Saturday, 9 January 2016

Polish Sentence Structure

One of the great difficulties in writing Polish prose is producing Polish, not English, sentence structure. Polish, like Latin and Greek, shows the grammatical function of words not by their place in a sentence (e.g. Anna loves Marek) but with changes to the endings of words (e.g.  Anna Marka kocha.) Therefore the student of Polish has to learn all the potential endings for every noun, be it masculine, masculine-personal, feminine or neuter, be it soft-stemmed or hard-stemmed, etc., etc. But once you have that figured out, it is time to write proper Polish sentences that look like a Pole, not an English-speaking person, wrote them, and that is very tricky.

One possible way forward is to memorize whole blocks of Polish text, so as to have whole sentences, not just words, to draw on. Here is a literal--very literal--translation of Dialogue 2 in Polish in Four Weeks Level 2, so you can see the curious strangeness of Polish sentence structure.

Shopkeeper: Day good, long time sir our place was not.

Waldek: Yes, it true. Lately I had trip.

Shopkeeper: Clearly was sir in Caribbean or in Bali?

Waldek: No, not so far and not so exotic. Only in Budapest.

Shopkeeper: Budapest it beautiful city. In what can I sir serve?

Waldek: I beg 25 decagrams of cheese of king.

Shopkeeper: In bit or in slices?

Waldek: In slices.

Shopkeeper: We have freshikins.

Waldek: And 10 of pieces of  ham of grandma.

Shopkeeper: Is good-smelling. Something yet?

Waldek: Bread villagey.

Shopkeeper: Sliced?

Waldek: Sliced.

Shopkeeper: I invite, breadikins sliced. Something yet?

Waldek: 6  of beers "Zywiec"

Shopkeeper: In cans or in bottles?

Waldek: In cans.

Shopkeeper: I invite,  beerikins. Is preparing himself partykins Sir? So should be. Is Friday, one must himself party.

Waldek: No, not exactly party. We are intending together with a colleague to watch the match on television.

Shopkeeper: How match?

Waldek:  How it? It sir not know? We are playing France.

Shopkeeper: It already today? Completely I forgot. Good, that Sir me reminds. They are expecting big emotions. What sir thinks? Do we have chances?

Waldek: Chances are always. Only one must them take advantage.

Shopkeeper: I have hope, that ours will show, what they can.

Waldek: Ah, I forgot. I beg yet paste of teeth.

Shopkeeper: Which?

Waldek: Colgate. And fluid of cleaning of dishes.

Shopkeeper: I invite.

Waldek: It everything. Good, that sir has here everything, what necessary to living. How much I pay?

Shopkeeper: 40 of zloty, 50 groszy.

Judge how hilarious that sounds, and you may have a fair estimate of what Polish sentences constructed by English-speakers along English lines must sound like to Poles.

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