English or Polish in Krak(ó)w?

When  you go for a night out in Krakow, do you head for a club or a klub? What about the grocery run… do you stock up at the shop or at the sklep?

As an international city, welcoming tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world each year, and with a sizeable population of medium and long-term expats living, working and studying, does Krakow have a responsibility to make  information about services and facilities understandable to as many people as possible – or does the ‘shop’ sign in place of the ‘sklep’ pose a threat to the Polish language and  discriminate against the local population?

The Krakow edition of the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza took on the issue of language, and found that, while there was some support for using English to attract trade and benefit from Krakow’s cosmopolitan nature, others  saw the use of languages other than Polish as ‘snobbism’.  Some even argued that, by using English instead of Polish, businesses in the city could lose customers as Poles – the majority nationality in Krakow – seek goods and services at establishments that use the Polish language either primarily or in some cases exclusively.

Should signs be in Polish or English?

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Shop owner Anna Michułka told the newspaper that she heard English more often than Polish in her shop. She added: “Many small businesses need to attract foreign tourists.”

But Dr Katarzyna Kłosińska, secretary of the Polish Language Council, said: “To a large extent this is due to snobbery. Polish companies want to have an international character, which is understandable against the background of the general trend. I also understand that bilingual names appear in the market squares in Krakow or Warsaw, but I find it bizarre to name service points, such as for a cobbler or ice cream, only in English.”

15 thoughts on “English or Polish in Krak(ó)w?

  • Avatar
    August 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm
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    Yet ANOTHER rewrite of a Gazeta Wyborcza article………

    Why not just rebrand yourselves as a translator for the local press?

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  • Avatar
    August 28, 2012 at 8:54 am
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    If you want bilingual signs, why not use Esperanto as well as Polish? After all, Esperanto started life in Poland 125 years ago.

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  • Avatar
    August 28, 2012 at 7:20 pm
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    Anthony Casey? Casey Anthony? Well, what ever ;)
    @Jack, the author has already credited the story to Gazeta Wyborcza. so, I guess that’s ok?

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  • Avatar
    August 30, 2012 at 7:58 am
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    Jack, not everyone reads Gazeta Wyborcza and – er – it’s in Polish ….

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  • Avatar
    August 30, 2012 at 9:02 am
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    If a city recognises it is a popular tourist destination then it is sensible to have shop signs in English, it has after all become the common language of communication . But it would be unfortunate if shop owners competed both in size and gaudiness of their signs. For ex-pats show a bit of courtesy and learn the language.

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    September 1, 2012 at 6:02 pm
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    Tourist and businesses expect the international language to be used. Or maybe Polish holiday makers traveling abroad should be forced to learn Spanish, French or Arabic when they go on holiday?

    My Polish sister in law wouldn’t agree, she finds it outrageous that tourists centers abroad don’t speak English.

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  • Avatar
    September 1, 2012 at 11:05 pm
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    I think – always use Polish, it is Poland and you can use English as well where necessary.
    On the subject of Anthony Casey – Best journalist I know

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  • Avatar
    September 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm
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    It probably doesn’t really matter what language the signs are in the shop, because most people are capable of pointing at what they want. You don’t even need to speak to the person in the shop.
    This said, If you want to advertise services to tourists and you are involved in the service industry, it makes sense to advertise in many languages. Someone who would refuse to do this, because of some form of silly national pride would obviously lose business and wouldn’t last very long.
    If you want to be successful in business make your business as accessible to as many as possible.
    If you want to be a nationalist join a marching band.

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  • Avatar
    October 23, 2012 at 6:17 am
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    Use Polish. It is no fun to go to visit a place that one expects to be different from their ‘home’, and then find it is the same. Personal opinion- know enough English to speak some and be sociable to a visitor, while it (should be) enjoyable and advantageous to a visitor to expend some effort to learn Polish. I am American, and love the polish people; would be very sad to not see Polish used if I were ever able to visit!

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  • Avatar
    November 4, 2012 at 1:43 pm
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    @Jack why is there always some sad case bashing articles in local newspapers? Do you have a little club where you dish out the jobs? Do you have too much free time?

    A local journalist’s job is basically to write about local issues or to put a local slant on a national/regional story. Mr Casey has satisfied both those requirements with this story.

    Bore off and do something constructive

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  • Avatar
    November 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm
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    It is rather silly to go into another country and expect to see signs up in your language, because you do not speak or read the language of the country you are visiting. I do not speak much Polish or read it even though I am half polish, but that is my problem. To be honest I would be less likely to frequent a shop whose signs have an English translation or are totally in English because I view it as an insult to the local population. It should be expected of the visitor to either learn a smattering of the language or just to make themselves understood somehow. Tourist information points should be the places where you’d go for translations.

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  • Avatar
    November 10, 2012 at 7:16 pm
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    If it is in Poland speak the local language if one is living there. It’s not easy for anyone. At least in the City Center English signs would be of a good help for those who come on holiday and will not stay in the City. For Expats like m still struggling with the language… Well people keep learning and show respect for the country at least.

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  • Avatar
    November 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm
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    I am English, my wife’s Polish, I speak Polish, I do my best when in shops or restaurants, I think the Polish people appreciate foreigners trying to speak the language, its not so easy, the grammar is what’s I get stuck on.

    Reply

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