Do you know that Polish is the most spoken language in the UK besides English and is spoken by around 50 million people worldwide?
Polish Is part of the Slavic language group, and It’s quite an old language, too – the first known sentence dates back to 1270!
Despite being considered one of the most challenging languages to translate, it’s currently learned by over 800,000 people worldwide on Duolingo.
At Golocalise, we have worked on Polish audiovisual translation and Polish Voice-Overs projects for years, and here we want to share part of our experience to help with your Polish localisation project.
But before we start talking about English to Polish translation, some historical context is in order.
The Polish Language Today
Throughout history, Poland’s border has changed and parts of Poland as we know today were actually parts of different countries.
Between 1795 and 1919, Poland wasn’t even recognised internationally as a country. Its territory was split among various larger political entities before being reformed again following World War one.
This impacted the Polish dialects and languages which are spoken there today.
When planning your English to Polish Translation project, or the other way, it’s important to know that Poland has many dialects. It also has two official languages: Polish and Kashubian.
The Kashubian Language
Kashubian, one of the official languages of Poland, originates in the North of the country in a region called Kaszuby.
Nowadays around 108 thousand people speak it. You can see Kashubian on the news, and school students can study it as one of their A-levels.
Its alphabet has six more letters than the Polish one. However, the northern version of the Kashubian language does not use the letter ‘ł’ and uses ‘l’ instead.
Even within the Kashubian language, there are such significant differences between dialects that sometimes, residents of the south of the region may need help with clear communication with the North.
Kashubian still belongs to the same language family as Polish (Slavic) and some of the phrases are quite similar to Polish ones such as ‘przeprôszóm’ which in Polish is “przepraszam” which means ‘I’m sorry’.
However, besides a few shared phrases the language is very different from Polish, taking into account those differences are key in an English to Polish Translation Project.
Silesian: a Dialect of Polish or a Language?
Silesian is native to Upper Silesia and is in some ways a mix of Polish, German and Czech. Not surprising given the placement of the region on the map!
Sometimes considered a dialect of Polish, though at least 60 thousand Silesians consider it a separate language.
Silesian, similarly to Kashubian, also has regional differences, such as in the meaning of some words as well as in pronunciation.
It is not as widely used within Silesia as Kashubian is in its region, however some schools offer extra-curricular lessons and include short poems in the Silesian dialect during school performances.
This dialect (or language) is very different from Polish. For example, the word for socks is ‘zoki’ in Silesian and in Polish is “skarpetki’. However, there is one word which originated from Silesian and now we use in the whole country – ‘fajny/fajna’ meaning ‘cool’.
Most people who use it every day probably do not know of its origin.
The Highlander dialect in Poland
This Highlander dialect as well as the accent and traditions, which are slightly different to the rest of Poland, is very popular around the country.
During Christmas there are many songs and carols sung in the Highlander dialect on TV and radio.
This dialect is full of old Polish archaisms and influences from Balkan and Slovak languages. The melody of this dialect is very unique and interesting.
For example, they usually emphasise the first syllable of a word, compared to other dialects where the emphasis comes on the second or third syllable from the end of the word.
The normal greeting in the region is ‘niek bedzié pôkwolony’ which we can translate to ‘let Him be praised’ – where ‘He’ is God. To this greeting the person should respond “Na wieki wieków’- ‘forever and ever’.
It is also very common to use linguistically ‘formal’ communication as a sign of respect during conversation with parents and other older family members, which is not a common practice in the rest of Poland anymore.
Are There More Dialects of Polish?
There are a few other dialects around Poland besides those three mentioned above that stand out the most. Like in the UK, where the word for ‘bread roll’ changes every few kilometers, Polish has many names for potatoes. Examples include ziemniaki, kartofle, pyry, bulwy or grule.
Language Map of Poland
False Friends in Polish Translation
The term false friend in translation means two words in different languages that look or sound the same but have entirely different meanings.
There are more false friends between Polish and English that you may expect, even if these languages don’t seem to have a lot in common.
Check out the following list of fun false friends, we hope that knowing them could help you in your Polish translation project:
- Fart vs fart
We all know what fart means in English, but did you know that in Polish the same word, (written and even pronounced the same way!) means good fortune or luck?
If you hear it on the Polish streets, don’t worry, they don’t talk about the flatulence here!
- lunatic vs lunatyk
The word used in English to describe a manic, crazy person can be really misunderstood in Poland, where it just means someone who’s sleepwalking.
Still, there’s something lunatic about sleepwalkers anyway, don’t you think?
When we talk about the linguistic differences between the languages, we cannot forget about all-time favourites: idioms. Those bring so much more fun while you’re learning a new language but they can be a bit weird as well!
(Check these embarrassing translations of idioms made by famous companies).
Let us check out some funny Polish idioms and its meaning:
- Nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy: meaning more or less ‘’Not my circus, not my monkeys’’!
This one is quite an old proverb in Polish, but such a good one. In your Polish translation, you can use it when you don’t want to be involved in someone else’s drama or when something is not your problem, so you want to stay out of it!
- Czy słoń nadepnął ci na ucho?– as the way of saying: ‘’ Did an elephant stomp on your ear?’
Whenever you’d like to say that someone has absolutely no musicality whatsoever. If your big dream is to become a musician, it is worth to know that one because if you ever hear it- maybe it’s actually time to put the instruments away!
- Wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu. – The literal translation of this one would be ‘’To drill a hole in someone’s belly’’.
Despite how dangerous and concerning this may sound, you can describe this way a person that goes on about something and they wouldn’t stop. They keep bothering you about it and it’s just getting annoying.
Who would’ve thought that in Polish you could say a child is drilling a hole in their mum’s belly when she doesn’t want to buy them a new toy! Quite worrying that one, right?
Hope the above Polish translation facts put a smile on your face and made you consider visiting! If not, maybe a pint of beer for less than £2 will? 😉
Polish Translation and Voice-Over Services
As you can see, Poland is a tricky language to translate, the nonsense idioms and weird letters.
Worry not! At GoLocalise, an English Voice-Over agency, we have a vast network of Polish Voice Over specialists like Julia! Listen to her sharing advice for Polish Translation and Voice-Over Projects.
We can also help you localise your content to over 300 languages, whether video, audio or text, with our industry-renowned services.
Do you know what localisation is? We assure you that it is more than a translation service.