Polish. The language of our northern neighbor

PolishYou can use Polish as a means of communication not only in Poland, but in any country with a Polish minority. There are 40,000 Poles in the Czech Republic alone, and there are strong Polish communities in Slovakia, in the UK – where Polish is the second most spoken language – in some areas of Germany and Romania, in Israel, in the USA, in Canada, etc.

Polish is spoken around the globe. Would you like to understand it too?

Polish, together with Czech, Slovak, Kashubian, Upper and Lower Sorbian, and the now extinct Polabian, is part of the West Slavic language group, which in turn is part of the Indo-European language family.

Roughly 50 million people worldwide use it regularly, and a further 10 million+ can at least understand it. It is the second most spoken Slavic language.

Polish uses the Roman alphabet, with a total of 32 letters. Similar to Czech, it uses declension and conjugation.

The academic field that deals with the Polish language is called Polish Studies.


Poland as a friendly neighbor

Polish is quite easy for us Czechs to learn, thanks to our common linguistic background and geographical location. We share a border of almost 800 kilometers, which we can cross at any time without any checks, thanks to the Schengen Agreement. According to recent polls and sociologists’ comments, Czechs tend to like Poland more and more.

In a poll by the Public Opinion Research Centre in 2021 that asked Czechs how much they like or don’t like certain countries on a scale of 1 to 5 – 1 meaning “very likeable,” – almost two-thirds of the respondents gave Poland a score of either 1 or 2. Poland has joined Hungary as the country with the highest increase in likeability since 2017. Who would have thought?

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Same words, different meanings

Linguists studying the Polish language and culture, so-called Polonists, say that you only need to know roughly 1,200 of the less common words to use the language effectively. An average Pole is said to know roughly 100,000 words, 30,000 of which they use regularly.

On the topic of vocabulary, Czech and Polish have many similar-sounding expressions with wildly different meanings. These expressions can be quite nefarious and force us to be careful when using them.


Here are some examples of linguistic unpredictability:

  • In Czech, “karavan” is a travel trailer. In Polish, “karawan” is a hearse.
  • Sklep.” In Czech it’s self-explanatory, meaning a cellar. In Polish it means a shop.
  • In Polish, “duben (April)” is “kwiecień” and “květen (May)” is “maj”.
  • The Czech word “silnice (road)” is “droga” in Polish. “Droga” is Czech for drug, while the Polish say “narkotyki” instead.
  • Jagody” in Polish mean blueberries, although the expression is very similar in form to the Czech “jahody (strawberries)”. Who would have thought of that?
  • The Polish “czerstwy chleb” and the Czech “čerstvý chléb” have opposite meanings; the former bread is stale, while the latter is fresh.
  • Zapach” refers to a nice smell in Polish, while a Czech would say “vůně”. “Zápach” is a bad odor in Czech, but a Pole would call it “smród”.


So don’t let these catch you off guard, and if you ever need a Czech – Polish translation done by professionals, don’t hesitate to contact us. We have a way with words.



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