Ponglish – desperation level: hard.

New in the city

Culture shock experienced by each emigrant is a situation in which he or she must confront their language capabilities with the realities of the country they happen to be found. The natural instinct is to look for places which are teeming with compatriots and where they can hear wall to wall native speech.

Once recovered from the shock, the countryman cautiously explores the unfamiliar terrain and begins to learn the language of the natives. Here begins the bane of their lives. Anyone who learns a foreign language, at all stages of its internalization, creates own linguistic structure which is a mixture of mother tongue and a second language. Such a bipolar system characterizes with simplifying foreign grammatical structures or mixing native grammar with foreign vocabulary or another way round.


It’s completely natural for human mind to compartmentalize different abstract concepts – after all, it’s another defense mechanism of our body which is designed to protect us from information flood. Hence, people are trying to associate foreign-sounding phrase with those which they already know and they try to rationalize grammar rules and syntax. Semantic generalizations are very common.

Thus, in the company of Poles in England or in the United States we can quickly learn the basics of expat living but also a completely new language: Ponglish or Polamer. This linguistic phenomena „brejka wszystkie rule” (Świetliki 1999, album: Perły przed wieprze)- breaks all rules, not only because of constant diglot weave usage but also mixing Polish prefixes and suffixes with it. It is extremely comfortable language system but only understood in the expats circle.

Make an effort

However, the generalization should over time give way to more detail oriented studies and foreign language learners should be motivated to sink their teeth into intricacies of grammar structures and more sophisticated vocabulary. Unfortunately, this project collapses under the weight of Voltaire’s aphorism: „Perfect is the enemy of the good”. Once countrymen are capable of doing groceries at Greenpoint without perfect English knowledge they will probably never get to know this language better. This minimum will suit them but settling for second best leads them to joyful creativity which looks as follows:

  • „Wieszam ciuchy na lajnie” (I line dry my laundry)
  • „Drajwnij mnie na szoping” (Drive me to the shops)
  • „Drinkujesz dzisiaj, czy jesteś drajwerem?” (Are you drinking tonight or are you by car?)
  • „Wrzuć kłodrę na sodę” (Put a quarter to get a soda = A quarter dollar coin worth 25 cents, soda refers to a soft drink).

GAMEISH as a variety of Ponglish

The Ponglish phenomenon is developing not only outside Polish borders but also inside them amongst Polish teenagers as Gameish. What is Gameish? This is a language variety which characterizes with polonizing as many English words as possible during the gameplay because time is running out and gamers are just getting to the next level (gameish: nabić kolejny level) and are not particularly prone to translating game lingo into Polish. If our precious kids do not have enough patience, then they can cheat ( ponglish: mogą pocziwtować) by using special programs written for those purposes. During the gameplay they can also:

  • Upgrejdować postaci (upgrade game characters)
  • Odpalić pola/shildy/czakry bo dają duży bonus do helta (use force fields/shields/chakras to add bonus health points)
  • Krafcić helmety/słordy/armory (craft helmets, swords, armors)

Sounds bizzare? Yes, and unless you are willing to take up playing computer games, you will not understand gameplay lingo. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, but we do not have to reinvent our language. Of course it need some improvements here and there, especially when it comes to new technologies, but still Polish is doing well over last decades and it don’t need to be changed so drastically. Hopefully those two jargons will not influence it too much.

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