THE Polish government wants Britain to make Polish a standard choice for British children studying a foreign language because so many are now living in the UK.
Krzysztof Stanowski, Poland’s deputy minister of education, said that Polish language teaching had “about the same status as Swahili” even though there were now some 100,000 Polish pupils in British schools.
“It should have a higher status,” he said. “It would be unrealistic to say we could set up Polish as a second or third language in British schools in time for the next school year. But the year after, why not?”
Last month Stanowski met Ed Balls, the children, schools and families secretary, on a visit to London to discuss raising the profile of his country’s language, both to improve provision for Polish pupils in British schools and to increase British pupils’ awareness of Poland.
This weekend Balls’ department declined to comment, but Stanowski said: “The British side has been very enthusiastic. . . . No specifics have yet been settled. We need a few months of talks. We’re planning to set up regular meetings.”
Since Poland joined the European Union in 2004 more than 600,000 Poles have arrived in Britain. In a report the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust has recommended the appointment of Polish-speaking staff members in schools with a high immigrant population. It also warned that attendance by Polish children is poor, with many parents choosing to take them home to Poland during term-time to avoid high air fares during the holidays.
Polish still has some way to go if it is to become the second language in British schools. Last year about 2,000 pupils took Polish GCSE compared with 81,000 taking German and 217,000 taking French.
Here are some Polish words that could feature in school textbooks in Britain
pszczolka (pronounced pshchoowkah)—bee
przedzierzgnac (pron pshedsherszgnonch)—change
szczescie (pron shchenshcheh)—luck
trzeszczec (pron trsheshchech)—creak
przepchnac (pron prszephnonch)—push
przedrzezniacz (pron prshedrsheshniach)—mocking bird
wstrzasnac (pron vstrshasnonch)—shake
przedyskutowywac (pron prshediscootovivach)—discuss
– Now try to pronounce this well-known Polish tongue-twister
W Szczebrzeszynie chrzaszca brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego slynie.
In Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reed, for which Szczebrzeszyn is famous.