unfamiliar vocabulary I come across in the exercises and periodically quiz myself. Also, try reading and writing out translations of stories. That helped me immensely. Here is a good resource:

January 4, 2019

i would love to have formal classes but i do not have anywhere that teaches polish near me that i know of

January 4, 2019

If your from the UK, Polish is ridiculously useful considering how many Polish people live there. Romanian is useful as well.

January 6, 2019

This is very true and is one of the reasons i am learning, along with it being an amazingly interesting language :) plus i would like to one day go to 'Polska' as it is beautiful and has some amazing history and architecture

January 7, 2019

Thank you very much! I will definitely do this. Another thing i have started doing is teaching myself in a similar way that my teachers did with french but in my own time and format. Do you think this is a good idea?

January 4, 2019

Hey I am native Polish and what i can you advice in this situation, KOCHAJ ŻYCIE A SIEBIE SZANUJ love life and respect yourself........ in my opinion Duolingo is only basic source to learn Polish language you have to search in different place listen for example polish song i reccomend you "Nie wiem jak" Łukasz Łyczkowski please watch this movie and song and search translation. I like use English in live and i often make mistakes but most important is that people around me understand what i want to expression......... Dobrego nowego roku, ucz się tego co sprawia Tobie radość nie zaczynaj od takich zdań. Stół z powyłamywanymi nogamiiiii. Jakby co to pisz and fight with you weaknesssssssssssss life is tooooooo short to cryyyyyy please show me youuuuuuuu smileeeeeeee

January 3, 2019

Dziękuję. i will definitely try. Miłego dnia.

January 3, 2019

personally, i've found that despite my very basic level of spanish, i can speak decently (of course on very basic subjects) because i've been writing in spanish a lot. i suggest trying to write in polish as much as you can. don't be afraid to make mistakes and look things up if you need to. :) as for the translation thing, i'd suggest trying to associate words with an image rather than a word, if that makes sense. that's how english and polish work in my head, so i try to apply that to learning a new language. try making yourself think of an archetypal cat when you hear "kot", rather than thinking of the english (or whatever your first language might be) word "cat". that way you may be able to understand the words immediately or decently quickly, and piece together the general sense of the sentence by quickly analyzing the grammatical structure etc. as far as retaining goes i just try to write on or speak (at least in my head) on a random topic that came up today or yesterday and i see how much i can say, regardless of complexity. and with whatever speaking/writing exercises, sometimes i avoid saying my opinion, but i try to make up something, usually something ridiculous, so that i can stretch my linguistic muscles! hopefully some of that is helpful. powodzenia :)

January 4, 2019

Dziękuję, i will definitely try to do all of that! Miłego Dnia i Powodzenia!

January 5, 2019

Hey, hey! Why not to try watching some good YT content in polish (that is nowadays far easier to find with english subtitles as it used to be few years ago)? :) What are you mostly interested in? I could recommend you some good quality content :) The main advantage of the language used in the videos is that the youtubers try to be understood and use normal, casual language but at the same time they try to speak nicely and without mistakes.

January 5, 2019

I am interesting in a lot! It depends on what you mean? i would love that @szarl thank you!

January 5, 2019

I personally recommend the channel "mowiąc inaczej". Paulina has a flawless articulation and she doesn't speak too fast, so it's easy to understand her. Also, by watching it, you might learn some interesting facts about the Polish language.

January 5, 2019


January 5, 2019

Here are YT-Channels that I value a lot and that I know they have some videos (at least some of them) with english subtitles:

  • BezPlanu - an interesting vlog about living and travelling in interesting countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia.

  • Krzysztof Gonciarz - the guy is a polish most famous lifestyle daily vlogger. The vlog is about travels, running own company, photography and film but also bunch of other things - about Japan among them. He became even more popular short after he migrated to Japan.

  • GF Darwin - good quality funny videos. Satire but not only.

  • Langusta na palmie - a Dominican friar lifestyle vlog. For young people mainly. I watch it sometimes although I am not a catholic myself.

You can also find:

  • Polimaty - a popular science, history, psychology and other curiosities video channel. Not sure if there are english subtitles but at least there are polish. And the presenter, Radek, speaks slowly and accurately.

  • Astronarium - it's a polish popular science TV series about space and astronomy.

  • Kasia Gandor - something between lifestyle and popular science vlog. Led by a student of biotechnology. She also shares her thoughts of other things than science. I didn't find english subtitles, but there are polish for sure.

As I said I don't know what you are actually interested in so I just shared the channels I like. As you can guess I cannot watch all the Internet even if I wanted to. If you have any particular topic in mind just to keep having contact with the language but not torturing yourself with this I-have-to-learn-now thing let us know ;)

January 5, 2019

If you mentioned about BezPlanu, I will also recommend his friend's fresh channel - Roman FanPolszy. It's about Transnissian guy who learnt Polish from a scratch (radio, YT, etc.) and now he is making YT channel in Polish language (mostly).

His Polish is pretty good, but still with Russian leftover inflections.

January 6, 2019

Definitely will, photography and Psychology are very interesting to me. As well as music :)

January 5, 2019

Tomasz Kammel - a popular polish TV presenter now having his own vlog. Lifestyle, communication skills, bit of psychology. Unfortunately without subtitles.

Przeciętny Człowiek - very useful advices how to manage your life, communication skills, relationships. Again - without subtitles...

Enjoy! :)

January 5, 2019

Cześć :) If you stikk to Duolingo (which I´m addicted to :) and do the lessons and never jump on any and even the strengthening ones as well. Write down the sentences and words you learn and repeat the words you know are difficult to remember.

Learn the grammar gradually. Make new sentences but be careful and not improvise in the beginning. Just make sure you making them 100 percent right to begin with. After a while you will see that you have enough materials and confidence to learn and take lessons else where.

miłego dnia :)

January 7, 2019

Dzięki Bardzo. I am trying to do that more recently. In a similar format to what my teachers used to teach french in. In segments and whenever i learn it. The good thing is that i am also going through it all again, so its a recap and a little test of what i remember. Miłego dnia, i Powodzenia with your language learning :)

January 7, 2019

Oh update: I’m totally obsessed as well

January 16, 2019

I'd say watching Youtube is a great way of getting used to the real language but also, when you'll have a decent amount of basic vocabulary, try thinking in Polish. Tell yourself short, simple stories, either out loud or in your mind. That's what I do with languages I can't practice in real world and I think it's a great way of using a language in a little more active way than writing when you can't have an actual conversation.

Also, it'll take time, but when you have enough vocab and are used to the language enough (and can freely think in it, even if the grammar's butchered), the "mental translation" thing disappears :)


January 15, 2019

Dziękuje. I definitely will. At the moment it’s more having random Polish words pop into my head instead. There’s a polish and English Club I’m running if you’d like to join?

Miłego Dnia

January 16, 2019

I'm assuming it's an app club, right? Sorry, I use only web version of Duo.

Miłego dnia! :)

January 16, 2019

Ah okay, I wondered why I couldn’t get it up on the web. Powodzenia with your learning!

January 16, 2019
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