Thousands of Brits learn Polish - so they can speak to their immigrant partners

Thousands of love-struck Britons are learning Polish - so that they can communicate more effectively with their Polish partners.

Hundreds of thousands of Poles have emigrated to Britain since their country joined the EU in 2004. It is not uncommon to see signs written in Polish in many parts of the country.

However, Polish is a very difficult language to learn - though it might help having a Polish partner to practise with.

Thanks to Britain's open-doors immigration policy, and the highest birth rate since 1981, Britain's population is increasing rapidly, well on its way to overtaking Germany as the country with the EU's largest population and economy (the German economy is already only slightly larger than Britain's despite the German population currently being around one-third that of Britain's).

In a few decades' time, Britain's population is expected to be 77 million (compared to 61 million now), with France's expected to be 72 million and Germany's 71 million. Around 14 of the EU's 27 members are to have shrinking populations.

Thousands of love-struck Brits learn Polish - so they can speak to their immigrant partners

By Paul Sims
29th August 2008
Daily Mail

The language of love is supposedly international. But the language of Poland is not so easy to pick up, as increasing numbers of Britons are discovering.

Locals who have fallen in love with immigrants are helping to fuel a rush for Polish classes.

At Cardiff University the beginner Polish course was so popular last year that they have now introduced more classes and an improvers' course to meet the demand.

Language lesson: The number of Brits learning Polish has increased dramatically

Helga Eckart, co-ordinating lecturer for languages, said: 'The course lecturer told me that a lot of them had Polish girlfriends.

'It's a very challenging language to learn and the grammar is more difficult than German so you'd have to be quite motivated to learn it.

'Although it might help having a girlfriend to practise with.'

The university's centre for lifelong learning started the beginners' course two years ago to coincide with the influx of East European migrants. Since then it has expanded.

An estimated one million Polish citizens have arrived in the UK since 2004 in the largest single wave of immigration in British history. Emma Raczka, whose Polish grandfather settled in Wales during World War II, was among those who signed up to the Cardiff course last year.

She said although she was there because of her background, about half her fellow students wanted to learn their partners' native language.

'I had been looking out for Polish classes for years and was so excited when I saw the course,' said Miss Raczka, 34, who lives in Mountain Ash, in the Cynon Valley, and works as a communications manager.

'It was big - sometimes you go to these classes and you only get a few people. But there were about 18 people at the start of the Polish classes. There were lots and lots of men with Polish girlfriends.

'They had an unfair advantage as they'd go home and practise with them and come back improved the next week.'

The National Centre for Languages said more and more people were taking up the language in a bid to communicate with migrant workers.

But there was a growing proportion learning the language to understand their new partners - triggering a rise in the number of evening classes being laid on.

With immigration continuing to rise Britain is on track to become Europe's most highly populated nation within two generations.

Forecasts published by the European Commission suggest that we will overtake Germany within 50 years as the population rises from 60.9million today to 77million. At the same time the populations of 14 of the EU's 27 members are expected to be smaller.

The most significant changes will be in countries that have joined the EU only recently.

The population of Bulgaria is forecast to fall by 28 per cent, Latvia by 26 per cent, Lithuania 24 per cent, Romania 21 per cent and Poland 18 per cent.

A spokesman for the centre, Catherine Mansfield, said: 'Anecdotal evidence suggests that more people in the UK are beginning to learn basic Polish, particularly in cases where they are likely to be working with Polish nationals.

'For example, a group of firefighters in Sc unthorpe are learning basic Polish for use in emergency situations, while police and council officers in Burnley took an intensive Polish course this summer to help them communicate with migrant workers.

'In both cases the groups learnt the language alongside Polish people learning English, so the groups had the opportunity to practise and learn together.'

She added: 'We would encourage people from the UK to make the most of every opportunity they have for language learning, both while abroad and at home.

'It's wonderful to see that people are getting to know new colleagues and neighbours in another language and broadening their horizons by learning about new cultures.'


Land area
Britain: 244,820 sq km
Poland: 312, 679 sq km

Britain: 61 million
Poland: 38 million

Britain: US$2.772 trillion
Poland: US$ 621 billion

Government type
Britain: Constitutional monarchy (Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II; Prime Minister: Gordon Brown)
Poland: Parliamentary republic (President: Leck Kaczynski; Prime Minister: Donald Tusk)

Capital city
Britain: London (pop: 8 million; 14 million in metro area)
Poland: Warsa (pop: 2,000,000)

Largest cities
Britain: London (8 million); Birmingham (1 million); Leeds (716,000); Glasgow (578,000); Sheffield (513,000); Bradford (468,000)
Poland: Warsaw (2,000,000); Lodz (784,000); Krakow (735,000); Wroclaw (633,000); Poznan (581,000); Gdansk (457,000)
lone wolf
Gee ... can we can send a few "distinct society" folks over to save English from disappearing?

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