Poland’s official language is Polish.
Foreign tourists should be informed that almost all government information is typically only available in Polish. Street signs, instructions, information signs, and so forth are often exclusively in Polish, as are train and bus timetables and announcements (airports and a few major train stations seem to be an exception to this). Signs in various languages are usually seen exclusively at major tourist sites when it comes to information signs like museums, churches, and so on.
The majority of young people and adolescents are fluent in English. Because English is taught from a relatively young age (some schools begin as early as four years old), only Poles who grow up in remote towns or villages will be denied English instruction. Older Poles, particularly those living outside of the major cities, will speak little or no English. However, it is very likely that they speak French, German, or Russian (however, if you use Russian when asking a Pole, say first that you don’t know Polish and that’s why you speak Russian – taking Russian as an official language of Poland is considered an offense as a result of Russian occupation and communist times), which were taught in schools as the main foreign languages until the 1990s.
Russian, which has many parallels with Polish, has mostly been replaced by English, although German is still taught in many schools across the nation, and is particularly popular in the western regions. Ukrainian and Polish have numerous commonalities.
In Poland, a few words may go a long way. Unlike in some other tourist locations, where locals laugh at how poor a foreigner’s usage of the native language is, Polish people usually appreciate the few foreigners who acquire or attempt to learn Polish, even if it is just a few phrases. Younger Poles will also take advantage of the opportunity to improve their English. Be aware that if you are heard speaking English in public outside of major cities and tourist regions, individuals may listen in to practice their English.
Make an effort to learn how to pronounce the names of locations. Because Polish has a fairly consistent pronunciation, this should be no issue. Although most English speakers are unfamiliar with a few sounds, knowing every phoneme is not necessary to attain intelligibility; capturing the spirit is more important.
Poland’s recent history has resulted in a very homogeneous society today, in stark contrast to its long history of ethno-religious diversity; nearly 99 percent of the population today is ethnic Polish; prior to World War II, it was only 69 percent with large minorities, primarily Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Germans, and less than two-thirds Roman Catholic with large Orthodox and Protestant minorities as well.
Poland also had the biggest Jewish community in Europe, with estimates ranging from 10% to 30% of the Polish population at the time. Outside of the main cities’ most touristic districts, you’ll encounter few, if any, foreigners. The majority of immigrants in Poland (mostly Ukrainians and Vietnamese) work in the larger cities. Poland’s tiny collection of current ethnic minorities, Germans, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Silesians, and Kashubians, all speak Polish, and few regional languages survive except in the south and around the Baltic coast.