The Polish language is the official language of the country of Poland, a nation located in Central Europe, which is bordered by Germany, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Belarus, and Russia. The languages of all of these neighboring countries exercised great influence over the Polish language over time. There are approximately 46 million speakers of Polish, and it is not only the official language of Poland, but also an official language of the European Union, and the nations of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania claim the Polish language as an official second language.
The Polish language is the most commonly spoken member of the Lechitic branch (one of three languages spoken in Central Europe) of the Western Slavic language family. At one time, Polish was a very widely used language, and its use extended well beyond the borders of its home country. It was used for cultural, scientific, and even military purposes, due to the political union between Poland and Lithuania (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), which proved very large and influential. The Polish language remains today a very well understood language throughout the region and is spoken well beyond the Polish borders (though with much less political influence).
The influence that the languages that border the country of Poland (as well as other countries of historical significance) had on the development of the Polish language is quite heavy. Some of the influential languages include Latin, Czech, French, German, Italian, Russian, and recently, English (American English). Polish contains many words borrowed from these other languages, which might account for the language being generally understood by many regions of Europe. The heaviest use of borrowed vocabulary comes from the German language. This influence can be traced back to the medieval days. The polish language usually changes the spelling of the borrowed vocabulary, however.
The standard Polish language saw a great deal of evening out after World War II. The mass education and relocation of the Polish are seen to be the cause. There are still some regional dialects that remain in the rural parts of the country. Many of the dialects spoken today are divided as they were long ago, in correlation to tribal separations. These dialects include Great Polish (in the west), Little Polish (in the south and southeast), Mazovian (in central and eastern Poland), and Silesian (in the southwest).
The Polish language is spoken primarily in the country of Poland. Nearly 97% of the people in Poland consider the Polish language their native, or first, language. This makes Polish one of the most predominantly spoken mother tongues in Europe (within its own country). There are large concentrations of people in Central Europe who claim Polish as their first language. Lithuania, Belarus, and the Ukraine all contain relatively large minority populations of native speakers. This is due in part to the post World War II feelings of the Polish people. Polish territories that had been taken over by the USSR during World War II saw great deal of the Polish population flee. These people either were unable or did not want to return to Poland after the war had ended. Thus the Polish language spread to the regions where the Polish settled.Today, there exists considerable numbers of speakers of the Polish language around the world, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Because of the mass continuation of the Polish language to be spoken on such a global scale, there is no shortage of ways for a person who is a non-native speaker to learn the Polish language. The Internet, for example, provides a vast amount of Polish language lessons, as well as great information on the country’s history and cultural significance.