Monday, 15 June 2009

Polish Word of the Day #: Sesja

'Sesja' is Polish for 'lots of exams all at the same time'. Yes, it is related to 'session', full marks for observation, have a biscuit.

Sesja started last week with The Easiest Polish History Exam Ever (sample questions included 'Who was Karol Wotyła?' and 'Name Poland's neighbouring countries' - there was a map on the classroom wall), in which - with impressive lack of attention to detail - I managed to get the lowest mark in the class.

Then there was the literature exam: basically a short interview about a certain topic in Polish literature last century. I chose Wisława Szymborska over Gombrowicz, but it was a close call. And that was ok too, really: Ironic Literature Lecturer turned out to be on our side after all and was kind in his questions.

This morning, all the other subjects (except speaking) were examined in one fell swoop. From słuchanie, via gramatyka, through słownictwo, to a little czytanie z rozumieniem and ending up with the dreaded pisanie. Nothing to do with peas.

That means it's the end of the course (apart from the small matter of an oral exam tomorrow).

I'm sort of pleased. I mean - in some ways it's good to be a student again, but not when you don't get the fun bits of being a student (like not working). Besides which, there are two things my compulsive competitive little inner straight-A student hates: being wrong and losing. In Polish I'm always wrong, and I'm losing all the time. It's very disheartening.

Now the course is over, I can concentrate on the bits of Polish I like: reading, listening to Trójka (which I can almost, almost understand without trying, except the news, which is always read like an express train in any language anyway), going to salsa classes, going for piwko or coffee, doing tandem (much less pressure if you've already agreed you're both going to make mistakes) and just being here and enjoying the lovely city of Kraków. No pressure, no losing, no frustration. OK, slightly less frustration.

Now there's just that little oral exam tomorrow. Think happy thoughts. No frustration, no losing, winning all the way...


fisz & czips said...

you can do itttt! wish I was in Krakow

oh yeah, i also seek your wisdom.
what is the best polish-english dictionary for someone learning polish, in your omniscient opinion?

also, any easy to read books in Polish you would recommend for an advanced beginner... I was thinking the little prince but maybe that's bordering on a bit difficult.

pinolona said...

It's all over now... big sigh of relief and Trójka all afternoon (not going back to work til tomorrow - maybe).

Best PL-EN dictionary? I'm not sure - I'm pretty certain whatever it is I'm not using it! I use a slightly dodgy Polish-written programme on my computer, but some of the English translations are questionable to say the least. Plus I use the Nokia dictionary I downloaded to my phone for small emergencies (blushes with shame).

I have a Collins paperback dictionary at home (i.e. at my parents' house) somewhere - I'd probably go with Collins as a learner, they're usually pretty solid. I also heard the Oxford-PWN was the best general dictionary.
Are you in England? Grant and Cutler in London is the best, you can order from their website (

The best grammar (in English) is by Dana Bielec:

Regarding easy books... the problem with children's books is that the grammar starts off pretty hard anyway. I found 'Dzieci z Bullerbyn' (ok it's a translation of a Swedish book by Astrid Lindgren) was fairly easy to start with. But it's still a full-length book with complex sentences. It's difficult to start reading in Polish: it's quite a big jump. I'm at the stage where I don't know all the words but I don't always have to look them up but I've only recently started.

You could also try trashy women's press like Nigdy w Zyciu by Katarzyna Grochola. (any trashy magazines are good actually, Glamour, Cosmo, whatever trashy things guys read)
I actually find things like Polityka and Newsweek are easier to read than books - the vocab is hard but the sentence structure is a bit easier. Anyway, have a browse through Grant and Cutler and see what you can find there. Enjoy!

Bartek Usniacki said...

when it comes to dictionaries - I have the thick volume which is Collins PL-EN dictionary, printed about ten years ago. They have a good reputation and are already obsolete, in many cases Polish words or idioms changed their meaning with time - language naturally evolved but the dict fell behind... Besides, it was compiled mostly by Poles - the team of lexicographers consisted only of Poles, there were only two English consultants. Many entries should amended in my opinion, for a simple reason - they're misleading.

With Oxford-PWN you're right, it is said to be the best - has probably the widest coverage of vocab, in a few days I'm going to replace my Collins with it - it's a bit pricey - costs about 160 zlotys but I'll fork out and treat it as an investment.

don't worry about Polish, magazines like "Polityka", etc. are easier to read cause they're written by well-educated journalists, who use the language more similar to the one foreigners are taught, whereas gullet press like "Fakt" often contain very colloquial phrases and confound shortcuts which you may find confusing.

It's interesting why is so little emphasis put on teaching informal language, idioms, expletives, colloquialisms, which are sometimes indispensable when staying abroad...(?)

Island1 said...

I wish to claim my free biscuit.

Anonymous said...

You are great Pinka! "Pisanie"/writing has to be more connected with PiS=Prawo i Sprawiedliwość!/Law and Justice

Anonymous said...

And it's certainly not connected with peas or peace! hahaha

Fisz i Czips said...

awesome, thanks for advice pinolona and bartek

astrid lindgren is a good sugestion to keep in mind

i will most certainly grant and cutler it up

Fisz i Czips said...

wow, grant and cutler has the brothers lionheart po polsku... that's pretty impressive, my favourite book when i was young

sweeet candy, thanks again

pinolona said...

Oooh I so LOVE the Grant and Cutler website. I have to hide my credit cards before I type the address in on Mozilla. On my wish list at the moment are some good old Italian gialli, Harraps Unabridged Pro (FR-EN) on CD-ROM, and Difficult Words in Polish-English Translation, by Kozlowska, C.D.
Only six months til Christmas...

Omigod!! French films on DVD!!

I wonder if they deliver to Poland...