Posted by: anglopole | July 11, 2008

Degraded Polish or upgraded English?

I have more and more bookings for interpreting needed by Poles who get in trouble here, in the UK, and cannot speak English. Today I went to the office of the local social services to help a Polish couple in communicating with the social workers involved in the case. As the two miserable fellow countrymen of mine were telling me their story so that I can interpret it into English, I was puzzled as something was not right in their way of speaking Polish…. I was busy doing Aaron’s job, so to say, and couldn’t immediately get what it was that was rather foreign in my native tongue produced by the pair…

As I finished and was driving home I had a brainwave – it was some English words with Polish endings that the two people were using which were so strange to my ears…

Ponglish is the name of the new dialect that is more and more often heard in the streets, pubs and work places in the UK. It’s not really that we don’t have so many equivalents of English words in Polish that we need to borrow dozens upon dozens of words from the English vocab! It simply looks like some Poles here get infected with the notorious British linguistic laziness… They seem to find it hard to think in the two languages and so decide to go for a hybrid of both!

Here are some offspring of the marriage of Polish and English, now known as Ponglish:

  • drinkowac – to drink

  • taksy – taxes

  • szopingowac – to do shopping

  • isc na brejk – have a break

  • strity – streets

  • na kornerze – in the corner

  • tiszert – Tee Shirt

  • tivi – TV

The irony is that it’s the people who do not speak fluent English or don’t speak it at all, just like my clients today, who tend to incorporate some English words of their choice into their Polish….

Perhaps it is not such a bad thing from the British point of view, however (?) After all, Ponglish should be easier to learn for the British minds that all too often are so resistant to foreign languages… 😉


  1. during my first year in Sweden I did a lot of interpreting, too. Ponglish did not bother me at all. What amazed me was that people who couldn’t even say “thank you” in a foreign language thought they could move abroad and get jobs. Now 5 years later, the situation is much better. Or there are no jobs here and all the nimwits go to the UK instead.


  2. can you fix the typo in my first comment? pretty please? 🙂


  3. all’s fixed now 🙂

    Well, I didn’t want to say what you, Ania, pointed to – I thought I’d sound too… erm.. patronizing, perhaps? Yesterday, what came to my mind was exactly the question – why are not people bothered to learn at least the basics of English before coming here to settle down? :/ I’m glad to know I’m not the only one surprised with this phenomenon!


  4. I live in the US, in Chicagoland, where there are lots of Polish people. The Ponglish rule works as follows: the ones who speak good English, also speak “clean” Polish, hesitating to even use a Ponglish word where there is no decent Polish equivalent. The ones who cannot put together a sentence in English (and most of the time don’t event try to improve it), talk about insiura, dewol (diabel), medycyna (lekarstwo), kort (sad), tykiet, stykier, cziskejk, piczesy, korner etc.
    I must say I quite dislike it, since there ARE nice and easy Polish counterparts for all those words.
    Then there is the totally separate issue of construction Ponglish – that I actually find rather amusing. And I don’t mind it – how on earth are you going to say “two-by-four” in Polish, to describe a long piece of wood two inches thick and four inches wide?


  5. Thanx for your comment, Kasia!
    I can see you are ineed having some linguistic fun over there! 😀
    Ponglish, can surely be more than amusing;p It’s true that there are words in English that seem simpler, shorter and maybe nicer than their Polish equivalents and it only seems so natural to use them in Polish sentences….. Yet, it’s just plain linguistic sloppiness, isn’t it?


  6. I do the same thing in reverse eg.

    I didn’t know they were remonting the flat next door.

    I see you’ve farby’d your wlos.

    Let’s go skleping.


  7. really?! that’s must be hilarious – listening to English speaking people borowing Polish words and anglicizing them! 😀 I love the ‘let’s go skleping phraze’ (you’d probably need to add a ‘p’ to make the ‘sklepping’ stick to English rules more ;p hahaha) You have made my day with this comment, Island!:-)


  8. I speak them all – English, Polish and Ponglish, as well as Swenglish (or svengelska). Don’t see anything wrong with it, either. They all serve a different purpose.


  9. Nothing is inherently wrong with Ponglish and the like:) IMHO, the difference is in who uses the language mixes. It’s cute to me when it’s done consciously by people who speak both languages fluently. Yet, I find it pathetic when it’s done by people who don’t speak English and use Ponglish to make it look like their minds are so anglicized they can no longer speak Polish well… I suppose, it’s one of my pet hates… 😉


  10. Really? I see it as one of the tools to actually learn a language better. Let them mix it, anglicize it, and maybe eventually they will learn to use the language properly. I’m going through it myself with Konglish right now 🙂


  11. ‘I see it as one of the tools to actually learn a language better’ – If it’s about you personally, it may be so. I cannot confirm it as a general rule, though. Never in my teaching practice have I met people (not proficient in the target language) who would benefit linguistically from unreservedly using Ponglish on a daily basis. It reinforces bad language habits (eg. loan translations/calques)… However, as with any rule there are exceptions and you, probably, are one, Ania! 😀


  12. […] Degraded Polish or upgraded English? 202 views […]


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