Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Ponglish: Diary of a Pole

Eight years ago I arrived in the UK with my fellow countrymen: rocket scientists, brain surgeons, state attorneys, film directors and hairdressers. They let us flow out of the plane and spread all over the country.

Back home, in Poland, I grew up watching Mr. Bean, listening to Brit Rock and thinking every Londoner has marmalade on toast with tea for breakfast. Having lived here for nearly a decade I have developed an affection to my current whereabouts. I can’t really imagine living without this beloved dry humour! Even though Mr. Bean is yet to be spotted.

Apart from the friendly mentality of the Brits (most of you will frown now), I like the language. Which paradoxically becomes a lingua franca even amongst the Poles themselves. Some fifteen years ago I had my auntie come over from the USA, she tended to throw in some odd American-sounding words into her ever exaggerated statements. Back then I thought: “What did she catch out there?!”

Today I think the bug has spread further and so I hear myself taking lancz (lunch), making kola (calls), having cziken (chicken) and bukując holideja (booking my holidays). This linguistic patty has even gotten its own name: Ponglish.

A couple of weeks ago I tried to form a one man army resistance force and use the former ways of saying things for a week. I ended up sounding rigid, anti-progressive and possibly exuding an anti-assimilating attitude; such an embarrassment – had to drop it.

What is the situation like with English in Poland? It quickly overtook Russian and now goes arm-in-arm with German [Ed. WHHHHHAAAAATTTT?????? :-)]. It is probably due to globalisation, the Internet and also the ‘2005 EU-mingle fest’ which makes the Polish relatives want to learn English. The pace is fast, burn my school book ‘How do you do?’ and Siri-text me: ‘You alright?’.

Since some Polish cities have become popular Stag Do destinations, my friend reports to me from Cracow that signs, posts, menus are both in Polish and English. All in attempt to make it attractive and hospitable to foreign tourists … and/or it’s adapting for UK Poles to feel homely when they get back there as soon as they hit my auntie’s age.

Thank you for reading!

Konrad Krzysztofik (Specialist Translation Project Manager at K International)

8 replies
  1. Sabine Mepstead
    Sabine Mepstead says:

    This is so true for my home country Germany as well …

    Having grown up with the impression of London as the centre of the universe, any German under the age of 30 now speaks what is affectionately known as “Denglisch”. They downloaden, uploaden, chatten and shoppen with enthusiasm, whilst their aunties look on in wonder, shaking their heads and asking themselves what the world is coming to.

    Although I have no intention of ever returning there, having long ago become a True Brit, a small social experiment carried out during my last German holiday confirmed that, driving an English car and speaking nothing but English I managed just fine – even the aunties were keen to improve their Denglisch 🙂

    I hope they don’t get too good at it, as that would be me out of a job …

    Reply
  2. Karolina Piotrowska
    Karolina Piotrowska says:

    Konrad, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts.
    You are so right in this post – about Ponglish. It’s everywhere!
    I seem to be using it too: “Bukuję samochód” (book a car), “szukam wałczerów albo promo” (look for vouchers or special offers) and last Tuesday “robiłam pankejki” (I made pancakes).

    However, I may not be “English” enough as yet (altough I’ve lived here as long as you have) because I cannot make myself to say “you alright?” for “How do you do?” or “Cheers” or “TA” for “Thank you”. I guess with time this will change too.

    Regarding the overwhelming presence of English in Poland, I guess it only relates to big cities. It is now definitely far more comfortable for foreign tourists to arrive to Warsaw or Cracow and move around knowing English only. I remember when I got to Prague two years ago and EVERYONE spoke English, even an old gentleman at the secured car park! That is one of the biggest advantages of globalisation and open borders in the EU.

    Reply
  3. Eva Ponikelska
    Eva Ponikelska says:

    Well put Konrad. I am fighting hard to keep my Czech pure at home (mainly for my kids who just ignore me and carry on in English), but when we get together with the Czech girls, who have been living here considerably longer then I, I find it really comfortable to slip into Czenglish. One of my friends believes that in the future English will prevail totally and languages like Czech and Slovak will cease to exist. But I am fighting back and creating Engczech – “my” English people now say “Dobrou chuť” before every meal (it means Enjoy your meal). Nowadays, when a prayer is not so popular anymore, it is a short and convenient something to say before you tuck in. They struggle with the pronunciation a bit, but they will get there… one day :-].

    Reply
    • Konrad Krzysztofik
      Konrad Krzysztofik says:

      As it appears there is a culture of its own – Foreignlish. I guess your friend is right saying this is a temporary trend. It might be us, the young, who let the mother tongue fuse with English so much. The future generations would probably make a more determined move and stick to one language – just like your kids. We are a mere sign of change.
      Nevertheless I wouldn’t like to outlive the times when such lovely languages as Czech & Slovak disappear.

      Reply
  4. Alice Saunders
    Alice Saunders says:

    Well put Konrad. I am bilingual myself, grew up in the Netherlands, have always been speaking both English and Dutch, live in France now and it is great to see how the French include many English words into every day life and have made them their own. That’s how the world should be and that’s how the world is. I love it, although it doesn’t help me improve my French!

    Reply
    • Konrad Krzysztofik
      Konrad Krzysztofik says:

      Thank you Alice. It’s the beauty of our profession – we get to see how languages work and influence one another. This experience made me appreciate my own mother tongue; more than ever. By the way, today is the International Mother Language Day!

      Reply

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