Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Tandem and telly

It's been more than six months now since I arrived in Kraków, and things are starting to become a little clearer on the linguistic front, but I'm still not able to unravel whole sentences as such. Speaking to me in Polish requires a lot of patience and repetition.

In Paris, there were a number of French-English language exchange meetings with varying degrees of formality (the most organized one that I attended used set topics and groups of four, while the other extreme involved cramming upwards of 70 people into a 60m2 apartment for mint tea and cake-fuelled carnage in whatever common language you could muster). Most of them can be found in free expat mag fusac, although you have to get the paper copy to see any of the really interesting ads. I needed something similar in Poland.

Now, I love speaking Foreign but I've found it tough here: most young, educated, middle class people (who are the ones I tend to have most contact with) speak perfectly workable English and will switch over the minute you let slip that you didn't quite catch the last bit. The important thing is not to give yourself away, so I've been working on my fake Polish (involves listening, nodding, and inserting 'no,' 'no, właśnie', 'no tak'*, at opportune moments), but ideally I'd rather not have to invent two thirds of every conversation. That kind of thing can land you in trouble. I decided to take matters into my own hands again, and on Monday night I made my way to Kraków's one and only Tandem Evening. It was held in the basement of a pub (the 'piwnica'- from 'piwo'- thus a place for keeping beer) and consisted of several tables labelled with different languages.

I sat down at the empty 'Polski' table and waited.

On the English table they seemed to be having a ball.

After twenty minutes or so, by which time I had read the 'Guide to Tandem Learning' from cover to cover, it occurred to me that all the Poles were in fact sitting at the English table, practicing away. It was time to do some bargaining.
I approached, managed to croak: 'Jestem Angielką', and promised to speak The Queen's Own provided they would let me stagger through a few painful rounds in Polish first.

And it worked! I actually got to chat in basic Polish for more than a couple of sentences! (Although it's sort of like tennis where you're trying to get a rally going and speaking English is the equivalent of dropping the ball).

I lasted around an hour before slipping away to more familiar territory: Chatting to Italian Boys.
All those years of study and tuition fees have not been in vain (never take me for pizza).

By the way: I finally have television! (thanks for the reminder, prq, whoever you are...). Luckily, Car Guy managed to locate his vehicle for long enough to drive me to Media Markt on Saturday, where we spent a good hour or so while I mulled over whether it was really worth buying a Whole New (old-style cathode-ray) Television simply so that I could expand my vocabulary by watching Kinder adverts and bad sitcoms.

Of course it was.
Now I can lounge in front of 'M jak Miłość'**, get addicted to the angst-ridden love life of Warsaw yuppie 'Magda M', (why, when there are so many beautiful letters in the Polish alphabet... śżćąęłprzw etc.), be completely baffled by high-speed news readers, utterly frustrated by the Polski lektor (a form of dubbing which involves the same monotonous middle aged guy reading the Polish translation- Nb translation Not interpretation- of the script approximately three and a half seconds behind the actual dialogue) and find myself having to forcibly evict Car Guy, who immediately stretched out in front of the screen with that glazed-over look that my little brother used to get watching holiday cartoons as soon as the thing lit up.

Right now, they're showing 'Good Night and Good Luck' on TVP2. Sadly my flatmate has an unfortunate partiality to Radio Zet, a particularly awful Polish radio station, à la Capital FM, and I can't hear a thing.

*n.b.: 'no' is informal Polish for 'yes'. Gentlemen, this is Not An Excuse.

** equiv. 'L for luuuurve' baby. Not related to the above note about no meaning yes.


PRQ said...

Ha, you're quite welcome.

justyna said...

Start secretly changing the frequency to 99.4FM. It's Radio Trójka. Very tops. Good music in the evenings. It's the best radio station I have found here (public, although has ads - but not nearly as many as the harrowing Radio Zet).