In many countries across the world, also in Poland, there is an opinion, that immigrants, who live or work in the country should learn language. For some natives it is an necessary condition – language first! It is said: “It would be easier to communicate for them”, “They would not be cheated”, “They would do every kind of job”, “They would earn more money”, “They would not be excluded from society” etc. On the other hand, rarely someone says: “They should learn my language, because it would be more comfortable for me”, “They should take care of my comfort, because they live in my country and they should meet my expectations.” In my opinion there is no clear answer to this question. I will explain below why.    

From the legal side, in Poland the foreigner has no obligation to know the language (at least currently). This condition appears when the foreigner seek to obtain polish citizenship, which is given by the voivode. In case of employment there is the same thing – it is up to the employer, he can legally hire whoever he want. Considering low unemployment in Poland, “no hands to work” (especially in small towns) and seasonal jobs there is no need to be choosers. The problem of language becomes secondary – the company has to earn money, so we have to communicate.

In practice, it is not that easy. Everything depends of individual expectations of an immigrant. There are those, who come here to do seasonal job and return to the homeland. There are those, who have been living and working in Poland a while, but have not had opportunity to use Polish. They simply have managed without it.  There are those, who will not use Polish at all, who will communicate only in native or in another language. There are also those, who will study Polish for totally various reasons: cultural, economical, moral or simply out of curiosity and sympathy for polish language and culture.

Without coercion. You can’t force someone to do something against his will.

To know foreign language is a choice. Although sometimes it seems impractical not to know it.

The experience of great cities, like New York, London, Berlin, Paris, shows that local language does not have to be first.

I work for Ocalenie Foundation, which several times a year announces enrollment for Polish courses, and I see for myself how many Poles are eager to teach and how many immigrants to study Polish. There are more and more applications with each enrollment

If someone really cares about his „comfort” and wants that more and more immigrants speak Polish, he can also contribute to this process by his openness, involvement and support for those organizations that dedicate their activities towards immigrants.

Six years ago, I studied Polish without planning immigration to Poland, but thanks to my polish teacher, who showed me, that you can like Poland, polish language became dear to me.

Author: Gagik Grigoryan,