Friday, August 25, 2017

Post 13: Glossa Language School

Surprise! It's another guest blog post! =) This time from Emily, a woman I met in my Polish language school in Kraków. She's a new character in my blog--a translator by trade--and I figured she'd be immensely qualified to write about the school we attended, share anecdotes, and such since we had the same teachers, in the same classes, and shared many of the same anecdotes about our time there. It seemed kind of like a long-shot that she'd be interested in writing a guest blog post since, as far as I knew, she'd never even read this blog--but she was game to give it a try! So, here's her take on our language school in Kraków....

This is Emily, cooking up some kiełbasa for a batch of żurek during one of our after-class activities.
 ******* Emily's post starts here ******

I met Ryan in May at the language school, Glossa, in Krakow. I am a freelance conference interpreter and translator, working from French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian to English, and I decided to learn Polish because I wanted the challenge of learning a Slavic language (and clearly I thought, ‘Hey, let’s go for the hardest one, with all of its seven cases and absolutely bonkers grammar….’) and also there is currently a dearth of Polish to English interpreters and translators on the market, so it
seemed like a good career move. I also have been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful Polish people, and I was won over by their warmth and enthusiasm for their beautiful country.

So, I decided to take off to Poland in an attempt to learn this mysterious language. Before I went, a lot of my interpreter and translator colleagues looked at me wide-eyed, mouths open in shock and the proceeded to warn me that I would never be able to learn what is reputed to be one of the hardest European languages. I’m happy to say that I did manage to learn some Polish over the course of three months. Before I went to Poland, all I could say was lubię chleb, meaning, ‘I like bread’ (don’t ask why), [Ryan's note: I really want to know why!] and after a lot of hard work and bread consumption, I managed to achieve a lower-intermediate level. When you learn any language, you are bound to have a bit of fun and enjoy the beauty of language learning when you say the odd silly thing – I
accidently told someone I was delicious instead of tired, and asked for a date with a doctor instead of an appointment…  But that at least I won’t make those same mistakes again. And I’m still holding out for a date with a Polish doctor.

I chose Glossa because I wanted to go to a school in the centre of Krakow, that didn’t just offer classes but had a lively social programme, and Glossa seemed to fit the bill. I turned up on day one, only being able to say ‘Tak’ (yes) and tell the teachers I liked bread. Great start. But luckily I had two young, incredibly dynamic teachers, and despite not knowing any Polish whatsoever, all of the classes were given entirely in Polish. Imagine my initial horror, being faced with a crazy language full of consonants and a total paucity of vowels. The best way I can describe their approach was by teaching you language as if you were teaching a young child how to speak for the first time. Weirdly enough, it didn’t feel patronising at all, and it actually broke down language learning into manageable, bite-size portions. Classes were from 9.30 – 12.40 everyday, with a twenty-minute break, where we would hang out in the corridor, chat to other classmates in Polish (to some limited success, especially in my first month or so…) and solve the quiz of the day, which would include anagrams and completing what appeared to be a whacky Polish proverb.

The classes were varied to say the least, and it certainly wasn’t one of those schools where you sit down and read from the book the entire time. Sure, we used a textbook, but the teachers used engaging methods to complement the classes, which were fun, lively and more often than not funny. Often the methods were interactive, i.e. we had to mime things like our daily routines, we watched videos and made up our own endings, we played games. I remember one class we were learning fitness vocabulary, and we had to go around the class giving each other instructions like ‘put your arms up!’, ‘feet apart’, ‘touch the ground!’ It was Ryan’s turn, and often Ryan would take a
little bit of time to really think about what he was saying (Ryan had the most amazing vocabulary, but more on that later), and he would leave us in suspense. Ryan got us to lie on the ground, face down. As we were all on the ground, teacher included, and as we were waiting his next instruction, there was a long pause. We waited. And then we waited some more. As our faces were becoming better acquainted with the ground, Ryan let out an exasperated ‘uh…nie wiem!’ (Uh…I don’t know!) And after a good bout of laughter, we managed to stand upright and become vertical again.

One of my lasting memories with Ryan was a class where we were discussing illness and giving each other advice. The dialogue would take this format:

Q. I have a cold, what should I do?
A. Take some paracetamol and drink plenty of fluids.

We were all giving each other sensible advice, until it came to Ryan’s turn. We were talking about what possible remedies there may be to having the flu, and Ryan said, Potrzebujęsz alkoholu i spać! (You need to drink alcohol, and go to sleep!). This ended up becoming a running gag: i.e. I have a hang over, what should I do? Potrzebujęsz alkoholu i spać! Or even, ‘What are you going to do tonight?’, Ryan: ‘pić alcohol i spać’ (drink alcohol and go to sleep). Only now did Ryan confess to me that he rarely drinks alcohol, and looking back it makes the whole thing very funny!

This was the end result of one of our interactive in-class activities, and I took a photo of it to study later because it was faster than writing everything down. =)

It’s true that Ryan provided amusement in class, and he was an excellent classmate,
but I have to say I was left astonished by his incredible vocabulary. Sometimes the
teacher would point to an object in the classroom, something really obscure like a
door hinge (bearing in mind we were still on the beginners text book). I’d look over to
Ryan, who would be searching deep inside for the word and each time, I would think
to myself, ‘Nah, he won’t know that word…surely…’ But sure enough, he would
know the word for door hinge, nuts and bolts, bicycle spoke…you name it, he knew
it. And we were left amazed. [Ryan's note: I actually don't know the word for door hinge, but I did know the words for nuts, bolts and bicycle spoke. I also remember a moment when I pulled out the word kotwica, meaning anchor, and Emily leaning over to me and asking, "How did you know that?!" And.... I couldn't remember why I would have known that word.]

When classes were over, I’d go to a nearby Bar Mleczny (literally translates to milk bar). The Polish milk bars are ex-Socialist era workers’ canteens. In their previous incarnations they were run as government-subsidised cafes where workers could get a good, nutritious and affordable meal. Nowadays they are small, inexpensive restaurants that some Polish people I met said reminded them of welfare state nostalgia. You can get three-course meal there for as little as 2-3 euros, and there you
can find hearty delicious Polish food including soups such as żurek and barszcz czerwony, and you can find pierogi, breaded cutlets to name but a few items on the menu.

Following lunch, I’d go back to the school for the optional afternoon workshops, where we would get up to all manner of things such as playing board games – one was called Kolejka, which translates to ‘Queue’ in English, a game designed to teach about the hardships under communism and how you had to spend hours queuing up to buy even the most basic of things – games in the garden, cooking workshops (we made żurek), singing songs, trips to local museums where we had to speak to people
and find out certain information, and even a trip to the local shopping centre where we had to go into shops and find out the answers to questions on a work sheet. These were great opportunities to put your Polish skills to the test, and actually realise that you could communicate with someone who wasn’t your teacher.

All in all, I had an absolutely fantastic time at the language school, and I met some
wonderful people there. If you’re looking for a new challenge, I’d always recommend
learning a language – and Polish in particular! It’s a great way to learn a different way
of thinking, a different culture, and communicate with people you would never have
had the chance otherwise. What can I say, I had a blast at the language school in
Krakow, and I hope to go back soon. Dziękuje, Glossa!

A typical day of class. Emily on the right, Marcel (from Germany) in the middle, and one of our teachers (Jurek) on the left.


Mary said...

I loved reading about the language school and all the activities. I love Ryan's blogs but I also really enjoy the guest bloggers too!

Agata Kuliś said...

I love it! Emily, you are great!
To be myself, I had to correct one small thing: it's "potrzebujesz", not "Potrzebujęsz" :) (2nd, singular). If you wanna say in 1st, singular, it's going to be "Potrzebuję".
Good luck, keep up the good job both of you:)

Karolina said...

Two thumbs up for the guest post by Emily! =)))

Emily said...

Ah yes! Thank you for that :). Glad you liked the post :)

Emily said...