Word of the Day services are pointless. Here’s why

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~Nath

Some language learning websites offer a word of the day service. HowToSpeakPolish.com doesn’t and never will. Here’s why:

  1. Because of the case system used in Polish grammar, if you want to learn how to speak Polish, learning words out of context isn’t particularly useful.
  2. 5 year olds can have an estimated vocabulary of more than 5,000 words. At the rate of learning just one word a day, it’d take you more than 13 years to acquire a similar level.
  3. Learning one word a day is really, really, really boring.

Let’s address each of those points individually, shall we?

Learning words out of context isn’t useful

You know in English, we have the word “car”? Well in Polish that word is “samochód”…or “samochodu”, or “samochodowi”, or “samochodzie” depending on whether you’re just saying there is a car, or there isn’t a car or you’re doing something to the car or talking about something inside the car. The thing about Polish words is, they change due to a variety of reasons and it can all get a bit confusing if you’re not expecting it. Long story short, if you subscribe to a word of the day service providing you with a new word every day, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’d be able to use that word properly in a sentence. Context is everything. Save yourself the wasted time of learning individual words and learn sentences instead. You’ll thank me later.

Learning just one word a day would take you years to speak

Assuming you can remember them all, at a rate of just one word a day, it’d take you over a decade just to be able to communicate at the level of a toddler. I have bigger aspirations for you. Push yourself a bit and you’ll see that you can definitely handle more than 1 word a day. Maybe you’re most comfortable with learning 5 words a day, or even 10. As long as it’s high enough that you can still consistently complete your Anki cards each day, you’re on the right track. Progression is the key word here, so as long as you’re making progress, that’s the main thing. However, learning at a snail’s pace might cause you to lose interest before you’ve even had the opportunity to put what you’ve learned into practice. Step it up!

It’s boring – really boring

Surely you can’t actually want to learn just one word a day? Imagine if you were given one cookie every day. A) you’d immediately want another cookie and B) you’d get sick of cookies pretty quick. Unless you live a much less exciting life than I do, you’ll probably get bored of being spoonfed one word a day pretty soon too. There will probably be a point when you’ll even outgrow Anki and decide to go it alone. Save yourself the boredom – your brain doesn’t learn when it’s bored. Find something interesting – a movie, a song, a news article – and learn the words from that. You’ll get much more out of it and, if you’re genuinely interested in finding out what the words mean, you’re a gazillion times more likely to enjoy the whole experience.

Your word of the day for every day

Here’s a word of the day for every day: Persistence. Persistence is the key to learning Polish. Consistently improve your Polish everyday and you will reach the level that you’re seeking. Remember – doing anything is better than nothing. Keep up the consistency and the results will follow. Focus on progression, not perfection and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

What should I learn then?

Phrases. Phrases, phrases, phrases. Get yourself a phrasebook and learn a phrase a day instead. The two phrasebooks that I recommend are Lingea’s phrasebook and Lonely Planet’s phrasebook. If you don’t already have a phrasebook, I highly recommend getting hold of one of those two and picking a phrase or two a day to learn. You won’t be disappointed and will end up picking up useful chunks of the language which you can use in conversations.

If you’re planning on adding your phrases to Anki to help you remember anyway, you might want to consider downloading one of my Anki packs which are listed in the Resources section instead. Downloading a pre-made deck will save you the time of entering thousands of sentences by hand, allowing you to focus on the task at hand – learning how to speak Polish.

[alert-warning]TL;DR: Word of the day services won’t teach you how to speak Polish – instead, learn a handful of full sentences every day in order to see consistent progress and acquire a usable vocabulary.[/alert-warning]
Which Polish words do you struggle to pronounce?
[alert-announce]The one Polish word that I always struggled to pronounce was ‘skrzydełko’ (‘flap’ or ‘wing’), which wasn’t particularly useful whenever I wanted to buy chicken wings. Which Polish words do you struggle to pronounce? Leave a comment below and we’ll build a collection![/alert-announce]

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