Warsaw - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Basic pleasantries help a lot, and tutors are available. However, in most places English works just fine. - Oct 2021

Classes taught at the embassy. It was helpful to know the basics but they are very bilingual. You can get away with very little Polish. It’s a very large international city and they seemed to want to talk to you in English even when you tried your Polish. It’s a hard language to learn but the basics were great to know and use. - Jan 2021

It is possible to get by with English only; however, many people (especially those born before 1990) do not speak English at all. Signage and announcements around the city are typically in Polish only. Government services, like the tax office, do not offer services in English. Official government forms for taxes, social assistance, etc. are also exclusively in Polish. It is recommended to learn the Polish alphabet and basic words/phrases help significantly when doing groceries, giving directions, and asking for help. Local language classes/tutors are readily available. In Warsaw, I would personally recommend: IKO Institute of Polish for Foreigners, Polski Instytut J?zykowy ("Frog"), and European Academy of Diplomacy's "Polish for Diplomats" course. - Sep 2019

In Warsaw, English is generally good enough for survival. Most restaurants have English menus, for example. Outside of Warsaw (and Krakow) can be a little more challenging, but there's often someone around who speaks a little English. But, if you make any effort to learn/speak Polish, the Poles are very appreciative! - May 2018

It helps, but you can get by. Older Poles speak less English while most under 40 do have some English. - Apr 2018

Predominately English besides a few Polish courtesy words, language is hard, there are lots of affordable tutors available and ASW and the embassy have free language classes. - Dec 2016

Many people have practically no Polish and seem to get by just fine. I think it is worth the trouble to learn a little though. Courtesy phrases, numbers and dates, and some relevant vocabulary. While many Poles speak at least a little English (or will go find someone who does), you don't see a great deal of written English here. It's good to be able to read signs, menus, etc.

It is a really tough language, so very few people even come close to really speaking it as a second language. But if you want to try, there are several language schools and for Embassy personnel, the post language program is good. - Mar 2016

Some, especially if you want to hire help. Restaurant staff and young people speak English, but some Polish helps a LOT when doing everyday life tasks like grocery shopping. - Sep 2015

Of course it never hurts to speak as much of the language as possible, and Poles love it when you try to speak their incredibly difficult language. They're quite proud of how hard it can be to speak Polish. It's always helpful to learn as much as you can before you come here, and there is no shortage of companies and institutes offering Polish for Foreigner classes. I'm always amazed at how well younger Poles speak English, even those who've never lived in or travelled to an English-speaking country. I suppose it speaks to the universality of the English language. You can almost always find somebody who speaks English, though don't expect most police to speak it unless they work in specialized units. As a rule, I would say that there's a good chance if somebody is under 40 they will most likely speak some English or at least understand you. People older than that were forced to learn Russian, and though most of them speak it, they'll never admit they do. Let's just say that Russia and Russian is not really popular around here, especially these days. They never bothered to learn another language so it helps a lot to speak as much Polish as possible. Even knowing basic numbers and phrases is greatly appreciated. - Nov 2014

Some is helpful. The more you know the better. You can get by without it, but there are many people who don't speak English. I've found that the more I learn, the better my time is and when I use it, bad grammar and all, I get much more help when I need it. - Feb 2012

You can get by in Warsaw (maybe more difficult beyond), but having some Polish definitely helps and enriches the overall experience. - Nov 2011

Polish would be very helpful. If you don't speak it you are very isolated. - Aug 2011

It really helps to know the basics. The more you know, the easier it is to relay your thoughts. You may think everyone knows English, but not all do, and not all care to speak it. You are the guest in their country, so attempt to speak it---and for the most part they will think better of you. - Aug 2011

You can survive with English but the Poles will appreciate your efforts to learn some Polish. - Mar 2011

YOU MUST know Polish to come here. When you ask them if they speak English, they tend to say "No", but they do and they are just being arrogant, especially the older people who grew up during the communist time. These people will never change. You can still look for the young people, but there are no guarantees. Everyone speaks English in Krakow, though, because it is a city of tourists. But as I said before, don't expect locals to speak English in Warsaw. - Jan 2011

It's not necessary, but the more you know, the better you'll get on. Still, it is a challenge. - Dec 2010

Most young people speak some English, but it really helps a lot to speak Polish. It just makes everything go much more smoothly. In Warsaw and Krakow, you can usually get by with English, but outside of the big cities, it's another story. Also, Poles love when Americans speak Polish because they appreciate the effort and also, I suspect, because we sound like idiots. - Feb 2010

While students and those involved with foreign companies will most likely be able to speak English with you, you will have much more fun, make more friends, and do your part in destroying the ugly American myth by learning Polish. A couple of phrases will go a long way. - Aug 2009

As a spouse, I have found that I get along quite nicely with courteous phrases, numbers and the names of food items in Polish. I can order in a restaurant and do my shopping. Younger Poles all speak English and they love to try it out for you. Older people, like ladies at the market, may not speak any but you can usually work it out with a smile. - Jun 2008

While many young people speak English, you will win many more friends and have better conversations by learning Polish. - Apr 2008

More than anyone told me. It is not like the rest of Europe. Some young people will know and speak English. They are better when you try. If you want to make a Pole laugh, try speaking Polish to them. - Feb 2008


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