The importance of professional Polish translation

Approximately 50 million people around the world speak Polish, across numerous Polish-speaking communities in America, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ukraine, the UK and many more.

With so many native-speakers, translation into or out of Polish should be easily accessible, but what are the repercussions of using non-native, unqualified linguists (or even worse, free, online translation tools) for businesses in both the commercial and public sector?

Is Polish a difficult language?

The Foreign Service Institute in the US compiles and ranks languages based on the amount of time it takes an English native speaker to become ‘proficient’, and places Polish in category 4 out of a possible 5, trailing only Arabic, Korean, Japanese and Chinese. With such a complex language, it’s critical to use a qualified, native translator or interpreter, especially for business use. But what makes Polish so difficult to learn?

Grammar & pronunciation

As well as 3 genders (masculine, feminine and neuter), Polish also has 7 cases (English has 3), so when coupled with a singular/plural option as well, a noun can potentially appear in 36 different forms.

Polish words also use letter combinations and diacritics not used in English, causing non-natives to grapple with the distinctive sounds, such as ‘cz’ and ‘dz’.

False friends

The Polish language has over a hundred false friends (words that look or sound alike but have completely different meanings). A couple of examples include ‘lunatyk’, which sounds like ‘lunatic’, but actually translates as ‘sleepwalker’, and ‘ordynarny’, which sounds like ‘ordinary’, but means ‘vulgar’ or ‘foulmouthed’.

Etymology and links to other languages

The English and Polish languages have also borrowed words from each other, especially around technology, some words are virtually the same such as ‘e-mail’, ‘computer’, ‘modem’ and ‘skaner (scanner)’. This is largely due to the speed at which technology moves – it was simply easier to borrow them than create new words. Many Polish words have creative, if not slightly romantic origins, such as ‘listopad’ (November) which translates as ‘falling leaves’. Some Polish words also bear similarities to other European languages, including ‘nightmare’ (‘cauchemar’ in French, ‘koszmar’ in Polish) and ‘tomato’ (‘pomodoro’ in Italian’, ‘pomidor’ in Polish). 

Is your business in need of Polish translation services? Don’t risk it – use professional, qualified linguists who will protect your brand and prevent any inaccuracies or errors during the localisation process.

If you speak Polish, or know someone who does, have you thought about translation or interpreting opportunities? Visit our career pages for more information on how to join our team. Many public sector organisations are frequently in need of Polish interpreters, particularly in the south of England.

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