Saturday, April 27, 2013

Where You Be At?

The title, of course, will be relevant to this blog post in two ways.  The first thing I want to do is talk about how there is a preconception out there that children learn languages easier than adults.  There doesn't necessarily seem to be a lot of evidence for this, and studies seem to show that adults can learn languages more rapidly and in a more comprehensive fashion than children.  But the myth persists.  Maybe because as an adult, you really have to rewire your brain and think in a different way, and that seems really hard.  I can relate to that.  Learning a new language is not an easy task, and it takes persistence.  It is easy to become discouraged if you are not focused.  But if you just plug away at it, as an adult you will definitely see better results the more you use your new language.  And I've heard adults complain that they constantly make grammatical mistakes.  Well, ain't no native-speaking adult ever be making no grammatical mistakes, right? (There's where I sneak in the spirit of the blog post title for the first time)

But now, I want to turn to actual places you be at.  Say, the four corners of the earth:

północ - north (also means midnight)
południe - south (also means noon, midday, or afternoon)
wschód - east (also means sunrise)
zachód - west (also means sunset)

But there's more places you might be at:

północny wschód - northeast
północny zachód - northwest
południowy wschód - southeast
południowy zachód - southwest

Here are the adjective forms:

północny - northern
południowy - southern
wschodni - eastern
zachodni - western

północno-wschodni - northeastern
północno-zachodni - northwestern
południowo-wschodni - southeastern
południowo-zachodni - southwestern

And some adverbial clauses:

na północy - in the north
na południu - in the south
na wschodzie - in the east
na zachodzie - in the west

na północnym wschodzie, w północno-wschodniej - in the northeast
na północnym zachodzie, w północno-zachodniej - in the northwest
na południowym wschodzie, w południowo-wschodniej - in the southeast
na południowym zachodzie, w południowo-zachodniej - in the southwest

na północ (od) - to the north (of)
na południe (od) - to the south (of)
na wschód (od) - to the east (of)
na zachód (od) - to the west (of)

na północny wschód (od) - to the northeast (of)
na północny zachód (od) - to the northwest (of)
na południowy zachód (od) - to the southwest (of)
na południowy wschód (od) - to the southeast (of)

z północy - from the north
z południa - from the south
ze wschodu - from the east
z zachodu - from the west

z północnego wschodu - from the northeast
z północnego zachodu - from the northwest
z południowego wschodu - from the southeast
z południowego zachodu - from the southwest

A couple of verbs:

wschodzić, wzejść - to rise (about the sun or the moon)
zachodzić, zajść - to set

Here are some places using some of these forms:

półkula północna - northern hemisphere
półkula południowa - southern hemisphere
Biegun północny - the North Pole
Biegun południowy - the South Pole
koło podbiegunowe północne - the Arctic Circle
koło podbiegunowe południowe - the Antarctic Circle
owoce południowe - tropical fruit

Remember that "północ" can mean "midnight" and "południe" can mean "noon" or "midday" also:

o północy - at midnight
przed północą - before midnight
po północy - after midnight
w południe - at midday
przedpołudnie - morning (literally "forenoon"; not the usual word for morning which is "rano" or "ranek")
przed południem - before noon
po południu - in the afternoon, after noon


  1. I wasn't very clear in my blog; I was referring to that early stage of initial language acquisition, like a toddler being raised in a bilingual home. I think that's the ideal way to learn a language.

    In a structured environment, I do think adults have advantages. Me, I lacked the focus and self-discipline to study a language until I was in my middle age, so it's a moot point :P.

    As for this: "Well, ain't no native-speaking adult ever be making no grammatical mistakes, right?"

    ...I'll quibble a bit. Those aren't actually mistakes. That's dialectical speech and appropriate in its context.

    An example of a mistake English speakers often make is: "There's lots of reasons."

    The thing is, native speakers and non-native speakers make different types of mistakes. Polish people often say "I call to home."

    I don't think it's possible or necessary to speak without mistakes. I stress this to my students. Articles and prepositions alone are a huge field of potential errors, let alone phrasal verbs.

    My own goal is simply to understand and be understood. I don't care how funny I sound, as long as it doesn't keep people from wanting to talk to me.

    Anyway, interesting, as always. I hope in a year or two, I'll be at a level where we can converse a little more about Polish itself, but I'm still at a very basic level. Immersion is really good for me, though. Thanks again for all your help.

  2. To me, mistakes don't much matter--it's the communication that counts. If what you are saying/writing can be understood and you can pick up the meaning when someone is communicating with you, then your goal has been accomplished. Anything after that is just the cherry on the whipped cream.

  3. And I do want to emphasize, for anyone who is a native speaker of a foreign language and might not understand, that some of the sentences in this post were not grammatically correct. But if you say, "Where you be at?" English speakers will probably understand you.