Thursday, November 12, 2009

True Confessions of One Who Is Polish Language Challenged

How many of you know how to pronounce your surname? What about your great grandfather's surname? Can you pronounce the name of the town where they lived? Ok, ok, those of you with surnames like Seaver, West, Palmer, Wiseman, Manson, and Midkiff are probably rolling your eyes about now. But there are a whole cadre of us who have never heard the proper ethnic pronunciation of the surnames of our ancestors and the villages where they lived. As one who finds herself Polish-language challenged, I can tell you it's very frustrating!

I took Polish language classes for 3+ years but never got beyond conjugating verbs in 3 of the 7 cases. Most of what I've learned, I've forgotten, because as they say, "if you don't use it you lose it". I've been told I have excellent pronunciation for a non-native speaker but I still get tongue tied when I come up against some of those long Polish surnames with 8 consonants and 2 vowels. And city and village names? Fagitaboudit!

So when I came across Donna's post about a web site where you can have text converted to audio, in Polish, I clicked on over right away. And then I spent the next hour or so learning how to properly pronounce the surnames way back on my family tree and the villages my ancestors were from. I know what you're thinking... how could I not know that? Well, the surnames of ancestors who were only a generation or two back were no problem because I heard my parents say their names. But farther back than that... they never came up in conversation. Surnames aren't the only problem. How would you pronounce Uncle Wawrzyniec? And no, that's not a surname it's a first name! Here's an easier one for you. Do you know how to pronounce Jasia or my dog, Kaj?

Some of the surnames in my family are pronounced pretty much the way you'd guess, like Furman, Adamski, and Lisowski. But others like Łanucha, Mołecki, and even the first name Anna might surprise you. And in all the many times you've read the surname Lipa on this blog, you probably didn't mentaly pronounce that correctly either.


Expressivo has instantly become one of my favorite web sites. I can see myself making good use of it in blog posts to come! If you're Polish-language challenged like I am, you'll really appreciate Expressivo!

Thanks for pointing me to this wonderful site Donna!

11 comments:

  1. Excellent post...I like true confessions!

    I use the basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski as an example, in my census presentation, of how soundex doesn't work well... "shoe-shev-skee"

    Now we need Expressivo in more languages. Now I know how to prounouce Kaj (I already knew Jasia).

    Cheers -- Randy

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  2. What fun! and very informative. Coming from a rather insular ranch life, I quite often have no idea how some words are pronounced, even though I read and write the same words with ease.

    Also had a great time going to Expressivo --- going to be on my short list.

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  3. Hmm Yah-sha rhymes with Smah-shah and Kaj rhymes with Hi?

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  4. Yep, you've got it Greta!

    Joan, it's easy to lose track of time playing at expressivo so be careful or you'll miss Thanksgiving and Christmas ;-)

    You picked a good example Randy! Krzyzewski is definitely one of those tough-to-figure-out names.

    Honestly, I don't know how "dumb Polak" jokes ever got started... the Poles obviously have to have exceptional intelligence just to figure out their own language! LOL!

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  5. Jasia,

    I'm glad you had as much fun with it as I did! I literally spent an hour or more with the site. As soon as I saw it, I knew I immediately had to write a post about it to share it!

    Donna

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  7. What a great site! (Liked the 'scary' part too.) And, yes, I need one for Swedish, please. Just went on-line to hear how Linux is (mis-)pronounced. I try!

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  8. Yes, this site is so interesting. And I loved this post. Very well written my friend.

    No, I'm not sure I pronounce those German names near the top of my tree anything close to correctly.

    But, I can pronounce Jasia and Kaj. I'm an old timer.

    -fM

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  9. Thanks for the new information again. You are so talented at finding these things.

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  10. Hello Jasia,
    Thanks for sharing this link. Like you, I am somewhat challenged with the Polish language and I think this site will be of great help. I am in the process of teaching myself the language again. We shall see what happens.

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  11. Jasia,
    Your name is pronounced as if Polish.
    Does that mean it IS Polish?
    I cannot find it Jasia or something similar here:
    http://www.behindthename.com/nmc/pol.php
    Am I missing something?
    I've looked at Expressivo in the past but had not previously encountered the surname Krzyzewski. Pleased Randy shared that one with us!

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