When “NO” means “YES”

Learning languages ​​has never been an easy task even if that language doesn’t have any similarities with our mother tongue, like, for example, in my case with Spanish and Polish. Besides, in some countries like in Bulgaria for example, when they want to say “YES”, they move their heads to acknowledge the same way that the rest of the people use to deny something and vice versa when they want to say “NO” when they agree. It must be very difficult it is to communicate with the Bulgarians! In reference to the Polish language, it is not as an extreme case as the Bulgarian YES / NO, but it also has its own peculiar case for foreigners. Keep reading and you’ll see what I mean.

If we check in a dictionary on how to say “YES” and “NO” in Polish, we will get the official meaning, “TAK” and “NIE” respectively. Until here, all right, at least we can say two basic monosyllables in Polish but everything changes when you live an everyday life among Poles and you realize that in a colloquial conversation, “No” means “Yes” and in that very moment your neurons start to suffer overload and short circuits provoking severe psychological problems.

That “No” with an affirmative meaning is not the same as in Spanish or in English; it is a “No” lengthening the final “o” with a descending and casual final accent. At least now you have a clue to differentiate it when you hear it in a normal conversation in Polish.

Personally, I have this problem at home. I always speak with my wife in Spanish since we have been living together in Spain but sometimes, as usual, she speaks to me some words and sentences in Polish and the conversation goes somewhat like this:

(Me): Kochanie (darling), do we have to buy bread for today?

(MY Wife): No…

(M): Ok, so we’ll buy it tomorrow…

(MW): NO!

(M): “No” what??

(MW): Do you see how you do not listen to me?

(M): But you told me that it was NOT necessary to buy bread for today!

(MW): It was the Polish “No”…

(M): Ah ok… the “No Polish” again … grrrr, ¬_¬

Another funny situation occurred with my Mexican friend Stephi. When she first started living in Warsaw, she went to buy a bus ticket and she spoke to the woman in Polish:

(Stephi): Dzien Dobry. Po prosze jeden bilet. (Good morning. Please one ticket)

(Woman): No…

(S): ¿¿?? Ok ok… Dziekuje. Do widzenia… (Thanks. Bye)

… And she left there thinking “what a disagreeable lady!” xD. Finally, she went back and she was able to buy the ticket.

There are so many funny situations like these, but to be honest, I have to say that right now I am getting used to it and I even say the Polish “No” when I want to give a positive answer. Maybe I am becoming a Polish guy…

And what about you, have you also had a similar funny situation? Please tell me your experience in the comments!

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