Travelling in Poland
It is easy to see how the narrow medieval streets of Krakow, the bustling metropolis of Warsaw, or the colourful building facades that line the streets in Gdansk, could lead the visitor to Poland astray. There is plenty to see and distract, and one could not be blamed for focussing their attention on other things than navigation.
It will probably be useful then, to get to know how to ask directions in Polish, and there is probably no better way of doing this than looking at conversation examples.
Asking Where Something Is
Look at the following conversation, with the corresponding English translation in brackets.
Me:Przepraszam, gdzie jest przystanek tramwajowy? (excuse me, where is the tram stop?)
Polish Person: Przystanek tramwajowy jest niedaleko. Prosze iść prosto, skręcić w lewo, potem skręcić w prawo, a przystanek tramwajowy jest naprzeciwko (The tram stop is not far. Please go straight ahead, turn right, then turn left, and the tram stop is opposite)
Me: Dziękuje bardzo? (Thank you very much)
Polish Person: Proszę (You are welcome)
Granted, it probably left you thinking, ‘with all that walking, why are you getting the tram?’ But this conversations is a short and sweet interchange, packed full of useful words when it comes to learning how to ask directions in Polish.
Firstly, the opening ‘gdzie jest’ (where is...) introduces the question ‘where is the tram stop?’, and you can use this to ask where anything is: Gdzie jest dworzec? (Where is the station?), Gdzie jest kawiarnia (Where is the cafe?) and Gdzie jest apteka? (where is the pharmacy?), may be useful ones to practice.
I also got a reply, and saw how to give directions in Polish. I was told the tram stop wasn’t far (niedaleko) and received instructions how to get there. ’Prosze iść prosto’ (go straight ahead), ’skręcić w lewo’ (turn left) and ’skręcić w lewo’ (turn right), were all useful ways to communicate instructions. Understanding these basic phrases will get you going in the right direction in no time.
Other good words to remember when asking for direction in Polish are the opening, przepraszam which means both, ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’, and naprzeciwko (opposite).
Once you have the hang of the basic sentences for asking and introducing directions, it’s all about bulking up your vocabulary, so you feel confident asking the location of more things, and receiving more complex directions. Below is a list of vocabulary, questions and phrases that will be really useful when asking (and giving) directions in Polish.
To tu (It is here)
To tam (It is there)
To za rogiem (It is around the corner)
To po lewej/prawej stronie (It on the left/right side)
Czy to daleko stąd? (Is it far from here?)
Czy jest tu gdzieś blisko poczta? (It there a post office near here?)
Here is some vocabulary that covers a few places you may find yourself asking after. Remember to be polite and introduce the questions, being with, ‘Przepraszam gdzie jest...’.
Informacja turystyczna (Tourist information kiosk)
Poczta (Post office)
Przystanek autobusowy (Bus stop)
Park (Park, a nice easy one)
Hotel (Hotel, again nice an memorable)
Automat (Cash point)
What quite often happens is a learner of Polish, despite how confident they are in asking for directions, will be left totally bamboozled by the speedy and detailed directions they get in reply. But don’t fear, you can always ask someone to speak slower (‘Proszę mówić wolniej?’ (Please speak slower), Or, perhaps better yet, let the map do the talking! (‘Prosze mi pokozac na planie/mapa’ (Please can you show me on the map)).