A Speedy Loss of English – by Justyna

23 Sep

Apparently, according to the stats, you lose 8 words per day if you do not regularly speak or use your primary language. English, being mine.

I have been living in Poland for nearly 6 years now. That’s almost 2190 days. And that my friends, is a whopping 17 520 English words gone. Lost. In a vacuum. Retrieved only by either coincidence or hard work (googling). There appears to be a speedy decline of my brain’s left hemisphere and a quick mud pit evolving out of my lobe’s Wernicke area (the part responsible for language comprehension). It’s a mystery to me why I am still considered an English ‘native speaker’ here, when I couldn’t for the life of me, the other day, remember the words for ‘duster’ and ‘dust pan’. Even though my mother tongue is actually Polish, my Aussie accent and an entire Australian education from primary school into university, are deemed worthy enough of granting me this ‘native’ title. Not taking this honour lightly I do my bit on a daily basis to have some English in my life. But recently I have been feeling that trawling through etsy and watching five back-to-back seasons of The Wire, are simply not enough. You fill me? Also I got a massive slap-in-the-head wake up call a few months back, when visiting Sydney. We were driving to my cousin’s wedding and Michal turned to me and said (in Polish), “you know, you’re much more confident, witty and self-assured in English”. Uh, really? Great. So why are we back in Krakow exactly? So you can have a mad, whiny, boring wife who walks around the place unsure of herself. This, as a result, has led me to fight my very own bilingual warfare. Improve my Polish even more (it’s currently pretty good, but I still do get wobbly in heated arguments. When they’re with Michal I quickly revert to English so that I can win) and simultaneously stop this speedy decline of my English capabilities. The latter is being achieved with our two-year-old, Kazek.

Kazek is being raised in an English and Polish language environment. Meaning, he’s hardly able to string words together, despite being two years old. He’s also becoming a lazy little bugger, by selecting the easier version to pronounce. E.g. ‘ball’ instead of ‘piłka’, ‘up’ instead of ‘wysoko’, ‘stół’ instead of ‘table’, ‘dać’ instead of ‘give’ and ‘poo’ instead of ‘kupa’. It’s remarkable though, how quickly he’s adapted to understanding both. Having to be consistent and never throwing in any Polish words for convenience, I have had to brush up on certain areas of the English language to assist in the healthy development of my son. Namely in the vocab area of heavy machinery, farming equipment and road construction. From excavators, to crane trucks, to harvesters, steam rollers, pile drivers and hooklift hoists, I am not only working on the 8 words per day loss, but am sounding like quite the engineer to the passer by. If they too were ‘native’ English speakers. Kazek in return shows his enthusiasm for the new words by appropriating the required sounds a particular dump truck, for example, makes.

Further to slow down my gradual English language decline, but more importantly, my ‘aussiness’, I find myself throwing in a few rippers also for the benefit of the sprog. After all, the dude needs to know where his mother is from. Hence:

Kazzah, stop chuckin’ such tanties!


Kazzah, get off the table or you’ll end up face-plantin’ all over the shop!


Oi! Get back ‘ere,

and a few other variations of the above. Maybe there’s hope for me yet.


7 Responses to “A Speedy Loss of English – by Justyna”

  1. hanoitabitha September 24, 2011 at 12:38 am #

    I love that your two English sources are Etsy and The Wire. Oh what hilarious results that could have.

    And I’m not sure about your Polish, but Michal’s right about your English. You might not know the word for “dust pan” but you’re still freaking funny.

  2. kgo September 24, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    At least you don’t have any influences on your accent when you do speak English. I am well on my way to talking like a Singaporean radio DJ: English-American, with a hint of Chinese.

  3. bmktaylor September 24, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Hey J,
    Do the Poles and Aussies have different sound effects for things like Japanese and English (e.g. pigs say “nerf nerf” in Japanese etc.)? Are sirens different? These would be things you’d discover rapidly with a kid.

    • kshyva October 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

      Yes Beth, sirens are indeed different, well horns are: toot toot instead of beep beep. And I would need a whole post to go into animal sounds. I’ll just leave you with the Polish dog: how how

  4. Edyta September 27, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    So how do you explain calling pyjamas ‘pyjama’ the whole time you live in Oz, eh?
    You know, I now refer to them as ‘pyjama’ myself, just in honour of you 🙂

    • kshyva October 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

      Thank you Edd. Meanwhile I’m trying my damn hardest to go into plurals for Kazek’s sake. Even Michal has noticed.

      • hanoitabitha October 19, 2011 at 2:27 am #

        But please don’t ever lose “pinguin”.

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