This post is intended to comfort me as much as provide a realistic assessment of my gains in this area. Just looking at the title makes me feel better.
Progress. I often doubt it but know that it must be happening, simply because my Polish can’t be getting any worse. I collect words and deposit them in little notebook where I promptly forget about them, until I wake up at 3 am in a frenzy of nocturnal lesson planning (which happens much more often than I’d like). Then I find myself sometimes going through this hoard of new vocabulary like a miser counting his money. It soothes me, this sense of acquisition. I have a thing I can do something with. I have even, on a couple of very memorable occasions in the last few months, made somebody laugh. This is a heady and wonderful experience and makes me feel cheerful for days.
The other thing which has sparked this linguistic reflection is that I have finally enrolled in Polish classes. I have to admit that part of my motivation for this was a burning desire not to be the dumbest person in the room for a change, and to find some people to speak Polish with who do it as badly as or worse than I do. So I’m simultaneously disgruntled and complimented to find that I’ve been enrolled in the class with the Ukrainians and Belarussians, who pick up Polish quicker than herpes and who actually have a chance of learning to speak without a trace of an accent.
The course coordinator, having her doubts that someone with a name like Ross-a-merry Moo-ray could speak a word in her hermetic language, began a surreal conversation with me, in Polish, asking me why I was insisting on speaking to her in English and opening with “Why don’t you want to speak to me?” She then took my look of mystification as evidence that I was unable to hold my own against the Ukranians. When she had come to her senses and could identify the language we were speaking in, she explained that usually Anglophones who know some grammar and can fill in their placement test can’t actually say anything when the time comes to talk. Evidence of the power of expectations on communication.