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Polish: another attempt

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Volte
Tetraglot
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Switzerland
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 Message 49 of 154
22 February 2008 at 5:33pm | IP Logged 
Day 13:
1 hour L-R of "The Master and Margarita", from the beginning. I also glanced at a couple of references - wikipedia, and one of the Polish grammar sites I previously mentioned in this log. Wikipedia cleared up some grammatical points; most notably, my concept of aspect was wrong (but seeing the correct form, it instantly made sense, at least for the past tense - I'd picked up the actual distinction, but not classified it or realized it was 'aspect'), I'd been mistaking a few things in the present for another form of past (apparently, there isn't one), and I hadn't been properly recognizing the future all the time.

This time around, the book is insanely easier. I can go several paragraphs in a row manging to map every word of the Polish to the corresponding English text (either as a word or general equivalent). I recognize a majority of the words. Occasionally (maybe 5-20% of the time) there are phrases where I can't do this.

I'm picking up a -lot- more grammar this time. My major focus is no longer on guessing/figuring out which words correspond (or don't correspond!), but rather, on grammatical nuances. Various affixes are starting to become clear, common conjugations are becoming 'obvious' (although still passive, and I'd still mix them up without support from an English text at times), and the combinations of cases and prepositions to express meaning are starting to sink in, slowly. I could easily actively use constructs like "nie jestem (some noun)" at this point.

I think I know a majority of the words (by percentage in the text, at least, which weights it towards the more common) at this point - again, purely passively for most, and I'd still have confusion and mixups if I were trying to identify some of them out of context, or without reading the corresponding English first.

Subjectively, it feels similar to Listen-Reading German to me at this point - a language I took a 1-month 6 hour/day intensive course in 3 years ago (refreshed by half of the same course a year and a half ago), have been occasionally reading in (and to a lesser extent, speaking and writing) since, and have done more than 50 Assimil lessons in (and it's also the language I use for the second Italian Assimil course, as there's no booklet for English speakers) - in short, German is my 4th-best language, after English, Italian, and Esperanto (although Dutch and French are easier to read at times - my level in all 3 (Dutch, French, and German) is fairly poor, but high enough to manage some basics, especially passively). That I can L-R Polish this well already is a pleasant surprise, given the relatively laid-back pace I'm pursuing it at.

A few things still make me inwardly wonder what I've gotten myself into - zżółkłe (yellowish) is a good example of this.

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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6308 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 50 of 154
23 February 2008 at 9:07am | IP Logged 
A few questions:

I've spent about 3 hours so far explicitly working with grammar, mostly in the form of Feldstein's "Concise Polish Grammar". It's been clearing up some things, while making me realize that I don't yet understand others.

What kind of correspondence is there between the masculine/feminine/neuter system for verbs in the singular, and the virile/non-virile one in the plural?

Given that I'm female, when I'm using a first person verb, do I always use the female form, or does what gender to use depend on other factors too, and if so, which?



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CaitO'Ceallaigh
Triglot
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katiekelly.wordpress
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Speaks: English*, Spanish, Russian
Studies: Czech, German

 
 Message 51 of 154
23 February 2008 at 10:52am | IP Logged 
"Virile" is a new word for me!

I think what they mean is, there are are two types of masculine nouns, animate and inanimate. This matters when dealing with the accusative and with the nominative plural. For the accusative singular, the inanimate masculine and neuter nouns don't change. Animate masculine nouns change.

There is also a difference between the inanimate and animate masculine nouns in the plural.

About past tense verbs, the gender of the subject of the verb determines which form you use. So you'd use the female form when the subject is yourself, for example, and a masculine form when the subject is masculine.

I think what might be confusing is that there are six cases of declension in Polish (maybe 7; Czech has 7), and just skimming through this grammar, I can't find anything that explains how they're used. But maybe this is something you will learn from the context? It just seems like an added piece of information that wouldn't hurt if you knew it ahead of time.
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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6308 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 52 of 154
23 February 2008 at 11:54am | IP Logged 
CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:
"Virile" is a new word for me!

I think what they mean is, there are are two types of masculine nouns, animate and inanimate. This matters when dealing with the accusative and with the nominative plural. For the accusative singular, the inanimate masculine and neuter nouns don't change. Animate masculine nouns change.

There is also a difference between the inanimate and animate masculine nouns in the plural.


Actually, there are -three- types of masculine nouns - animate, inanimate, and virile. The last is used for male people, but not exclusively. There are also neuter and feminine nouns, but they're -not- grammatically divided into animate and inanimate, much less virile, hence my confusion. It's not a simple matter of logic either - calves are neuter, cigarettes are masculine -animate- (as a sign of respect), while female nouns include 'meadow', 'work', and 'sphere'.

All 5 types of nouns change in the different cases, in the singular and the plural. Yes, the gender system is actually apparently -different- for nouns and verbs (verbs don't change for animacy or virility in the masculine singular, while nouns do; verbs also -only- respect animacy/inanimacy in the plural, unlike nouns, which continue to have this '5 gender/animacy combinations' system).

This is why I'm confused: if one sphere rolls, I would use the feminine singular 3rd person conjugation, but if two spheres role, what would I do? Do objects like cigarettes maintain their honorary animacy in the plural?

CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:

About past tense verbs, the gender of the subject of the verb determines which form you use. So you'd use the female form when the subject is yourself, for example, and a masculine form when the subject is masculine.


Yes, but do 'subjects' behave essentially like they do in English/German/French/Italian/... (as opposed to Basque or Japanese, with ergativity and subject/topic distinctions). Basically, are they -always- in the nominative case?

CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:

I think what might be confusing is that there are six cases of declension in Polish (maybe 7; Czech has 7), and just skimming through this grammar, I can't find anything that explains how they're used. But maybe this is something you will learn from the context? It just seems like an added piece of information that wouldn't hurt if you knew it ahead of time.


There are 7, though the vocative isn't that commonly used. I've read about all of them; like any language with cases I'm aware of, they're a bit ad-hoc around the edges. That's certainly a significant form of confusion (the noun endings -also- change on whether the final non-vowel is velar, non-velar, or 'soft' in some cases), but it's not the source of the two questions above.


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CaitO'Ceallaigh
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
katiekelly.wordpress
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Speaks: English*, Spanish, Russian
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 Message 53 of 154
23 February 2008 at 1:36pm | IP Logged 
Volte wrote:

Actually, there are -three- types of masculine nouns - animate, inanimate, and virile. The last is used for male people, but not exclusively.


Ah ha. I didn't know this, or I was equating animate with virile. This makes sense.

I wonder where all this came about. The feminist in me sees this as the beginning of female objectification. :)

Volte wrote:
There are also neuter and feminine nouns, but they're -not- grammatically divided into animate and inanimate, much less virile, hence my confusion. It's not a simple matter of logic either - calves are neuter, cigarettes are masculine -animate- (as a sign of respect), while female nouns include 'meadow', 'work', and 'sphere'.


Cigarettes are animate as a sign of respect, but women get the same conjugation as inanimate objects. Very interesting. :)

I'm just joking, people, but it does make me wonder about how this all started!

Volte wrote:
This is why I'm confused: if one sphere rolls, I would use the feminine singular 3rd person conjugation, but if two spheres role, what would I do? Do objects like cigarettes maintain their honorary animacy in the plural?


I just picked up my "Colloquial Polish" textbook, which I have on hand as I was thinking about learning this language years ago. This is my source. I don't "know" any of this.

If two spheres roll, in the present tense, you use the "one" conjugation, which is used for women, animals, and objects.

For men or mixed company, you use "oni."

The verb conjugates the same, however, in the present tense.

For past tense, the conjugations differ slightly for "oni" and "one".

Volte wrote:
Yes, but do 'subjects' behave essentially like they do in English/German/French/Italian/... (as opposed to Basque or Japanese, with ergativity and subject/topic distinctions). Basically, are they -always- in the nominative case?


Yes.

I'm wondering if a different reference grammar or textbook might help, because what I've got explains all this pretty well, I think. If I'm getting it wrong here, it's because I'm paraphrasing it too simply.
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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6308 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 54 of 154
23 February 2008 at 1:58pm | IP Logged 
CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:

Volte wrote:
This is why I'm confused: if one sphere rolls, I would use the feminine singular 3rd person conjugation, but if two spheres role, what would I do? Do objects like cigarettes maintain their honorary animacy in the plural?


I just picked up my "Colloquial Polish" textbook, which I have on hand as I was thinking about learning this language years ago. This is my source. I don't "know" any of this.

If two spheres roll, in the present tense, you use the "one" conjugation, which is used for women, animals, and objects.

For men or mixed company, you use "oni."

The verb conjugates the same, however, in the present tense.

For past tense, the conjugations differ slightly for "oni" and "one".


I suppose that mixed company is men and anything else, including inanimate objects? Admittedly, situations where I'd say "the men -and- their noses are over there" would be unusual (noses are masculine inanimate).

CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:

Volte wrote:
Yes, but do 'subjects' behave essentially like they do in English/German/French/Italian/... (as opposed to Basque or Japanese, with ergativity and subject/topic distinctions). Basically, are they -always- in the nominative case?


Yes.


Ok, that's what I thought, but something about your previous post made me wonder if there were any weird edge cases. Thanks.

CaitO'Ceallaigh wrote:

I'm wondering if a different reference grammar or textbook might help, because what I've got explains all this pretty well, I think. If I'm getting it wrong here, it's because I'm paraphrasing it too simply.


I'm finding it important to use a variety of grammars. The two webpages I linked to were useful, but didn't have much information. Two of the three grammars I've used so far have been pretty lousy for my purposes (the one I spent 3 hours with today, and the first one I used last time, which was far too technical for me to use effectively). I should look up the second one from the first experiment again, and actually look at the one atama-ga-ii recommended.

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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6308 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 55 of 154
23 February 2008 at 4:58pm | IP Logged 
Day 14:

Slightly over 3.5 hours of L-R. A bit over 20 minutes attempted natural listening. Over 3 hours of grammatical work.

The grammar study I did today wasn't quite useless, but it was fairly close. I spent over an hour writing out the velar and non-velar noun declination tables in the singular and plural for inanimate, animate, and virile nouns. This helped me get a better feel for them, but I'm not particularly convinced it was a good use of time. I glanced at various other forms. I also looked at verb conjugations. The past tense became slightly clearer. The descriptions of the other tenses were almost unusably bad, at least with my current, limited knowledge; the only thing that they made crystal clear is that I -still- don't understand aspect.

Attempting natural listening was interesting. I didn't think I'd arrived at it yet, and that was indeed the case. Most of the words sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite associate them with meaning. I picked out meaning for some, and a few entire phrases coalesced, but for the most part, it was fairly disjointed. I tried with a story by Anderson. On the other hand, for -some- excerpts from "The Master and Margarita", I can essentially do what would be natural listening if it were an unknown text.

L-R today was interesting. 2 weeks ago, I could associate Polish and English phrases. A few days ago, I mainly focused on word correspondences, to build vocabulary. I'm still picking up vocabulary (I learned the word for 'blood' today, for instance), and there are still occasional chunks I can't make sense of (primarily ones which don't literally match the English, and/or contain 2 or more unknown words which aren't used in enough other places or grammatically distinguishable so that I can tell which is which). However, I'm back to mainly operating at a phrase level; understanding both the Polish and English phrases, I contrast them, or focus on one or the other, making the Polish one become more natural, and the way of putting together phrases more evident.

If I could form complete phrases, I'd be able to actively use 'jak' (but not the variant 'jakby') and od...do at this point - they're very, very roughly equivalent to like/as, and from/to.

I'm still not having Polish words swirl around much in my head, although they do occasionally; I've found that how well I understand/know the language correlates strongly with this. My Polish is still short of even my Dutch or Spanish - aka, it's still a language I know fairly little of.

Next step: continue this second pass through "The Master and Margarita". I considered using other material, but my natural-listening attempt, my experience with working through this novel for the second time, and atama-ga-ii's advice all point in the same direction - I'm better off working through this novel again first.

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Volte
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
Joined 6308 days ago

4474 posts - 6726 votes 
Speaks: English*, Esperanto, German, Italian
Studies: French, Finnish, Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 56 of 154
24 February 2008 at 12:41pm | IP Logged 
Day 15: ~3hours 15mins L-R (perhaps half an hour more counting times I repeated 30 seconds-2 minutes). I've finished up to chapter 15 (inclusive). Some listening; started at approximately the same time of this post, not yet ended.

I used a somewhat different L-R approach today, after the first 2 hours. I mainly focused on the -Polish- text, referring to the English to clarify meaning when necessary. I also ended up repeating some paragraphs, usually because my concentration had been broken (either by external circumstances, or by reformatting the parallel text and saving). The highlight of this was, a few times, managing to 'predict' what the next few words would be, exactly (including case inflections, etc) - I put 'predict' in quotes as I've already L-R'd the book once.

I'm still learning a fair number of words, and still having trouble with some of the most characteristically Polish ones (especially the ones that are phonologically difficult for me; something in my brain seems to rebel at memorizing them easily). I've decided to focus on Polish as it is, inferring from phrases; my experience with other languages suggests that (good) grammars will seem crystal clear and clarify what's going on after I more or less understand it, but the ones I've been using have been more obfuscatory than helpful. Hence, I'm letting the case system sink in naturally, possibly aided by the time I spent writing part of it out yesterday; it seems to be working, to a limited degree.

On my actual progress, I have good and bad news. On the bad side, I still can't understand Andersen's stories in Polish, or songs. Small snippets of Polish also often evade me, especially poetry or set expressions I don't know, including common ones.

On the good side, I managed to get the gist of the parts of my parallel text where the English text is missing (there are two chunks, the longer of which is nearly a page), although I missed a lot of details. Better yet, I'm bordering on natural listening for the news on station I've occasionally been listening to, http://www.rdc.pl/rdc.m3u. I'm still missing a lot, but getting at least part of essentially all the news stories (understanding some of the easier, more loan-word heavy parts entirely), and sometimes the DJ's filler between songs. This also suggests that my fear that it would take me a while to adapt to voices other than the narrator's of "The Master and Margarita" was fairly ungrounded. I'd probably still understand next to nothing of real speech though - I've been able to understand French radio to various degrees for years, but actual French (more background noise, less clearly pronounced, less loan words, perhaps more slangy, etc) is significantly trickier.

All this said - if someone tries to write to me in Polish at this point, odds are -extremely- good that I won't understand everything.

The other highlight of today was that after my first 2 hours of L-R today, I started (sort of) thinking in Polish for more than a few minutes. It was highly fragmentary, and primarily single words, although there were a few 2-5 word phrases. I'm glad that I can finally do this, at least, although it's still tantalizingly little.

One mildly amusing/frustrating thing has been that the aforementioned radio station has played 4 songs as I write this post, 3 in English, 2 in Spanish, and one in Polish (a worse ratio than usual). The one in Polish was mainly a mystery to me, but both Spanish ones were quite clear, though I missed a few words.



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