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31 August 2014
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Who do you speak Polish with?
"I was born in England, but always spoke Polish at home. I attended a Polish Saturday school and took 'A' level in the subject. I continue to speak Polish at every opportunity - with family, friends, and within the local Polish community. " Basia

"I tend to use it only in the house, as my mother is Polish, but when we visit family, I use it in Poland as well. I only speak Polish to my mother and her parents." Sandra

"I have an impression I hear it every day in London. I believe in some areas it is as common as English. Although it is used in 99% by Polish citizens, I believe some words such as 'vodka' or 'kabanos' are known to everybody..." Radek

About Polish:
"There are many Polish communities across the British Isles - originating from the post-war period. " Basia

"Used mainly by immigrants whether after the Second World War or more recent and the first generation born here. Less so in newer generations or those with only one parent who is Polish." Andrzej

How you feel about speaking Polish:
"My children are learning Polish, albeit as a foreign language. We all feel that it's an important part of our heritage. During the Cold War period the quality of Polish spoken here stagnated somewhat - but since the demise of the Communist regime in 1990, which opened Poland up more to the West (e.g. satellite TV, internet...) and latterly Poland's accession to the EU and the resultant influx of Poles to Britain - the language has been injected with new life." Basia

"I'm quite proud of being able to speak and understand Polish, as I know it will help in the future-and now that Poland are part of the EU, maybe more people will learn it." Sandra
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Polish in the British Isles by Viv Edwards

Polish speakers have arrived in the UK in several different waves over the last three hundred years or so. The first wave started in late eighteenth century when Poland was partitioned by Austria, Prussia and Russia. The wartime Emigracja (1940-1950), made up of members of the Polish Armed Forces and their families and political prisoners from concentration camps in Germany and Russia, brought an estimated 165,000 Poles to the UK. The most important areas of settlement are London (particularly the western and northern boroughs), the industrial North and the Midlands. Small numbers of new migrants arrived in the wake of the Solidarity Movement in the 1980s. More recently, the UK is proving to be a popular destination following Poland's entry into the European Union.

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play audio Listen online to the news in Polish from the BBC:

There are an estimated 750,000 people with Polish connections in the UK today. They range from the grandchildren of those who came in the wartime Emigracja to new arrivals from Poland. These more recent arrivals, together with the ready availability of satellite TV, have injected new life into the language. The Polish community is served by 113 Community Centres, 82 Catholic Parishes, and 67 Saturday Schools, attended by over 5,000 children. The largest Polish library in the world outside Poland is located in the Polish Social and Cultural Centre (POSK) in Hammersmith, which is also home to a theatre and a British-Polish Chamber of Commerce Enterprise Centre.

Your Comments
What is your experience of Polish?

my friend is polish and i do study polish in college as a new language , its an incredibly hard language but very fun!

Joasia from Midlands
Polish is a difficult language. I've been speaking it from the start at home, then went to Polish school on Saturdays. Didn't like going there but appreciated it later on and realised how useful it was. Traditions are also very important to me and to my friends and I try to encourage my children to keep these up. I sent them to Polish school, they too had mixed feelings about it, but also appreciate its benefits. Great to be able to use my Polish now virtually every day at work with Polish people being there.

Teresa from Northamptonshire
My mum is polish and has lived here but polish was her first language - I have learnt several words and phrases but would love to learn more. I am proud that I am half polish.

Ewa from Hastings
I've lived in the UK for 20 years although I was born and bred in Poland. I never thought up until a few years ago that my mother tongue will be very useful in England. Well it's proving to be an incorrect assumption. Since Poland joined the EU there's been many occasions for me to use the Polish language and why not? Not only can I brush-up on my Polish language skills but I also hope to make a use of Polish in business dealings. After all Polish can be as useful as any other language and that's how it should be.

Olivia from London
I started to study polish after making friends with a polish guy at university. I absolutely love speaking polish-it is challenging and I always receive much applause whenever I'm in Poland and try and converse with anyone. I think more should be done to encourage other non-Polish people/people without any Polish routes to learn this language as it will no doubt be important in the years to come, and even more so that we have nearly 1 million poles living, working and raising families in the UK.

Nikki from Manchester
All of my grandparents came from Poland after the war and I have spoken it all my life. I went to a Polish Saturday School for 12 years and passed my A-level. I'm active in the Polish community in Manchester, and am a memeber of Polonez Manchester a Polish dance troupe. Since Poland joined the EU there have been many changes in the Polish communities in the UK to which we are still all adapting, but for the first time I have found my Polish useful outside the community, as I now work with several Polish people.

Tim, Northern Ireland
I cannot emphasise enough how useful even a rudimentary knowledge of Polish is while in Poland. Most Poles react very positively to even bumbling attempts to speak their language (such as mine!) but even my bad Polish is considerably better than the foreign language skills of ordinary people in Poland!

Krys from Nottingham
UK-born of Polish wartime immigrants, I went to school not speaking a word of English, but was one of the first in my class to learn to read. As a child, I was sent to Polish Saturday school and participated to some extent in Polish Brownies and Guides. However, I found the Polish community in Ealing elitist and full of snobs and at the age of 15 refused to have anything more to do with it. I do not use Polish actively and to some extent it has become mixed up with Serbo-Croat after I lived in Zagreb for 5 years. Recently, my life has taken a curious turn which has ended up in me becoming a very successful freelance medical translator. I use Polish passively as one of my translation languages but otherwise have no contact with Polish culture.

Ann from Poland
Im going to London during my holiday, i'd like to improve my english, but im not so good in speekig it :P. I hope i'll get on well with other people, and won't be forced to use polish,and stay with my polish friends all the time... greetings from poland :)

Mike from Somerset
Where can grandson and I learn some conversational Polish, preferably face to face with a tutor?

Tytus from Builth Wells
Now me and 8 my friends are here. We speak polish in our free time. At work we speak english. We want to popularise polish throughout the wales.

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