We at GoLocalise have worked on Polish audiovisual translation projects for years now. 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. It’s territory was split among various larger political entities before being reformed again following World War one. This impacted the dialects and languages which are spoken there today. When planning your Polish translation project, it’s important to know that Poland has many dialects. It also has two official languages: Polish and Kashubian.
Kashubian originates in the North of the country in a region called Kaszuby. Its alphabet has 6 more letters than the Polish one, however the northern version of the Kashubian language does not use the letter ‘ł’ and used ‘l’ instead. Even within the Kashubian language, there are such significant differences between dialects that sometimes residents of the south of the region may have problems 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. 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.
Silesian is native to Upper Silesia and is in some ways a mix of a 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 to 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.
This 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 sang in the Highlander dialect on TV and radio. This dialect is full of old Polish archaisms and influence 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.
There are a few other dialects around Poland besides those three that stand out the most. Like in the UK where a word for ‘bread roll’ changes every few kilometres, Polish has many names for potatoes. Examples include ziemniaki, kartofle, pyry, bulwy or grule.
Language Map of Poland for Polish Translation
Remember, to discuss your next Polish translation project, give us call or email firstname.lastname@example.org