Listening is accompanied by speaking, reading and writing. But listening comes first. After listening to one person or even to a small group of Polish speakers it is necessary to extend the experience. Ideally, someone, who is no longer a beginner, should listen to as many different types of spoken Polish as possible. By different types I mean the conversations participated in and overheard in all sorts of everyday situations in Poland. Of course this means coming to Poland, with a friend, buying railway tickets, shopping, eating in restaurants and cafes and listening, all the time listening.
There is the language used by children and teenagers on the trams returning from school and the language of pensioners recounting their latest illnesses to each other whilst complaining about most of the novelties of the last twenty years. None of it will be recorded, but it all conveys the pattern of the language. Buying something, even if you do not need it and it is just that the experience is interesting. The conversation is different first there is the enquiry, are there any others? What about this, what about that? How much does it cost? Such real-life experiences are much more valuable and intense than textbook or tape cassette exercises. Stop someone on the street and ask the way to somewhere, perhaps best to somewhere that you already know the way to. Apologise for the interruption, ask them if they would tell you the way to the railway station.
Find out how much you can understand of the news on Polish television, delivered rapidly and not especially clearly by the newsreaders. Testing one's proficiency in real situations is far more rewarding than in the condition of student and teacher. Of course the more one understands about a people the more one comprehends their language. Did language shape the pattern of thought? Or was it the other way round? The question will perhaps never be resolved but undoubtedly there is a strong correlation between language and thought. Language links thought to behaviour, thus learning in "battlefield conditions" provides the student with the interesting experience watching the effect that an individual language has when delivered by its speakers to each other.
Quite apart from the excellent and compelling reasons already provided for a brief visit to Poland, there is the opportunity to see a visually fascinating country. But this is not just tourism; for the physical environment is what shapes thought. The physical environment of a country influences the thinking processes of the inhabitants; in view of this the diligent student can do no less than explore this environment.
Learning through listening is not just a programming process. Embrace the language, regard it as a friend. Make the acquaintance of the people. See where and how they live. This is an extremely interesting part of the world, which is likely to have an increasing influence on Western Europe throughout the foreseeable future. The more the enthusiasm in participating in speaking Polish the more the pleasure one derives from it.