Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mixing It Up In Polish (Big Time)

I had previously posted this in three parts, but recently decided to consolidate it into one post and add some more words to it, as well as alphabetize the list by the first entry.  I did that because I was having a hard time figuring out whether I had already included words, so alphabetizing them and having them in one list will make it easier to determine whether I have already considered any given words.  From now on I will just add words to this post when I have identified more easily confused words.

When you are learning Polish, there are a whole lot of words that can be easily confused with each other.  For an English speaker, this is compounded because all the words are tongue twisters anyway.  You have no idea how many times I repeated the words "coś zjeść" (something to eat) over and over again before I could finally say them somewhat reliably.

Plus, when you learn new words that are similar to other words you knew, it can suddenly create a minefield of confusion.

Here are some words that I have gotten mixed up about at one time or another:

bezbronny – defenseless, unprotected
nieuchronny – inevitable

chwała – glory
chwila – moment, while

czeluść – abyss, depths
czułość – sensitivity, tenderness, sentimentality

cześć – reverence, worship (also used as "hello" or "goodbye" informally)
część – portion, part, section, piece
sześć – six

dokonany – accomplished, executed
pokonany – defeated

dowód – evidence, proof
powód – reason, cause, ground, motive

flet – flute
flota – fleet

gałka -- knob, ball (like an eyeball), scoop (as in ice cream)
pałka -- club (cudgel)

grzywka – fringe (hair)
grzywna – fine
grzywa  mane

kaczka – duck
paczka – package
taczka – wheelbarrow
teczka  briefcase, folder

komar  mosquito, gnat
konar  bough, branch

koparka  excavator
kopiarka  photocopier

kosa – scythe
koza – goat

kotlina – basin, hollow
kotwica – anchor

lawina – avalanche
macica – womb

leżak – deckchair
lizak – lollipop

lina – rope, cable, line
linia – line, route

łaska – favor, grace, mercy, generosity
łuska – (fish) scale, husk, (ammunition) shell

mąka – flour (I picture myself going into a sklep spożywczy [grocery store] and asking for a kilo of wheat torture, please)
męka – torture, torment

nadludzki – superhuman
przeludnienie – overpopulation

nadmiernie  excessively
niezmiernie  extremely, immensely, very

nawias – bracket, parenthesis
zawias – hinge

niezniszczalny – indestructible
znieczulenie – anesthesia

oparty – based, grounded, founded
uparty – stubborn, obstinate

opór – opposition, resistance
upór – obstinacy, stubbornness, determination

odprawa  briefing, clearance, gratuity, rebuff
oprawa  frame, rim, cover, binding (book)

pochodzenie  origin, descent
pogodzenie  reconciliation, resignation

początkowy – initial, preliminary, elementary
porządkowy – serial, ordinal

podeszwa  sole
poszewka  pillowcase

pokrywka  lid, cover
pokrzywa  stinging nettle

poprawienie – improvement, correction, revision
uprawnienie – entitlement, right, authorization

poszewka – pillowcase
soczewka – lens

potwierdzenie  confirmation, corroboration
stwierdzenie – statement, assertion

poważanie – respect, esteem, deference
poważnie – seriously, gravely, with dignity

powtórnie – once again, one more time
powtórzenie – repetition

pozbawiony – deprived
rozbawiony – amused

pozór – pretense, appearance
pożar – blaze, conflagration

przyczyna – cause, reason
przyzwoity – decent, proper

przygoda – adventure
przyroda – nature

ręcznik – towel
rzecznik – spokesman
rzeźnik - butcher

szczepionka  vaccine
szczypiorek  chive

skazany – condemned, doomed
wskazany – advisable

spinacz – paper clip
szpinak – spinach
wspinacz – climber

sporny  controversial, debatable
spójny  coherent

stały – solid, constant, permanent, direct (current)
trwały – permanent, durable, enduring, lasting (probably both these words mean pretty much the same thing except for maybe the “direct current” [prąd stały] connotation; I've seen both “stały związek” and “trwały związek” for “steady relationship”)

ścierka – dishcloth
ścieżka – path

świt – dawn, daybreak
świta – suite, retinue, entourage

trujący – poisonous, toxic
trwający – lasting

uderzenie – blow, stroke, hit
zdarzenie – event, occurrence
zderzenie – collision, crash

uległy – submissive, docile, compliant
upadły – bankrupt, fallen

ułożony – arranged, well-mannered
złożony – complex, composite, compound

uwieńczony – crowned, adorned with wreaths
uwięziony – trapped, stuck, imprisoned

wadliwy – defective, faulty
wątpliwy – questionable, doubtful

wezwanie  call, summons
wyznanie  confession, admission, religion
wyzwanie  challenge
zerwanie  rupture
zeznanie  testimony

władanie – reign, possession
włamanie – burglary

właśnie – just, exactly
własny – (someone's) own

wpływ – influence, impact
wstyd – shame, disgrace

wygląd – appearance, looks
wzgląd – regard, consideration, respect

wykaz – list, statement
wyraz – expression, word

zabarwienie  tinge, tint
zbawienie  rescue, deliverance, salvation, redemption

zabieg – procedure, treatment, operation
zasięg – range, reach

zbocze  slope
zboże  corn, cereal, grain

Other potentially confusing items:

Phrases with "północ" can be confusing because the word can either mean "north" or "midnight":

na północy – in the north
na północ – to the north
z północy – from the north

o północy – at midnight

"Południe" can mean either "south" or "noon" as well:

na południe – to the south
na południu – in the south
z południa – from the south

po południu – in the afternoon
w południe – at midday

There are also a whole bunch of words that have to do with thinking and/or mental processes that either contain "-myśl" or "-mysł" (where the accented mark switches between the "s" and the "l".  There are just so many that it makes my head swim.

Also I have mixed up a lot of words that start with "przy"- and "prze-".

I'd be interested in hearing what words you have gotten mixed up with other words in any languages you were studying.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cutting Edge: Ciąć

The root "-ciąć" means "to cut."  There are several variations of this word, and most of them have pretty close-knit meanings; that is, the meanings of the derivative words don't seem to wander much from the main root, unlike with other Polish verbs.  The main distinguishing feature of this group of words seems to be the irregular present-tense conjugation:


This conjugation seems to follow all the "ciąć" words through the different variations with different prefixes.  On occasion, one might stumble upon the slangy imaginary infinitive "tnąć," which is an incorrect form of "ciąć" reverse engineered and bastardized from the irregular conjugation, though there does exist a participle "tnąc" (with no accent mark on the final consonant).

The words that end in the variation "-cinać" have a more regular "-am -asz" conjugation, for example:


The main word related to this root is:

ciąć, pociąć - to cut, to cut through, to clip, to chop, to hack

ciąć na kawałki - to cut into pieces
ciać na plastry - to cut into slices, to slice
ciać na kostkę - to cut into cubes, to dice
ciąć się o coś - to fight over something

docinać, dociąć - to cut (all the way) through, to cut extra, to cut to fit; to taunt

docinek - taunt (noun)

nacinać, naciąć - to cut down

nadcinać, nadciąć - to nick, to score

nadcięcie - (surgical) incision; nick, notch (noun)

obcinać, obciąć - to cut, to clip

obcinać włosy - to have one's hair cut
obcinać paznokcie - to cut one's nails

odcinać, odciąć - to cut off, to chop off, to cut away

pociąć - to cut up, to chop, to shred; to incise

podcinać, podciąć - to trim, to prune, to clip

podcinać komuś nogi - to trip somebody (up)
podcinać/podciąć sobie żyły - to slit one's wrists
podciąć skrzydła - to take the wind out of somebody’s sails

przecinać, przeciąć - to cut, to slice; to cut short, to interrupt

przeciąć sobie palec - to cut one's finger
przeciąć wstęgę - to cut a ribbon
przeciąc zakład - to close a bet
przecinać na pół - to cut in half
przecinać ciszę - to break silence
przecinać kłótnie - to interrupt an argument

przecinek - comma (noun)

przycinać, przyciąć - to trim, to crop; to catch

przycinać na wymiar - to trim down to size
przycinać drzewa/krzewy - to prune trees/bushes
przyciąć sobie język - to bite one's tongue

przycinanie - pruning (noun)

rozcinać, rozciąć - to cut, to cleave, to sever

rozcięcie - dissection, slit; vent (noun)

ścinać, ściąć - to cut off, to fell (tree); to smash (ball in sports); to coagulate

ścinać zakręty - to cut corners
ściąć żniwa - to cut down the harvest
ściąć się - to flunk

ucinać, uciąć - to break off, to cut short; to have, to do

ucinać/uciąć sobie drzemkę - to take a nap

wcinać, wciąć - to cut into

wcięcie - indenture, notch (noun)

wycinać, wyciąć - to cut out

zacinać, zaciąć - to cut; to whip, to lash; to clench, to set; to jam

zacinać się, zaciać się - to cut oneself; to be stuck; to persist; to stammer
Coś się zacięło - Something got stuck

Friday, November 15, 2013

Cursing In Polish

Probably some of the most important words you can learn in any language (after you learn where you can run off to when you are doing the pee dance, and where you can get something to eat that is not currently squirming) are swear words.  Expressing frustration, anger, ridicule and disgust are important parts of creating shades of meaning, and Polish seems to be especially expressive in this regard, next to maybe Russian.  The Polish nation has been through a wide range of historically frustrating experiences (to put it mildly), and this has colored the vernacular with a wide palette.

One site that has a plethora of cussage is "YouSwear" which has a number of Polish curse words, among other languages (curiously enough, they also have curse words in "Chicken").  There is also the Toolpaq Guide To Polish Curse Words as well, which is more systematic and discriminating in its treatment.  Another list is on Nawcon, which has a page called "Polish Language Swearing."

A site that is not quite as comprehensive is the "Cursing And Swearing Dictionary," which, nonetheless, seems to cover some of the basics.  There is another short list on, and a short blog post on Transparent, which discusses usage somewhat but not nearly enough.  Also, there are some words on Memrise, but you can only see five words a page and there are a total of twenty.

Doubtless there are other sites out there as well...let me know if you find the gold mine.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Just Had To Remove A Link To An Infected Site

I just had to remove a link in my list of language learning blogs to a site that is apparently infected with malware.  It was called speakingadventure-dot-com (it's spelled out...DON'T GO THERE!!!).  I did not click on the link at any time after that site was compromised so I doubt I was infected.  The link had been on there for quite some time but the site must have recently gotten infected as Google Chrome would no longer let me on my blog site and gave a malware warning about content from this other site.

Though I could not get to my blog at all, I could get to the maintenance pages, and I just searched all the gadgets for any trace of the site that Chrome was telling me harbored the infection.  And, bingo, I found a link to it and just deleted it, resolving the problem in less than ten minutes after getting the warning and being blocked from my site.

So keep in mind that at any moment, any link that you have posted on your site could become infected somehow.  Or, even worse, someone could hack into your site and it could become infected as well.  Sobering thought.

Whew...I'm glad it was not something more involved, and I'm glad I figured it out quickly.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fried...Or, Really, Fraj-ed

The only two words I have found so far in Polish with the root "fraj-" in them are:

"frajer, frajerka" which means "sucker"

"frajda," which means "fun" or "for kicks"
e.g. ale frajda! (what a blast!)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Przeciw: Opposition

I bet y'all have been waiting with bated breath for my next post (probably not, but ya never know), seeing as how I haven't put anything new on here in a while.  I've been kinda busy showing up for the craziness lately at the Texas Capitol.  Maybe that has nothing to do with learning Polish, and shouldn't be in a Polish learning blog.  Au contraire; I beg to differ.  I studied Polish on several occasions while I was there, even while I was chanting along with the crowd.  And, besides, it's my blog, so I can write what I want.  Ha ha.

But I digress, let's get back to the topic at hand.  I want to talk about "przeciw,"  which, in general, has to do with stuff that is opposite, contrary to, or against something.  A fitting topic to talk about in relation to thousands of screaming protestors who shut this mother down.  Yippie-ki-yay.

"Przeciw" or "przeciwko" means "against."  It is a preposition, and takes the dative case.  It also forms a prefix for a ton of compound words in Polish.  I'm not going to go into all the words that are involved here, because there are a whole lot of them.  Just turn to your friendly neighborhood Polish dictionary for further guidance on this subject.  But I will talk about a few of the derivative words that are used most frequently.

"Przeciwny" means "opposite" or "contrary."  "Przeciwnie" is an adverb that means "on/to the contrary."  And "przeciwieństwo" is a noun that means "opposition" or "contrast." "Przeciwnik" refers to an "adversary" or "opponent" (another noun).

"Sprzeciw" is a noun that means "opposition" or "objection."  "Naprzeciw" is a preposition meaning "opposite" or "across from."  It takes the genitive.

"Sprzeciwiać/sprzeciwić się" means "to oppose, to stand against."

Some examples of how to stand tough against those who keep us in shackles:

powstawać przeciw - to rise against
protestować przeciw - to protest against
walczyć przeciwko - to fight against
głosować przeciwko - to vote against
w przeciwieństwie do - in contrast to
przeciwdziałać - to work against, to counteract

Saturday, June 22, 2013

More Phrases For Reinforcement

I did a previous post on phrasal reinforcement, or reinforcing the meanings of individual words by using them in conjunction with other words to create a unit of meaning that helps to illustrate their usage.  Here are some more noun phrases (usually adjective/noun or noun/noun) for thine edification.

słusznego wzrostu - of considerable height
zdrowy rozsądek - common sense
konferencja prasowa - press conference
działanie uboczne - side effect
wieża obserwacyjna - watchtower
rozstrzygający głos - decisive vote
odkryty teren - open space
handel zagraniczny - foreign commerce
pigułka antykoncepcyjna - contraceptive pill
przyciąganie ziemskie - gravity
kamień nerkowy - kidney stone
barszcz czerwony - red borscht
pracownik umysłowy - while-collar worker
zespół rockowy - rock group
psotne dziecko - mischievous child
ślepa uliczka - dead end
deficyt budżetowy - budget deficit

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The New Kosciuszko Foundation Dictionary CD Is Problematic

In my post on Polish language learning recommendations, I gave high marks to "The New Kosciuszko Foundation Dictionary," a two-volume set.  I do like the book even though it has some omissions of words (but few dictionaries will have all words, and if they do they will be really expensive).  I bought this dictionary at a bookstore in Warsaw and it was a little over 300 złoty (about $100 in US money).

But recently I installed the CD that comes with the book, which purports to be a searchable version of both volumes with some added features.  The problem with the CD is that it displays the wrong character set, as you can see from the following screenshot:
But not only does it display the wrong characters, the support emails in the help file for the program are not operative any more, so good luck getting any support for the problem or for the program in general.  The website has also changed as well.  The help file is fairly sparse and does not even address this problem.  On the Kosciuszko Foundation's site, it is hard to find any email addresses for anybody, and it is doubtful that anyone there is associated with the dictionary.  Still, I have emailed multiple people there about the problem and asked them to forward to the correct person and have not even gotten a response.  This is troubling because perhaps someone has an easy answer and it seems I am simply being ignored.

I ran a compatibility check in Windows (you can do this for any program by right-clicking on the program and choosing it from the menu) for the program, and it goes through a series of questions and tests, then ultimately states that the program is incompatible, with no further details.  And I've tried running it in emulation modes for previous versions of Windows, and have gotten no better results.  And there doesn't seem to be any information on this through any internet searches.

I guess my next step will be to see if there is some sort of emulation window (free, hopefully) I can run this program in to get the right characters.  I have also experimented with changing to different character sets in Windows and that doesn't help either.  Really, I don't want to globally change my character set because other programs and files are running fine, but I thought I would at least try.

So my recommendation at this point is that the books are good, but the CD leaves something to be desired.

UPDATE:  The president of the Kosciuszko Foundation emailed me today and indicated that the company who they partnered with to make the CD has gone out of business, and as soon as they can raise the money to fix the problems with the CD, they will make it right with all the customers who purchased the original ones.  So it is somewhat gratifying that (hopefully) they will at some point correct the problem.

UPDATE:  Five months later (November 2013), there appears to have been no further attempt to fix this problem or put out any information to offer either any solution, or any progress toward a solution.  The CD is a lemon, and customer service is nonexistent.  However, the dictionary itself is solid.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

High-Impact Aerobic Vocabulary Interval Training

Well, I didn't plan on this when I got to the gym today.  But when I stepped on the elliptical machine and started studying my Polish flash cards, I got an idea that I wanted to try out.

I worked out to a moderate pace, which for me is getting to a heart beat of about 130.  I kept that up for a few minutes, and then concentrated on one word on my flash cards.  After looking at the word for about thirty seconds, I started sprinting furiously on the machine until my heartbeat got up to 145, all the time concentrating on memorizing the word and its meaning.  When my heartbeat hit 145, I would then move back to lower-impact activity, slowing down on the machine.  Of course, my heartbeat would continue rising for a short time after I slowed down the activity, usually to about 160-165 (once it rose to 173), and I would keep up the slower activity, relaxing my body and ramping it down more and more, and watch my heart rate go lower from the peak.

When my heart rate would reach 115, I would pick out another word, and start the process again.  Thirty seconds at the "resting" rate of 115, then furiously sprint-pedaling up to 145, lowering the intensity and watching the heart rate go up and then down again, and then starting over with another word at 115.

Here are the cards I took with me to the gym today:

In case you're wondering, where there is a star, it signifies all-new material.  Not that you are wondering.

I got through the first card and about halfway through the second card, and worked out for about an hour.  My average heart rate for the workout was 128.  Then I did review in the sauna afterwards (not so great because the light was burned out, but there was some light coming in from the glass in the door).

I have no idea if this is a successful study strategy per se.  I would actually tend to guess that compared to a control group, it's not terribly great.  Usually studying while exercising is harder, because you're concentrating on doing many other things, and because your body's oxygen and processes are busy with other stuff.  I've found that the more I ramp up the intensity of my exercise, the harder it is to concentrate on the material I am trying to study while I am exercising.  The fact that I only got through one and a half cards in an hour is a little slow for my usual card study too.  Still, both exercise and study are made better by mixing up the routine, so there is surely some benefit to be gained from a new and fresh approach.

But being the freak that I am, I wish that I had more data about this experience.  Like how long it takes from 115 to 145, and then to peak, and then back down again.  Or whether there is variance in time in the intervals as more intervals are completed.  I'm sure there is more stuff I will think of that I wish I had captured data on.  Maybe later.  Now it's time to pay a visit to the chipotle sun-dried tomato hummus that I made a few days ago.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fair Warning

I'm often finding myself modifying past blog posts.  So if you saw a blog post a month ago, you might come back and find that there is a whole bunch of new stuff in the post.

Sometimes if I have a whole bunch of new info, I'll make a sequel post.  But if I have little dribbles and bits to add, I'll just sneak stuff into old posts.  Sometimes the dribbles accumulate to the point that maybe they should have been a whole new post, but since I added them a little at a time, they stay where they are.  Lately I've been consolidating some similar posts into one big post, too.  That's just the way the cookie bounces.

"L'arte non è mai finita, solo abbandonato"--Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Verbs Are Hard, Part 2

I wrote a post a few days ago on how Polish verbs are hard to learn.  I wanted to expand on what I wrote earlier, and include some examples.

First of all, when you are learning a Polish verb, you are usually not learning just one verb, but two verbs.  One is imperfective and the other is perfective.  You have to not only wrap your head around the difference in aspect, you have to learn two different words.  Sometimes they can be totally different, as in "widzieć, zobaczyć" (to see), or "brać, wziąć" (to take).  Sometimes they are just formed by adding a prefix to the other one in the pair, which can add a new level of complexity if other verbs with different meaning exist with similar prefixes.  Sometimes they have a different ending, as in "unikać, uniknąć" (to elude, escape).  Sometimes there are more than two verbs to learn, as in "zgadywać/odgadywać, zgadnąć/odgadnąć" (to guess), or "sprzątać, sprzątnąć/posprzątać/wysprzątać" (to tidy up).

And to top it off, there are different shades of meaning for different words which may not necessarily overlap across varied languages.  For example, in English, "make" can mean "to commit" (popełniać, popełnić), "to accomplish" (dokonywać, dokonać), "to produce" (wykonywać, wykonać) "to create" (tworzyć, utworzyć), "to act" (czynić, uczynić), "to do" (robić, zrobić), as well as being secondarily implicated in some unit of meaning such as "make sense," "make fun of," "make use," "make do," "make love," "make up," "make trouble," "make sure," etc.

Then you have to learn the various ways that they conjugate, which ones are irregular, which ones end in "c" instead of "ć," what case they take, etc.  It becomes apparent quickly that thinking in Polish is a lot different from thinking in English.

Seize The Moment: Chwytać

"-chwyt" has to do with "grasping" or "seizing."

chwytać, chwycić - to snatch, to seize, to grab


chwytać okazję - to seize the opportunity
chwytać powietrzę - catch (one's) breath
w mig chwytać o co chodzi - to be quick on the draw

Some derivative words:

chwyt - grip, grasp (noun)
chwytacz - safety catch, arrester (noun)
chwytliwy - catching; quick, agile (adejective)


chwyt wiertła - drill shank
chwyt pistoletu - pistol grip

podchwytywać, podchwycić - to pick up, to take up; to join


podchwytywać śpiew - to join in the singing
podchwytywać rozmowę - to join in the conversation

Some derivative words:

podchwyt - snatch, grab (noun)
podchwytliwy - trick (often used with "podchwytliwe pytanie" [trick question]) (adjective)

przechwytywać, przechwycić - to intercept, to grab, to seize

schwytać, schwycić - to apprehend, to capture

uchwycić - to grasp, to seize, to capture

Some derivative words:

uchwyt - handle, grip (noun)
uchwytny - noticeable, perceptible (adjective)


W razie niebezpieczeństwa, mocno pociągnąć za uchwyt - In case of emergency, pull the handle firmly
ledwie uchwytny - barely noticeable

zachwycać się, zachwycić się - to be delighted, to be enchanted

Some derivative words:

zachwyt - delight, fascination, enchantment (noun)
zachwycający - delightful (noun)
zachwycenie - rapture (noun)
zachwycony - enchanted, delighted (adjective)
zachwycająco - delightfully, admirably (adverb)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Verbs Are Hard, And Learning Words In General

I don't know about you, but I find learning verbs harder than learning just about every other part of speech.  I'd say that for me they are about ten times harder than learning every other type of word.  And Polish verbs just seem particularly difficult.  Polish is a fairly alien language for a native English speaker, and it's probably not much easier for anyone else who doesn't already speak a Slavic language.

I find myself reading the average sentence and doing pretty well with most words in the sentence except for the big gaping hole of meaning where the verb sits.  Actually, it's not as bad for me as it used to be because I've learned a decent number of verbs at this point.  But verbs are still the weakest part of my Polish vocabulary.   Maybe the first fifty verbs were relatively easy, but after that, learning verbs turns into a slog from hell.  There's a reason that you see books devoted solely to verbs in a given language.  And there's a reason you might not see, say, a book entitled "500 Italian Adjectives" (Now I'll probably get a comment from someone who has a book on 500 Italian Adjectives.  Still, if such a book exists, I don't think it disproves my point).

Often I study verbs by themselves, in isolation from other vocabulary, because I have to put in so much more study to get them down.  If I rotate them in with other words on the flash cards I am studying, I'll get a high percentage of all the other words, and then nothing when it comes to the new verbs I am looking at.  I can look at them over and over again, and still get no glimmer of recognition.  I read somewhere online that somebody suggested that you picture verbs as being on a sports field, like a football field, and picture somebody moving with the action the verb embodies.  Yeah, that didn't really help me at all; I tried that and then abandoned it when it wasn't giving me any better results.  What does seem to work for me is just to grind out the learning of the verb slowly and steadily, and not add too many new ones to my flash cards at the same time.  And I also try each time I see the word, to try to picture how to use it in different ways, to look at the conjugation of it and try to use different conjugations and tenses, and basically just work the word as much as I can.

The strange thing is, with verbs as well as with other words, I think they get stored in my brain fairly easily.  It's the retrieval that's a bitch. I can tell it's the retrieval end that is hard rather than the storage end because there's so many times when it just pops out of nowhere when it didn't seem like it was going to come forward at all.  And then there are what I call "savant days," when the retrieval is just simpler than usual for some reason.  But in general, it seems like it takes a while to build that neural pathway that allows for a consistent retrieval of the word.  It's like having a really cluttered closet and knowing the widget thingy you want is in there somewhere, but you have to do a ton of cleaning abd organizing to find it.

I do eventually get there with verbs as well as with other words.  It just takes a lot longer.  That's one reason I make so many blog posts that are centered around the different verbs (and other derivative words) one can make from a given root.  They are basically my study guides for when I find a verb or group of verbs I am finding to be difficult to learn, and I just look at the whole universe centered around the root for a unique look at the subject.

Join The Club: Łączyć

"-łącz" has to do with "joining" or "switching."  The main verb is "łączyć, połączyć" though the most common verbs used with this root probably have the "w-" and "wy-" prefixes and relate to turning things on or off.

łączyć, połączyć - to join, to merge, to unite


łączyć siły - to join forces
łączyć przyjemne z pożytecznym - to mix business with pleasure

The reflexive form is:

łączyć się, połączyć się - to be joined, to be united, to merge, to come together; to connect (e.g. - phone)

Some derivative words:

łącze - link, connection (noun)
łączenie - connection; junction; liaison (noun)
łącznik - liaison; hyphen; connector; tie (music) (noun)
łączliwość - connectivity (noun)
łącznica - switchboard (noun)
łączność - contact, unity (noun)

łączny - connective; total (adjective)
łączący - subjunctive (grammar); connecting, joining (adj)
łącznie - including, inclusively, cumulatively (adverb)


kwota łączna - total amount
tkanka łączna - connective tissue
tryb łączący - subjunctive mood (grammar)
łącznie ze mną - including me
doprowadzać łącze internetowe - to provide internet access

dołączać, dołączyć - to join, to link; to enclose, to append, to attach


dołączyć do grupy... - join the ranks of...
dołączać do szeregu - fall in (military)

The reflexive form is:

dołączać się, dołączyć się - to join (in)

odłączać, odłączyć - to disconnect, to detach, to disassociate

podłączać, podłączyć - to connect / -am -asz, -czę -czysz

połączyć - to connect, to link

połączenie - connection, link; combination (noun)


połączenie autobusowe - bus connection
połączenie kolejowe - train connection
połączenie lotnicze - airplane connection
połączenie telefoniczne - telephone connection

przełączać, przełączyć - to switch over

przełączać na inny kanał - to switch over to another channel

przełącznik - switch (noun)

przyłączać, przyłączyć - to attach; to connect

przyłączać do (+ genitive) - to attach to...

rozłączać, rozłączyć - to uncouple, to separate, to sever

włączać, włączyć - to include; to turn on


włączyć sprzęgło - to apply the clutch
włączyć radio - to turn on the radio
włączyć zasilanie - to turn the power on
włącz światło - turn on the light (imperative)

Some derivative words:

włączony - on, in operation (adjective)
włącznie / inclusive (of), including (adverb)


telewizor nie jest włączony - the TV is not on
zostawić włączone światło - leave the light on
włącznie z psem - including the dog
z podatkiem włącznie - including tax

wyłączać, wyłączyć / to exclude; to switch off, to turn off


wyłączyć sprzęgło - to disengage the clutch
komputer się wyłącza - the computer turns itself off
nie wyłączając nikogo - excluding nobody

Some derivative words:

wyłącznie - exclusively, solely (adverb)
wyłącznik - switch (electric) / Gsg: -a (noun)
wyłączony - excluded; off (adjective)
wyłączność - exclusive right (noun)

załączać, załączyć - to enclose, to connect, to attach

załącznik, załączenie - (email) attachment, enclosure (noun)

złączyć - to fuse, to link, to unite

Some derivative words:

złącze - joint, connection; bond (noun)
złączka - junction, connector (noun)


złącze kulkowe - ball joint
złączka rurowa - pipe junction

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Phrasal Reinforcement

I have found that once one experiences an initial exposure to a word, that word's meaning is often reinforced with its use in a two- or three-word (or sometimes longer) phrase containing the word. This is also one reason why I try to give examples with some of these reinforcing phrases in my blog posts.  These phrases are the bread and butter of language and assist in demonstrating how words fit together to provide meaning as well as show the various cases in Polish that are used in different situations (though some phrases will undoubtedly modify their case when used in a different sentence placement).

I'll provide some examples of reinforcing phrases so you can see how they reinforce word meanings and so you can improve your learning of Polish words.

Probably some of the most common reinforcing phrases are noun phrases (I call these "noun phrases" because they are clauses where the unit functions as a noun) consisting of an adjective and a noun, or a noun with a prepositional clause functioning as an adjective phrase.

For example: once you know that "koszt" means "cost" and "utrzymanie" means "maintenance" or "livelihood", then both of these words are reinforced by the noun phrase "koszty utrzymania" or
"cost of living."

bujna wyobraźnia - vivid imagination
szkoda słów - waste of breath
wzięty lekarz - popular (in demand) doctor
język nowożytny - modern language
płatek ucha - earlobe
odruch ssania - sucking reflex
szafka na buty - shoe cabinet
lęk wysokości - fear of heights
pracownik umysłowy - while-collar worker
członek załogi - crew member
produkcja prądu - energy production
przywódca opozycji - opposition leader
dostawy wojenne - war provisions
skrajna nędza - dire poverty

There are also many other useful reinforcing phrases.

Verb phrases (the unit functions as a verb) frequently consist of a verb and a direct or indirect object:

odebrać telefon - to pick up the phone
przegrać z kimś - to lose against somebody
podpisać kontrakt - to sign a contract
pójść na marne - to go to waste
zmarnować okazję - to miss an opportunity
robić pomiary - to take measurements, to survey
umierać na raka - to die of cancer
spoglądać po sobie - to glance at each other
wziąć zamach - to take a swing

Adjectival phrases (the unit functions as an adjective) usually consist of an adverb or adjective modifying an adjective:

śmiertelnie znudzony - bored to death
politycznie poprawny - politically correct

Adverbial phrases (the unit functions as an adverb) can have varied constructions, but often are adjective/adverb or adverb/adverb:

mimo że, mimo iż - even though, despite the fact that

Prepositional clauses (the unit often functions as an adjective or adverb, or as an interrogative or declarative phrase) consisting of preposition/noun or preposition/adjective/noun are fairly common, and are also useful for reinforcement:

od miesiąca - for a month
ze strachu - out of fear
na wypadek - in case of
ponad cztery godziny - more than four hours
po drodze, w drodze - on the way
w jakim sensie? - in what sense?
w poprzednich latach - in previous years
na bezludnej wyspie - on a deserted island
bez trudu - effortlessly
od tej pory - from that time
z niewiadomych przyczyn - for no obvious reason

Short, complete sentences are also illustrative of interplay between word meanings.  Often these consist of subject and verb (possibly also with an object), but can have a number of variations:

oszukał mnie - he deceived me
to wystarczy - that will do
w czym kłopot? - what's the problem?

Idiomatic clauses or sentences are usually best considered as a single, self-contained unit of meaning.  They are good for learning poetic or metaphoric constructs of the language, whereby the meaning of the words on their face can be spun into literary fabric to reach the enhanced meaning of the phrase as a whole:

kiedy bądź - any time
poza tym - besides, otherwise
co ty na to - what do you think/say
nie ma sprawy - no problem
nie waż się - don't you dare
w sumie - all in all, altogether
mijać się z prawdą - to be untruthful
nie kojarzę - I don't get it (I don't associate)
puszczać coś mimo uszu - to let something pass (literal translation: to let go of something without ears)
każdy orze, jak może - you do what you can (literal translation: each [person] plows as he/she may)
gdzie Rzym, a gdzie Krym? - what does that have to do with anything? (literal: where is Rome? and where is Crimea?)
z deszczu pod rynnę - out of the frying pan and into the fire (literal: from the rain under the gutter)
co ty na to, żeby wilk był syty i owca cała? - what would you say if you could have your cake and eat it too? (literal: what do you say if the wolf is full and the sheep whole?)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Holding Pattern: Trzymać

Today lets look at "trzymać" and all the fun ways to spin it out into other new and dynamic wordoids.

trzymać, potrzymać - to hold, to keep


trzymać psa na smyczy - to keep a dog on a leash
trzymać nerwy na wodzy - to stay cool
trzymać coś w ręku - to hold something in one's hand
trzymać coś w tajemnicy - to keep something secret
trzymać kurs - to stay on course
trzymać na ręku dziecko - to hold a baby in one's arm
trzymać pod strażą - to keep under guard
trzymać w rezerwie - to keep in reserve
trzymać za kogoś kciuki - keep one’s fingers crossed for somebody
trzymać kogoś za rękę - to hold somebody by the hand
trzymać kogoś na dystans - keep somebody at a distance
trzymaj ręce w górze - hold your hands up
trzymaj język za zębami! - hold your tongue!
to się nie trzyma kupy - it doesn’t add up

trzymać się faktów - stick to the facts
trzymać się z dala od czegoś - keep clear of something
trzymaj się/trzymajcie się - take care
trzymając się za ręce - hand in hand

dotrzymywać, dotrzymać - to keep


dotrzymywać komuś kroku - to keep up/pace with somebody
dotrzymywać komuś towarzystwa - to keep somebody company
dotrzymywać obietnicy - to keep one's promise
dotrzymywać słowa - to keep one's word
dotrzymywać terminu - to meet the deadline

otrzymywać, otrzymać - to receive, to obtain


otrzymać dyplom - to obtain a diploma, to graduate
otrzymać spadek - to receive an inheritance
otrzymać wiadomości od kogoś - to receive news from somebody

podtrzymywać, podtrzymać - to support, to maintain, to uphold


podtrzymywać ogień - to keep the fire burning
podtrzymywać tradycję - to keep a tradition going
podtrzymywać żądania - to stick to a story

powstrzymywać, powstrzymać - to restrain, to repress; to prevent


powstrzymywać śmiech - to suppress laughter
powstrzymywać płacz - to hold back tears
powstrzymywać gniew - to repress anger
nic mnie nie powstrzyma - there’s nothing to stop me

przetrzymywać, przetrzymać - to endure; to harbor, to give shelter; to keep; to outlast


przetrzymywać ból - to endure pain
przetrzymywać atak - to endure an attack
przetrzymywać zakładników - to keep prisoners
przetrzymywać książkę - to keep a book too long

przytrzymywać, przytrzymać - to hold down; to hold back

utrzymywać, utrzymać - to bear, to carry; to keep; to provide for
utrzymywać się, utrzymać się - to remain, to stay; to earn a living


czego się utrzymujesz? - What do you do for a living?
Nie mogłem utrzymać równowagi - I couldn't keep [my] balance
utrzymać posadę - hold down a job

utrzymanie - maintenance, livelihood (noun)


kosztu koszty utrzymania - the cost of living
zarabiać na utrzymanie - earn one’s living

wstrzymywać, wstrzymać - to restrain; to suspend; to delay


wstrzymać oddech - hold one’s breath
wstrzymywać ogień - to hold one's fire
wstrzymywać pomoc medyczną - to hold back medical assistance

wytrzymywać, wytrzymać - to bear, to endure, to hold out, to stand, to put up (with)


wytrzymać z kimś - to put up with somebody
wytrzymać do końca - to hold out till the end
Nie mogła tego wytrzymać - She couldn't stand it
Już nie mogę wytrzymać - I can't stand it anymore

wytrzymałość - stamina, endurance; resistance (noun)

zatrzymywać, zatrzymać - to stop, to bring to a halt; to keep, to preserve
zatrzymywać się, zatrzymać się - to stop

Zatrzymaj go! - Stop him!
Musimy się zatrzymać - We have to stop
proszę zatrzymać resztę - keep the change
zatrzymywać coś dla siebie - to keep something to oneself

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Polish Books Online

Want to read a book in Polish for free on your computer? You can go to this link to browse available Polish books on Project Gutenberg.  You can either read them as HTML books online, or download them to your computer or mobile device in various forms.

There are also a number of books in Polish, and a better selection, at  You can read them online or download them as well.  They also have a number of audiobooks. Some of the audiobooks you can follow along by opening another browser window or tab with the text (if the text is available).  You could even open the text in another browser window in Chrome and translate it into English (or any other language), if you wish.  However, since the text page is in a frame, Chrome won't prompt you to translate it.  I was able to translate text pages by right-clicking on the page and choosing "Translate into English."  Here is an example:  You could open up the audiobook "Brzydkie kaczątko" (The Ugly Duckling) in one window, open the text in another, and then open another window or tab in Google Chrome with the text and translate it.  Also, if there is an audiobook to accompany the text, you can just open the text link, and there will be a link at the top that says "Listen" that will open another window with the audiobook.

Random Polish Wikipedia Article

I recently added a window with a random Polish Wikipedia article to this blog. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the blog, you can see it, and you can even navigate to other Wikipedia pages (using the links provided or the search box) within the window.

Monday, June 3, 2013

More On Language Fluency: Słowotwórstwo

I did a post on language fluency a while back, but I wanted to talk about fluency a little more.  You might wonder what it takes to achieve fluency.  You might also wonder "how many words it takes before you can consider yourself fluent."

I used to think in those sorts of quantitative terms.  I thought that if I got to a certain number, and it had to be somehow measurable, I would be at the point where I was fluent.

That's not really the way to think about it.  You can have a vocabulary with very few words, but be at the point where you have practiced them very well and can fill gaps of words you don't know through intuition and contextual clues, and then respond without hesitation with the words that you know.

Or, at the other extreme, you could know a very large number of words, but still not have them embedded verbally to the point where you recognize them well and can easily create different forms of words out of them.  This is closer to where I am.  I probably have about 6000 Polish words that I have learned to the point where I can produce them fairly easily (that's a conservative estimate as I have about 10000 in rotation on Anki plus about another 4000 phrases and sentences), but have a difficult time recognizing them in conversation, and have some difficulty consistently producing them in the correct grammatical context.  I've probably gotten more fluent in some other languages with less words learned.

But that is OK for me.  I really enjoy learning new words, and so I have focused my learning on vocabulary more than most would.  You can tell that my posts mostly focus on vocabulary and the interrelationships between words and parts of words.  I'm more interested in "słowotwórstwo."  And I'm confident that at some point the fluency will arrive; maybe at a point that is later than it would be for a person who concentrates more on speaking and grammar.  But when it does arrive, I think I'll have a high breadth of expression.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Helping Suffix: -Wisko

The suffix "-wisko" seems to refer to some sort of locus; if it's not an actual place, it is an appurtenance or helper that adds function to some other word widget's function (usually the precursor/prefix is a stand-alone, truncated or word stub noun).

The word most often used with this suffix is "nazwisko", which means "surname."


nazwisko panieńskie - maiden name
pod własnym nazwiskiem - under one's own name
przybrane nazwisko - assumed name, stage name
pod przybranym nazwiskiem - under an assumed name
nazwisko rodowe -family name
pod cudzym nazwiskiem - under someone else's name
miała na nazwisko... - her surname was...

Here is an interesting Wikipedia article that talks about Polish surnames.  This will give you a little more background about Polish Surnames and also show you some types of surnames that provide further examples.  And here is a map of Polish surnames, whereby you can type a surname into the search box and find its frequency in different parts of Poland.

But I digress.  Here also are a couple of other "-wisko" words:

stanowisko - position, point of view


stanowisko pracy - place of work
stanowisko kierownicze - managerial position
wysokie stanowisko - high-ranking position
stać na stanowisku, że.. - to take the view that...

środowisko - environment, surroundings


środowisko naturalne - the natural environment
zanieczyszczenie środowiska - environmental pollution

Other derivative words:

gruzowisko - heap of rubble
legowisko - lair; dog bed
lodowisko - ice rink
mrowisko - anthill
przezwisko - [mean or humorous] nickname
urwisko - precipice, crag
uzdrowisko - spa, health resort
widowisko - spectacle, show
zjawisko - phenomenon
złomowisko - scrapyard, junkyard

Shaping: Kształt

"Kształt" means "shape" or "form."  This root manifests itself in derivative words in this fashion.

(singular then plural)

Nominative - kształt, kształty
Genitive - kształtu, kształtów
Dative - kształtowi, kształtom
Accusative - kształt, kształty
Instrumental - kształtem, kształtami
Locative - kształcie, kształtach
Vocative - kształcie, kształty


kształt ucha - shape of the ear
kształt ogólny - general shape
kształt fali - waveform
nabrać kształtu/przybrać kształt - to take shape
na kształt - in the shape of
w kształcie czegoś - in the shape of something

Some derivative words:

kształcić - to teach, to train
kształtować/ukształtować - to shape, to mold, to model; to take shapekształcenie - education, training

przekształcać - to transform, to evolve
wykształcać - to develop, to form
wykształcić - to educate
zniekształcać, zniekształcić - to distort, to deform

całokształt - totality, whole
kształtny - shapely, well-proportioned
przekształcenie - transformation, restructuring
samokształcenie - self-education, self-instruction (adjective is samokształceniowy)
ukształtowanie - shape, figure, formation; geography, relief
ukształtowany - shaped
wykształcenie - education
wykształcony - educated
zniekształcenie - distortion, deformity
zniekształcony - distorted, deformed

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fingers And Toes

Let's look at some words relating to fingers and toes.

palec - finger; toe

"Palec" is probably used most often to mean "finger" but can also mean "toe" (sort of like "dedo" in Spanish or "doigt" in French).

Here are the declensions for "palec."  The first value is singular and the second is plural.

nominative - palec, palce
genitive - palca, palców
dative - palcowi, palcom
accusative - palec, palce
instrumental - palcem, palcami
locative - palcu, palcach
vocative - palcu, palce

Here are all the fingers described:

kciuk - thumb
palec wskazujący - index finger
palec środkowy - middle finger
palec serdeczny - ring finger
mały palec - little finger


odcisk palca - fingerprint
trzymać za kogoś kciuki - keep one’s fingers crossed for someone
wytykać kogoś palcami - to point the finger at somebody
Moje palce są zimne jak lód - My fingers are cold as ice
pstrykać palcami - to snap one's fingers
wskazywać palcem - to point
liczyć na palcach - to count (off) on one's fingers
mieć lepkie palce - to have sticky fingers

Some derivative words:

palcować - to finger (verb)
palcowanie - fingering (noun)
palcówka - musical finger exercise, fingerfucking (vulgar) (noun)
palczak - fingerling (noun)

Let's not forget the toes.  Even though "toe" uses the same word, it can be differentiated by adding "u nogi (stopy)" or looking at the context.


duży palec (u nogi) - big toe
mały palec (u nogi/stopy) - little toe
stawać na palcach - to stand on one's toes
wspinać się na palce -to stand on one's toes
stąpać/chodzić na palcach - to walk on tiptoe

And also:

paznokieć - fingernail, toenail

Here are the declensions for "paznokieć."  Once again, the first value is singular and the second is plural.

nominative - paznokieć, paznokcie
genitive - paznokcia, paznokci
dative - paznokciowi, paznokciom
accusative - paznokieć, paznokcie
instrumental - paznokciem, paznokciami
locative - paznokciu, paznokciach
vocative - paznokciu, paznokcie


obcinać paznokcie - to cut one's nails
obgryzać paznokcie - to chew one's nails
piłować paznokcie - to file one's nails
paznokieć u nogi - toenail

There also exists the word "paznokciowy" (adjective meaning "pertaining to a finger/toe nail"), where one can see the relation to the word "kciuk" ("thumb").

Mixing It Up In Polish, Part 3

This post has been consolidated and moved to here.  Apologies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Music, Mood and Backgrounds: Strój

"Strój" as a root seems kind of synesthetic.  It dances back and forth between different ambient sensory domains.

"Strój" in itself, as a noun, means "dress, attire" or, in the musical sense "tune" or "key."  It is also the second person singular imperative form of verb "stroić," which means "to dress up" or "to tune."


strój ludowy - national costume
strój kąpielowy - swimsuit
strój plażowy - beach clothes
strój sportowy - athletic wear
strój wieczorowy - evening wear
strój wizitowy - formal wear
strój żałobny - funeral clothes

Other derivative words:

strojnie - smartly, stylishly (as in "smartly dressed" - "strojnie ubrany")
strojnisia - fashion victim, stylish dresser
strojniś - clotheshorse
strojny - dressy, chic
strojowy - tuning (as in "widełki strojowe" - "tuning fork")

"Nastrój" means "mood, state of mind" or "atmosphere, ambiance" but the verb "nastrajać/nastroić" means "to tune" as in tuning an instrument, tuning a radio, etc.  It also can mean "to adjust."  "Nastrój" is also an imperative form (second person singular) of this verb.  So here the implication is that your mind is "tuned" in a certain way?  I wonder if there is some sort of color implied to complete the synesthesia here?  I find interesting the interplay in the Polish language between music and mood.  But "-strój" as a root seems to imply some kind of background that sets the scene for the particular environment, as you can see in these other words:


uroczysty nastrój - solemn mood
w dobrym nastroju - in a good mood
w złym nastroju - in a bad mood

Other derivative words:

nastrojowy - romantic
nastrojowość - romantic atmosphere

"Ustrój" means "system."  The verb "ustrajać/ustroic" means "decorate, adorn."  So I suppose the imperative form "ustrój" implies that your ideological framework is somehow "adorned" with a practical application?


ustrój polityczny - political system
ustrój biologiczny - biological system

Other derivative words:

ustrojowy - systemic (the adjective form of "ustrój)
ustrojstwo - contraption, gadget

"Wystrój" means "decoration" or "décor."  It is also an imperative form (second person singular) of the verb "wystroić," which means "to get dressed up/spiffed up." "Wystrojony" is an adjective meaning "dressed up."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Polish Language Learning Recommendations

In my last post, I talked about many of the books I have used in my Polish studies.  I've also done various posts on different sites on the Internet (pay sites and free sites) that are good for learning Polish.  Out of all of these, which would I recommend the most? Depends on whether you want comprehensive or cheap. And all bets are off on the books if you are actually in Poland--you'll find a whole different palette there.  But at least the websites I mention here will be available there.  You might want to download any .pdf files you find because you never know when they might disappear off the Web.

Cheap (Or Even Free!):

Each one of these cheap options has a free option as well, and some of the best choices are free.  It is always best to get stuff from more than one source to diversify.

Text--Polish in 4 Weeks Part I.  To go even cheaper, get whatever you can find at the thrift store that is comparable.  For free, you can use the University of Pittsburgh's basic first-year materials.  You can probably find some basic lessons on YouTube or through a search engine, but you might not find anything comparable to a good first-year text.  You can also try the free Foreign Service Institute course; the Polish text is here at the FSI site, but unlike other languages, they don't have audio along with the text.

Vocabulary--Anki (here is a list of Polish decks to choose from, including the BIG one I helped work on; you have to download the free program to use them) and Internet Polyglot, supplemented with any texts you have (you can always enter more words yourself into an Anki deck).  Free.

Audio--Real Polish online for free; also Polish in 4 Weeks (but make sure you get one with the CDs).  Or you can read this post for information on how to get free audiobooks at along with accompanying text and translation.

Written narratives--Wikipedia Method and Real Polish.  Free.

Grammar--go with the free Oscar Swan grammars online (basic and comprehensivedownload them because who knows how long they'll be available). (note...the comprehensive one is no longer available).

Dictionary--Larousse or whatever else you can find cheap...most of the pocket dictionaries are pretty much interchangable.  Buy the books at a thrift store if possible.  Or for free, use this dictionary online; it only goes in one direction (Polish-English), but you can look up words in English to be translated into Polish by using the search function of your browser or of Adobe Acrobat.  You can also find Polish-English dictionaries through search engines online, but I'm not all that crazy about them...mostly they are only search text boxes that just come up with words.  And Google Translate probably does a better job of this than most of them and also gives you pronunciations (and translations into and from multiple languages).


Texts--both Polish in 4 Weeks books (Part I and Part II) for first exposure, the dense Teach Yourself Polish for in-depth treatment, and any other text(s) for comparative treatment.

Vocabulary--Anki (see entry above for more info) and Internet Polyglot, supplemented with any texts you have (you can always enter more words yourself into an Anki deck).  Though these are free, they are probably the best vocabulary learning sources you will find.

Audio--Pimsleur CDs (get the comprehensive version), Real Polish (you can buy the supplemental materials online for extra instructional support) and PolishPod101 (subscription service online).  I wouldn't recommend spending a ton of money on Rosetta Stone.

Written narratives--Polish in 4 Weeks (Part I and Part II), Wikipedia MethodReal Polish.

Grammar--basic and comprehensive Swan (buy his book for moral support if you use the free stuff a lot), and Polish An Essential Grammar.

Dictionaries--Larousse for quick-and-dirty, Kosciuszko for under-the-hood.