Essential Polish Words and Phrases For Travelers and Job Seekers
Very often, we hear that travellers and language enthusiasts avoid wonderful destinations because they fear they won’t be able to communicate in the target language.
If that’s why you haven’t been to Poland yet, we’re here to change your mind.
Look, we’re not gonna lie to you. Polish is difficult. In fact, it might be one of the most difficult languages for English speakers, for two main reasons:
- Its complex grammar,
- And the sounds you need to make and understand when you’re speaking in Polish.
However, if you want to travel to Poland for touristic reasons, you should be able to get by with just a few key Polish words and phrases.
Let’s see below all the Polish words and phrases you will need when visiting Poland!
As in English, any nice interaction in Polish will begin with a smile and a well-chosen greeting.
These are the most common Polish words for saying hello.
- Cześć– Hello
- Dzieńdobry – Good morning/afternoon
- Dobrywieczór – Good evening
- Dobranoc– Good night
- Jaksię masz? – How are you?
- The common way to greet a stranger is to shake their hands. Although direct eye contact is important, try not to look too serious!
- It’s customary to shake a woman’s hand first before greeting her male companion. Also, older women should be greeted before young girls.
- Women commonly kiss their acquaintances and friends up to three times on alternating cheeks. Men may do the same thing but only with their close friends.
- You shouldn’t address someone by their first name unless he or she invites you to. Use people’s surnames and titles unless you’re sure it’s safe to move into a first-name basis. Use Pani(Ms.) for women and Pan (Mr.) for men
- Greet people with professional positions by using their job as their title. For example, Pani Profesor (Ms Professor) or Pan Inzynier (Mr Engineer).
You were not expecting something as simple as “Happy birthday” to have its own section, right?
The thing is there is more than one way in which you can say this phrase. On the one hand, there is a formal (and rather long!) phrase that you would sometimes use with colleagues or distant family members: Wszystkiego najlepszego z okazji urodzin, which literally translates to “All the best on your birthday”.
Luckily, there is an easier, more popular (definitely shorter!) way to say “Happy birthday”: Sto lat, which means “100 years”. This is both a greeting and the way Poles say “cheers” when they celebrate just about anything. This is the phrase they use in their traditional birthday song:
The Polish words and phrases below will allow you to go beyond “Hello” and “Good evening” and show that you’ve made a real effort. Simple expressions like “Please” and “Thank you”, might make a huge difference if you want to get locals to like you and engage in conversation with you.
Before you book your flight, make sure you learn the following Polish words and expressions for socialising:
- Jakmasz na imię? – What’s your name?
- Nazywamsię… – My name is…
- Proszę– Please
- DziękujęCi – Thank you
- Proszębardzo – You’re welcome
- Nierozumiem – I don’t understand
- Przepraszam– I’m sorry
- Spoko– No problem! / Don’t worry!
- Fart– Good luck!
Holidays do not only involve nice walks and relaxation. When we’re on holiday, we often do a lot of things, whether it is shopping, trying restaurants, or visiting museums.
Below, you will find a few Polish words and phrases that might save your life in all sorts of communicative situations.
- Czymówisz po angielsku? – Do you speak English?
- Ile to kosztuje?– How much does this cost?
- Gdziesą toalety? – Where are the toilets?
- Jednopiwo, proszę. – One beer, please.
- Poproszęrachunek? – Can I have the bill, please?
Now, who says that you can only travel to Poland on holiday?
Thanks to new regulations of the national government, it is now fairly easy for international students to get part-time jobs in Poland. At the moment, cities like Warsaw and Krakow are full of young people working as teacher assistants, delivery boys, booksellers and waiters, among others.
If you want to do work experience in Poland, it won’t do to just memorise a few Polish words. To succeed in a professional environment, you will need to learn phrases such as the ones below:
- Będętu pracować jako ___ – I’m going to work here as ___.
- Dziękujęza zaproszenie na ten wywiad. – Thank you for inviting me for this interview.
- Mam ___ latdoświadczenia. – I have ___ years of experience.
- A co powieszna piwo po pracy? – How about a beer after work?
- Na pewnoskończę przed terminem. – I’ll be finished before the deadline, for sure.
Adhering to Polish etiquette is as important as learning the words of the language. Whether you’re on holiday or on business, these are a few tips that you should bear in mind if you want to cause a good impression on locals.
- Approach personal and political subjects with tact and sensibility. Though Poles may appear frank and even brisk, they tend to be quite indirect when discussing difficult topics.
- Some Poles may be sensitive to topics related to Russia and Ukraine because of the disputes they have had with these countries over the years. So, it may be best to avoid showing excessive enthusiasm when you mention Ukrainians and particularly Russians.
- Bear in mind that not all Poles are Catholic Christians. Though Catholicism was once a cultural force in Poland, it has lost much of its relevance and public visibility and it is no longer a big part of most people’s lives.
- Poles are very sensitive when it comes to gender issues. Avoid making jokes about Polish women. Such comments, especially the kind that suggest young Polish women make easy brides for foreign men, can be deeply insulting.
Dziewięćsetdziewięćdziesięciodziewięcionarodowościowego, the longest Polish word, contains 54 characters. It roughly translates to “nine-hundred and ninety-nine nationalities”.
The complex phonology of the Polish language has historically caused a lot of confusion among foreign learners. This is because Polish words sometimes contain as many as five consonants one after the other, which is allegedly surpassed only by Georgian in terms of difficulty.
But what are the absolute hardest words?
This all-Polish word is made purely from originally Latin letters that were once modified with Polish diacritic marks. Meaning “bile”, Żółć poses a huge difficulty for English speakers as they need to learn the sound every character stands for before they attempt to say it.
Have you ever felt joy is hard to find? Then try saying the word “happiness” in Polish.
The Polish word Szczęście features a nasal e sound, two Polish digraphs (sz, cz), the Polish diacritic ś, a third digraph (ci), and a final vowel which is probably the only sound you’ll get right on your first attempt.
A place name for a town in Southern Poland, Pszczyna surely stands out on the map.
With a name like this, this town in Southern Poland certainly stands out on the map. But despite its daunting appearance, this word has only three consonants one after the other (the combinations of letters sz and cz stand for one sound each).
Do you really want to know what a headache-inducing consonant cluster looks like? You’ve come to the right place. This Polish word meaning “consequence” features a sequence of four consonants, but don’t fear. Being a genitive plural Następstw is a rare word that you’re not likely to find very often.
Want to go beyond Polish words and start working on your fluency? Visit our website now and explore our tailor-made courses taught by native Polish teachers. If you have any questions, you can also send us a quick message by clicking here.