Learning Polish in Krakow

This week will mark the end of the 41st summer of the School of Polish Language and Culture at the Jagiellonian University, and the first year of some major changes in the programme.

For the first time this year, the school decided to implement a different type of teaching method – student-centred learning – which has received much enthusiasm and recognition in other parts of the world for some time now. Based on the idea that the teacher should serve as a facilitator of learning rather than the presenter of information, students learn by examining, observing and experiencing the subjects they are learning about. This requires a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher because in the student’s quest for knowledge there needs to be a structure that may be difficult to obtain during lessons outside of the classroom.

The staff at UJ is well prepared for the challenge, as all of them hold MA degrees in teaching Polish to foreigners, and have handled the transition quite smoothly. Typically, students are assigned a project or task to accomplish that requires them to go out with their teachers into the city. Prior to departure, they are given clear instructions regarding what they are supposed to do or look for; this task can be anything from visiting a cafe of their choice to buying fruit at the market stalls in Kazimierz. Upon completion they return to the classroom to reflect on their experiences. This gives students a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture while learning the language in a more organic, natural way.

This year’s students, similarly to years before, come from all over the world, from the USA to Korea and even Malaysia. Some have Polish roots, but many decided to study the language and the culture just because they find it interesting and beneficial. “The Polish language is becoming more and more important, especially since Poland’s entrance into the EU. More people want to learn Polish, which is reflected in the number of institutions that offer Polish language and culture courses,” explained Dr. Robert Dębski, the director of the School of Polish Language and Culture. “It is no longer just students who have some Polish roots that enrol in our programme. About 50 percent of our students this year have no Polish background at all.”

To see what the students have been up to this summer, please visit the UJ website.

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