Well done, you’ve made it to step two.

You can skip this whole step if you have a Polish Perfection Pack. The Polish Perfection Packs have everything you need, so if you’ve got one already, just go ahead and skip to final step 3.

However, if you’re doing this the old fashioned way or just reading along to find out how I learned how to speak Polish, I’ll explain the second step of the method.

In this step, you’ll learn about the importance of Flashcards, Input and Regular Exposure.

Flashcards – the heart of my method

I don’t love flashcards, but I love what they can do for me. Some people don’t think you can learn a language from flashcards. Maybe they didn’t (or couldn’t). The flashcards I’m talking about aren’t the pieces of card that you flip over with a word on either side though. Oh no, I’m talking about Anki.

Anki is the software I use so that I don’t forget any Polish. Its clever algorithms remind me of certain sentences or words just before I’m about to forget them. It has pictures, sounds, links to different tools and resources. Basically, it has everything you could possibly need to learn how to speak Polish.

However, if you haven’t downloaded a Polish Perfection Pack (or even if you have and want to put even MORE sentences in), you’ll need to know how to make your own flashcards.

You can make your own cards easily in Anki. Of course, if you don’t want to spend months typing in thousands of sentences into Anki, you can download one of the HowToSpeakPolish.com Anki packs instead.

Inputting Sentences

To add cards to your deck, first find Polish sentences which are not already in your database. Click Tools, then Add MCD Cards and select the correct (Note) Type and Deck for Polish.

If you’re manually adding from a Polish phrasebook, tick off the sentences in the book as you add them to avoid unnecessary duplication. To remove any duplicates, in Browser, click “Edit” and then “Find Duplicates…”. After setting “Look in field” to “Text”, click Search. For each duplicate, click on the link and delete every card except that with the largest interval. If they have the same interval, delete every card except that with the most amount of reviews. If the cards also have the same number of reviews, it doesn’t matter which you delete as long as you leave one of them.
 

Type “polish” in lowercase into the Tags section at the bottom. For each sentence, write (or paste) the complete Polish sentence in the “Text” field. The sentence’s translation into English should be written (or pasted) into the “Notes” field. Once this is done, click “Text to Clozes” to copy the Polish text to the “Clozes” field.

Ideally, this will be a human translation into an English equivalent as literal translations are not as useful for indicating the context in which a sentence would be used. For example, the phrase “Na zdrowie” literally translates as “For health”, but is better translated as either “Cheers” or “Chin chin” if heard when drinking alcohol, or “Bless you” or “Gesundheit” if said after someone sneezes.
 

In the “Clozes” field, delete any words in the Polish text which you already knew the meaning of before looking at the translation (if any), then click “Add” to add the sentence to the database. If you’re not sure whether to cloze a word or not, ask yourself if you could have confidently used the word in a sentence before seeing the translation. If not, cloze that word.

If you don’t know how to type Polish characters, you can copy and paste sentences from the internet instead. You might want to start by adding some example sentences for the most frequent words in Polish. As well as using Twitter to find examples, you can also find example Polish sentences (and their translations) on the Tatoeba project website – just select translations from Polish into English. However, beware – the translations on Tatoeba are done by natives, not professionals and therefore not every translation is a good one!
 

Keep your sentences short and simple. As Khatzumoto once said “A long sentence is nothing but a bunch of short sentences stuck together. And even if a sentence looks simple, sometimes you need to make it even simpler for yourself”. Rather than adding a long sentence or a sentence containing a lot of unknown words, instead search for each unknown word on Twitter, replacing “WORD” with the Polish word that you don’t understand yet. You’ll hopefully be provided with a few short example sentences containing the word which you can add to your deck instead. As you won’t have a translation to hand, until you find a native speaker to ask (either in person or online), just machine translate the sentences into English, although bear in mind that some online translators will not be able to translate hashtags. 

If you can’t find any examples for your word on Twitter, it’s probably quite rarely used, so you’ll have to search for it on a search engine to find other real life examples.

If you machine translate a sentence and it struggles to translate a particular word into English, do not add this sentence into your database. Instead, add example sentences containing the other (translatable) words in the sentence. You’ll learn the meaning of the unknown word through context.
 

Don’t put any incomplete sentences into your deck. You only want full Polish sentences, not fragments. After all, we speak in full sentences!

Now there are some sentences in the database, you can now review them.

Input – only useful when you understand it

Remember this. Write it down somewhere important.

You only acquire a language when you understand it.

Not my words, but those of Professor Stephen Krashen. Not everyone believes it. I certainly do. I listened to Polish radio for months and didn’t understand a word. However, I watched a Polish TV show with Polish subtitles and could follow most of what the people were saying. Why? Because it was comprehensible. This idea about comprehensible input will be very important later. First though, let me explain how to review your Anki cards.

If these words aren’t explaining well enough, there’s a video of me reviewing Anki cards on the resources page to show you exactly how I do it.

Reviewing Cards

To learn how to speak Polish effectively, daily review of your Polish deck(s) is compulsory. To study a deck, just click on it, then click “Study Now”.

These reviewing sessions should be done for no longer than 15 minutes at a time (with at least 10 minutes between sessions) and should ideally be carried out in a quiet place where you can hear no English. For the session’s duration, you may only speak aloud in Polish. The Anki software should notify you when 15 minutes has passed providing that you have set your Timeboxing options correctly.

Occasionally, Anki may show you a card which it says is empty. Rather than explain why this happens, I advise you to just suspend it and move on. Once a week, you should click on “Tools”, then “Empty Cards…” and then click “Delete Cards”. This will delete all of your empty cards for you without losing your sentence’s all important scheduling information.
 

Cloze tests

Read the Polish sentence and try to guess the missing word. There may be multiple options, so say the sentence with each of the options either out loud or in your head. You can use the translation accompanying the sentence to help you guess the correct word.

If you would like to test your spelling, type your best guess at the answer into the text field. Click “Show Answer” to reveal if the real answer was one of the options which you thought.

You will now be presented with the full, correct Polish sentence. If (you suspect that) a card’s audio pronunciation is wrong (e.g. missing/incorrectly pronounced syllables or words), delete the card.

If you’re in a position to do so, read the word(s) on the card aloud, mimicking the audio. If you get stuck on a word’s pronunciation, repeat the syllable(s) of the word, adding one syllable each time.

If you are using a PC, you can press “R” on the keyboard to repeat the audio.
 

If you guessed the missing word correctly and knew how to both pronounce it and spell it, click “Easy”. If you guessed the word correctly, but either didn’t know how to pronounce it or didn’t know how to spell it, click Good. If you didn’t guess the missing word at all, click Again.

If you don’t know the meaning of the missing word in the Polish sentence, click on one of the links below the sentence to either look up definitions or images of the word, translate the word into English or read the word in the context of Polish sentences.

If (you suspect that) the English translation is incorrect, you can either edit it immediately (if you know the correct translation) or you can suspend the card and amend it later using online translators and/or consulting dictionaries and/or native speakers (either in person or via the internet).

If you don’t know the meaning of a word in the Polish sentence, search for the unknown Polish word on Twitter, replacing WORD with the word that you don’t understand yet. You’ll hopefully be provided with a few short example sentences containing the word which you can add to your deck instead. As you won’t have a translation to hand, until you find a native speaker to ask (either in person or online), just machine translate the sentences into English, although bear in mind that some online translators will not be able to translate hashtags. If you can’t find any examples for your word on Twitter, it’s probably quite rarely used, so you’ll have to search for it on a search engine to find other real life examples.
 

Don’t forget that you can always download pre-made Polish Perfection Packs full of thousands of sentences to bolster your personal collection. Find out more on the Resources page.

Automatic translations are unreliable. For example, “To widać jak na dłoni” is translated as “It is clearly visible”, “jak na dłoni” is translated “at a glance”, but “dłoni” is translated as “hand”. All are correct. Always bear in mind that when you use an automatic translation for more than three words, it becomes less reliable.
 

Continue reviewing cards until there are no more reviews due.

Regular Exposure – Easier said that done

If you have set up your immersion environment, you shouldn’t have much trouble getting regular exposure to Polish. In fact, sometimes I think it’s more important to get regular exposure to Polish than it is to get lots of exposure to Polish. Just in case your current set up isn’t providing you with enough exposure to comprehensible input, here are a few more places you can go to:

  1. For up to 15 minutes, read (aloud, preferably) a piece of Polish literature which you haven’t read before – for example, a novel, a news article, subtitles or song lyrics – as fast as you can.

     

    Children’s literature can be a bit abstract at times, e.g. “Green Eggs and Ham”, so opt for something like a news or magazine website which offers lots of interesting, digestible and relevant content. The easiest way to find one is to browse the top sites for Poland. Visit all of them until you find a newspaper or magazine with content which interests you.
     

    After you have finished reading, find all of the sentences containing words which either you couldn’t pronounce or you couldn’t work out the meaning of. Following the earlier instructions on inputting flashcards, manually add a sentence containing each of the unknown words to the “A1. Polish” deck and write the sentence’s corresponding English translation into the “English Translation” field for each card. If you don’t have a translation for a sentence, either ask a native speaker (via the internet or in person) or use a machine translation until you have a chance to ask a native.

    Regardless of what you read, make sure to add whole sentences in both Polish and English to make sure that the translation matches up!
     

    If you’d like to remember which piece of literature that the sentences came from, after finishing adding the sentences, head to the Anki Browser and select all of the sentences referring to the literature in question. Click on “Add Tags” and from there you can assign all of the sentences a tag which will allow you to easily identify the sentences added from this piece of literature in the future.
     

    Similarly to when you were adding sentences in the second step, you should listen to a Polish radio station, podcast or song playlist whilst you are adding new sentences. While less than 2,500 of your Polish sentences are mature, repeat these steps with a new piece of Polish literature when you have finished reading whatever you are reading.

    Highlight words which you don’t understand as you read. This will make it easier to find unknown words when you have finished reading and are adding example sentences for each of the unknown words into Anki.  If you’re reading physical Polish literature, you can also underline the words with a pen as you add them and, if you don’t have an English translation to hand, circle any words which the machine translator was unable to translate into English. This allows you to see at a glance which words you need to add next time and which ones you need to look up in a dictionary and/or ask a native speaker about.
     

  2. If you find a Polish song on YouTube that you like, type “youtuberepeater” into the URL where “youtube” is and it will take you to a website which will play the video on repeat until you close it. You can listen to this when you are looking up the lyrics and adding them to Anki to help get the meaning into your head straight away. Unless, the content author has blocked this option, you should be able to do this for all songs that you find on YouTube.
  3. Watch a YouTube video which is popular in Poland. Youtube’s Trending section shows what people in Poland are watching, be that music videos, video bloggers or movie trailers. Select Poland from the drop down menu and pick a video to watch, even if you’ve seen it before. You can even see analytics by gender and age so that you can watch what people your age and gender would watch. Select Poland, your gender and age and either bookmark the page to come back to it regularly or set it as your homepage.

You should move onto the next step when more than 2,500 of the sentences in your deck collection are mature. You can find out how many sentences in your collection have an interval of 21 days or greater by typing “tag:polish prop:ivl>=21 card:1” into the Anki Browser. On your device, it should say how many cards are shown at the top of the screen – this is the number of Polish sentences in your deck collection which have an interval of 21 days or greater. When this level is reached, where possible, change the language of all of the websites, software and devices you use to Polish too. You may then move onto the next step.

Proceed to Step 3: S.P.E.A.K

P.S. To get even more comprehensible input, download one of the HowToSpeakPolish.com Polish Perfection Packs from the Resources section. The Ultimate Pack contains more than 84,000 flashcards complete with English translations and accompanying sound files which will save you the time and effort of typing in thousands of sentences by hand.