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FROM A0 TO THE B1 CERTIFICATE EXAM IN POLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE. HOW IT’S POSSIBLE? An interview with our real Chinese student.

Zeming (he likes it when he is called Zeminek, i.e. using the Polish diminutive form) is the first student from China who started learning Polish from scratch at our KLUB DIALOGU school. After less than 5 years, in March 2022, he took the State Certificate Examination at B1 level. Students, especially from non-Slavic-speaking countries who take up this considerable challenge, know that it is a great achievement! Congratulations! 😊

That is why we asked ‘Zeminek’ for a short interview about his way through this ‘silk road’!

Hi Zeminek, thank you for agreeing to talk about your ‘passion’ for the Polish language, all the more that all your Polish as a foreign language learning from A0 to the B1 exam took place at the KLUB DIALOGU School 😊. You give hope and faith to our other students that it is possible! So tell me:

Are you a real Chinese guy? How old are you?

Ha, ha – oh yeah! I am a real Chinese guy! I was born in Shanghai, China, and am now 30 years old.

When did you come to Poland and how did your adventure with the Polish language begin?

On the very first day, when I landed in Poland, in October 2017, I thought that it would be worth starting to learn the native language. Different continent, different country, different people, and different letters! Yes, I absolutely had to study it! So I was just surfing the Internet when I found the Polish Language School for Foreigners KLUB DIALOGU. It immediately caught my attention because it stood out among other offers. I thought it was a good choice. I didn’t hesitate for long and came straight to the school office. And here I am! ‘I grew’ with you for 5 years! 😊

It’s wonderful that you are with us! So tell me which elements of the Polish language were the most problematic to learn?

Grammar! Horror, massacre! And including: any order of words in the sentence, conjugation and declension, gender: masculine, feminine and neutral and their inflection!, personal pronouns!!, inflection of numerals!!!, oh my God, Vocative?!!!! – nooo – almost everything. And you know how Poles talk quickly …

Even so, Poles speak slower than Italians! 😊 Well, we have to try harder! How much is Chinese different from Polish?

Very! I don’t even know where to start? Of course, you can see the difference in the alphabet at first glance 😉. And then it only gets worse. The Chinese language has practically no grammar, maybe to a small extent, while the grammar of the Polish language is crucial in communication. For example, nouns in Chinese have virtually no inflection. There are no coincidences or even plural – just add a number and you will know what amount you are talking about. Verbs are also not inflected, neither by persons nor by tenses. The appropriate time is indicated in a sentence by time factors such as “yesterday” and “tomorrow”. Also, the counting system in Chinese is slightly different than in Polish. And each part of a sentence has a specific, fixed place in the pattern. Remembering the order guarantees the grammatical correctness of the statement.

Yeah. Chinese seems to be much easier than Polish, although I don’t know if I could remember Chinese characters… And what surprised you the most about Poland and Poles, when you came to our country for the first time?

Many things, but I think the most important are: strong, good beer, generally good looking people, both women and men (ha, ha), that people in Poland are really nice (so far I have not experienced any discrimination), the fact that there are so many beautiful parks here in Warsaw and around it, and of course FLACZKI, which I really like 😊

Could you list 5 cultural/lifestyle differences between Poles and the Chinese?

Hard to say. China is changing dynamically, and cultures and lifestyles even differ between regions in China. One thing is obvious – we eat more rice & pasta than bread & potatoes. But seriously, what I noticed is that the Chinese are a collective society, while the Poles are individualists. This can be seen, inter alia, in discussions during which each Pole must have his own separate opinion. In China, too, not everything needs to be said straightforwardly; people interpret the context more, while in Poland rules and principles dominate. For example: ‘No’ means refusing, and guests don’t refuse. That’s why the Chinese will always say yes. If ‘yes’ meant true ‘yes’ then it’s okay. However, if ‘yes’ means ‘no’, the Chinese will simply not answer our phone, or otherwise signal his different opinion.

The intricacies of communication… 😊 Finally, 2 more questions: Was the State Examination of Polish as a Foreign Language for the B1 Certificate difficult for you? Did something surprise you? Were you very stressed?

Well … I’m not overly happy with the ‘writing’ part. My teacher repeatedly told me to practice writing under time pressure, but I was sure that I would be fine. During the exam, however, it turned out that the time was inexorable and I finished my essay quite awkwardly at the last minute. Luckily, the ‘reading’ and ‘listening’ parts turned out to be easier than I expected. Maybe because my teacher gave me more difficult examples during the Polish language lessons during the B1 exam preparation course. I think that in the end, the Polish as a foreign language exam went better than I expected. It is thanks to my teacher Sandra and the KLUB DIALOGU School, which showed great patience with me and kept my motivation, especially when I was returning to China for a long time.

Yes, of course I was stressing out a lot!

And the last question: Are you going to stay longer in Poland now?

Of course, I intend to stay in Poland. I have no plans neither to leave Poland to another country, nor go back to China. I started my economic studies here at the University of Warsaw, but during the pandemic I had to quit. Now I work in the ‘game & nft’ industry and although it’s still working from home, I like it.

Thank you very much, Zeminek, and good luck! See you at the Polish Language School for Foreigners KLUB DIALOGU, because you still have an exam at the B2 and C1 levels 😊
Dorota Maszkiewicz, Managing Director