Poland is the 9th largest country in Europe and shares borders with seven other countries, including Russia and Germany. The Polish language is spoken by over 55 million people worldwide – only 38 million of them live in Poland.
There are many large communities of people from Poland around the world, including:
The language formed in the 10th century as a number of tribes were united in the area which became Poland. From that point, it rapidly grew to become one of the most important academic and diplomatic languages in Europe.
However, it wasn’t fully standardized until the last half of the twentieth century. Millions of people moved from the eastern regions to the west. This was the result of the expanding Soviet Union claiming former German territories.
Polish uses the Latin alphabet, which is a welcome sight to English speaking students. However, the spoken tongue has its roots in a different linguistic family (the Western Slavic family).
According to the US Foreign Office, Slavic languages are only slightly easier to learn than East Asian languages and Arabic. This is largely due to the differences in Grammar.
For one thing, there are 3 genders to memorize (masculine, feminine and neuter). Add to that the fact that verbs are more complex – in English, we use tense to communicate the difference between ongoing actions and completed ones. In Poland, they use completely different verb forms.
Aside from Grammer, phonetics are another stumbling block – especially in the case of sibilant fricatives (hissing sounds, like “ss” and “ch”). In Poland, there are several distinct sibilants which tend to sound the same to the untrained ear.
None of these reasons should really stand as barriers to a determined student – once you get a grip on the differences, learning the Polish language is largely a matter of patience and practice. It’s a rewarding task, and given the large population of Poles around the world, it’s a worthwhile one.