STOP, please do not kill me for the title without reading this post first and after then I can give you permission to do so if you really wish, okay? A few days ago, I came back from Spain after visiting my family and friends and one of the topics which popped up in our conversations is the English language and the possibilities of travelling and working in Poland with this language. Now let me tell you about one of my own experiences.
Although some of you would not believe it, there are still people in Spain who ask me the next question: “And which language do they speak in Poland?”. French? German? Swahili? What do you think? Anyway, otwiera mi się nóż w kieszeni… (“My knife is opened in my pocket” – Polish expression).
During the almost two weeks that I spent in Spain, I met with many friends who asked me how is everything going in Poland and from time to time some of them told me some personal experiences in this country such as “Ah, I was there last summer, and I visited blah blah blah“. I am very happy with this interest that some the people have in visiting this country because if you compare Poland with other European countries, I do not think that it is in the top five most visited countries in Europe (they really do not know what they are missing).
But there is one thing that slightly irritates me, and it is when I meet a person who has visited Poland and the first thing that they indignantly say is: “In Poland, no one speaks English!” Although it is partly true that not in all areas of the country people speak English as is only logical (after all, it is not the official language); in the big cities or in tourist areas you will find people who speak fluent English or at least to a very high standard. Which poses a question for myself: In Spain, does everyone speak the Shakespearian language? If I say that 30% of the population speak it fluently, I am being very overly optimistic. For these people who complain, I tell them that here in Poland for the last 30 years, children who have Polish language as their mother tongue, learn English from very early ages (at 11 years old I have already seen children who speak English perfectly) during high school, plus they have the possibility to learn a third language (Spanish, German, Russian, Italian, etc …). And in saying that, I mean that Spanish speakers are not the best example to talk about languages. For example, in my case, I work with Polish people who speak Polish and English and even some of them Spanish and Portuguese fluently.
Now I remember another situation which happened a few months ago. I was on a “FreeTour” in Warsaw with some friends who came to visit me and also there were some more Spaniards including a guy from Andalucía, in the south of Spain. Well, once the visit had ended, this guy went to buy a gift in the area of Stare Miasto and I was lucky enough, or not, to overhear him speaking English. I swear that it took me more than five minutes to understand what he trying to buy as well as the clerk because he was trying to talk in English with his strong accent from southern Spain. A complete mix of languages and accents! So maybe people from other countries do not understand us when we speak English first because of our low level and second because we have this typical Spanish accent that we recognize between us when we are abroad, but others do not.
Finally, if you do not speak very good English, you have not any strong accent and you want to visit Poland, you always can use sign language for communicating or Google translator for reading this post! 😉