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Is spelling easier for non-native speakers?

6 Sep 2011
Sign which reads "No Tecknolegy"
This guy clearly doesn't use a spell checker! Photo by Sammy0716

I receive lots of comments on the videos of me speaking Polish like:

"You speak pretty good Polish. But can you spell? It's really hard, even for native Poles!"

The first time I saw this, I was really surprised! The Polish alphabet is very straightforward and I have no problems spelling in Polish. In fact, I spell much better in Polish than I do in English!

Personally, I've always thought English spelling was really hard. But I've had non-native speakers tell me that spelling in English is much easier than in their native language.

So, I've started to wonder: is spelling simply easier for non-native speakers?

Read more for my whole theory!

The Polish Alphabet is Easy!

10 Nov 2010
Letters in Polish alphabet
Letters in the Polish alphabet. Image by Faxe on

When people unfamiliar with Polish see it written, they are often struck by the strange marks and all the consonants in a row. How can you pronounce words like "szczęśliwy" or "brzmieć"? Although it looks a little strange, the Polish alphabet is actually quite easy.

In English, spelling doesn't relate to pronunciation in a consistent way. For example, compare the pronunciation of "oo" in the following words: book, soon, door, flood. It's different in every word! And there's no way to know that from looking at the words.

I am a native speaker of English, but even I have had the following situation happen to me several times: I know a few words from reading which I have never heard out loud. Later, I'll hear someone say a word and have no idea what it means, only to find out that I know the word, I just imagined that it was pronounced differently. Or even more embarrassingly, sometimes I'll try to say one of these words, but with with the wrong pronunciation -- and other people don't know what I'm talking about!

This can never happen in Polish! Once you have the hang of all the pronunciation rules, you will always be able to correctly pronounce any word from the spelling.

Keep reading to see resources and advice for learning the Polish alphabet!