Language schools » Polish schools

Polish schools

Argentina Austria Belgium
Canada Germany Italy
Spain United States  


Polish language


Polish (jezyk polski, polszczyzna) is the official language of Poland. Polish is the main representative of the Lechitic branch of the West Slavic languages. It originated in the areas of present-day Poland from several local Western Slavic dialects, most notably those spoken in Greater Poland and Lesser Poland.

Polish was once a lingua franca in various regions of Central and Eastern Europe, mostly due to the political, cultural, scientific and military influence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Although no longer having as great an influence outside of Poland, due in part to the dominance of the Russian language, it is still sometimes spoken or at least understood in western border areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania as a second language. It shares some vocabulary with the languages of the neighboring Slavic nations, most notably with Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian and Belarusian.

Classification

The Polish language is the most widely-spoken of the Slavic language subgroup of the Lechitic languages which include Kashubian (the only surviving dialect of the Pomeranian language) and the extinct Polabian language. The three languages, along with Upper and Lower Sorbian, Czech and Slovak, belong to the West branch of Slavic languages.

Geographic distribution

Polish is mainly spoken in Poland. In fact, Poland is one of the most homogeneous European countries in terms of its mother tongue, as close to 97% of Polish citizens declare Polish as their mother tongue. After the Second World War the previously Polish territories annexed by the USSR retained a large amount of the Polish population that was unwilling or unable to migrate toward the post-1945 Poland and even today ethnic Poles in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine constitute large minorities. In Lithuania 9 percent of the population declared Polish to be their mother tongue. It is by far the most widely used minority language in the Vilnius County (26% of the population, according to the 2001 census results), but it is also present in other counties. In Ukraine, Polish is most often used in the Lviv and Lutsk regions. Western Belarus has an important Polish minority, especially in the Brest and Grodno regions.

There are also significant numbers of Polish speakers in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, UAE, the UK and the United States.

In the U.S. the number of people of Polish descent is over 11 million, see: Polish language in the United States, but most of them do not use Polish in their everyday communications.

According to the United States 2000 Census, 667,414 Americans of age 5 years and over reported Polish as language spoken at home, which is about 1.4% of people who speak languages other than English or 0.25% of the U.S. population.

Dialects

Polish became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century, partly due to universal education, but also because of the mass migration of several million Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of the country after the east was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, during World War II.

"Standard" Polish is still spoken somewhat differently in different regions of the country, although the differences between these broad "dialects" are slight. There is never any difficulty in mutual understanding, and non-native speakers are generally unable to distinguish them without conscious effort. That is, these differences are slight compared to different dialects of English, for example. The regional differences correspond mainly to old tribal divisions from around 1000 years ago; the most significant of these (in terms of numbers of speakers) are Great Polish (spoken in the west), Lesser Polish (spoken in the south and southeast), Mazovian (Mazur) spoken throughout the centre and east of the country, and Silesian spoken in the southwest. Mazovian shares some features with the Kashubian language