Friday, 15 April 2016


It's Polski Piątek, so I will tell you about my Polish reading of the week. The current volume I am carting around is called Muminiki: Koniec świata i inne opowiadania" (i.e. The Mumins: The End of the World and Other Stories.)  Yes, this is a Polish translation of some Swedish "Mumintroll" stories by Tove Jansson, and very good it is, too.

There are five stories in this volume, and I have read three. Yesterday I read "Prezent urodzinowy (The Birthday present)" and burst into tears at the end. This may have been because I hadn't had enough sleep the night before. On the other hand, it was a very affecting story. The poor Muminpapa had tried and failed several times to make Muminmama a nice birthday present, but then it all turned out for the best. No doubt this mirrored my own striving to read as something as simple as a children's story in Polish after four and a half years of study.

I wrote down all the words and expressions I looked up; there were 78 of them. I also wrote down the amusing expression employed by Little My as she rushed past on a skateboard: "Z drogi, śledzie, bo się jedzie!" which I take to mean "Out the of road, toads (well, herrings), because I'm coming!"  This strikes me as rather more charming than the "Get outta the WAAAAAAY!!!!" of my childhood.

In the evening I had Polish class. My twelfth term of Polish class has begun. I brought a lot of coloured pens because I am reading books on memory improvement and apparently coloured pens are the way to go. Sadly, I was so exhausted by the last exercise of the class that I just packed up and went home. I was also saddened by the news that this term we will be talking a lot about contemporary Polish politics. As left-wing Polish friends and acquaintances are filling Facebook with clothes hangers--sometimes plastic and wooden ones, which rather shows they haven't the foggiest idea what they denote--I really do not want to talk about contemporary Polish politics.

While laboriously looking up Muminiki words in my now-battered Wroclaw dictionary, I thought again about the Polish girl who told me I shouldn't bother to try to learn Polish because it was too hard. Usually this thought inspires me to work harder. This time I just found it depressing.

When I went to the library to look at memory-improving books, I discovered that it is easier to remember series of one-syllable words much more easily than series of two or more syllable words. Well! No wonder it is easier for foreigners to learn good old Anglo-Saxon than it is for Anglo-Saxons to learn Foreign.  "We drove to the park with cats" has to be rendered "Pojechaliśmy do parku z kotami." Therefore, my thought that if X could learn English, I could certainly learn Polish is NOT backed up by science.

What my friend might have said, had she any experience of Anglophones learning Polish, is that studying Polish in Edinburgh classes will take you only so far. After a certain point, you must go at talk to Poles, which is most easily done in Poland, unless you work in a Pole-dominated field, e.g. in the restaurant trade in Leith. "If you want to learn Polish, you could work in any kitchen in Edinburgh" a chef told me, and B.A. whisked me away before I could think of asking if the chef knew of any openings.

This would be brilliant: I could make money at a job where absolutely nobody cares what I write online and learn kitchen Polish at the same time.  It would be a solution worthy of a Mumin story.


  1. Ha! I was going to suggest you see if there are any Poles living in your neighbourhood, so you could perhaps catch up with a local Polish housewife for tea and dialogue. Pseudo-Polish kitchen staffer is even better! Why did BA not like the thought? ;)

    And the leftie Poles? I suspect they are using coathangers to make the point that without 'safe, legal and rare' ab*rtion, women will *have* to resort to using coathangers to get rid of their unwanted babies with consequent risk to themselves. \sarcasm They may not realise it could be seen as them being ignorant of the nightmare horror of back street ab*rtions...


    1. No, I don't think they understand about the coat hangers or they would be cut-and-pasting wire ones, not plastic or wooden ones. On the plus side, if someone explained it to them, they might be so disgusted, they would rethink who they've gotten into bed with (ideologically speaking).