How Widely Spoken is English in Poland?

Poland has a reputation for being a very nice country with plenty of sights to see and nice cities to visit, but how widely spoken is English there? Can tourists expect to get by just using English and not using and Polish?

In general, English is fairly widely spoken in Poland with around 37% of Poles overall reported as being able to speak English to some degree, with a higher percentage in major cities. That equates to around 14 million people with some level of English proficiency out of a total population of around 38 million.

However, the good news for tourists is that this ratio of English speakers goes up in the major cities and tourist destinations, where you will have no problems finding people who can speak English if you need help.

Recent stats suggest that 37% of Poles have English as a second language. It is widely taught in schools; for the last several decades children have been required to learn at least one extra language in Primary school and two extra languages in Secondary school, so most young Poles will now learn English at some point.

Once you move away from the bigger cities into smaller towns and villages, the prevalence of English becomes less, with older people over 40 also speaking less English, since Russian was their main secondary language of choice growing up under communism.

Getting By As a Tourist

Looking through the forums on this, all tourists to Poland were unanimous that English speakers will have no trouble getting by in the bigger cities in Poland, with English speakers always on hand to help out with any problems or directions. In places like Krakow, Warsaw and Gdansk you won’t have a problem.

No Poles expect foreigners to be able to speak Polish, although like any other nationality they do appreciate a few basic words (Hello, please, thank-you) to initiate conversations. Similarly, the 37% proficiency rate is probably already out of date as regular repeat tourists report that the fluency rate of English continues to grow each time they go back as the younger generation comes through with better English than the older generations.

Basically, anyone under the age of 40 should be able to converse in English with you to at least a passable degree. You should also be fine in tourist spots, hotels, restaurants and shops in larger cities. Even if someone doesn’t speak English, they wave someone across who can and you are sorted. All the ATMs and ticket machines also have English options on the menus.

As you move out of the big cities then you may struggle a little more with older people, as well as people who work for the state owned enterprises like post office and railways. A few Polish phrases, together with the typical tourist pointing and gesturing should get you by here. See our section further below for some basic phrases.

As a caution, most road signs are only in Polish so if you are going to be renting a car then it is a good idea to take a sat-nav with you to help you get to where you need to go.

Languages in Poland

Poland is actually a very linguistically diverse country, with over 20 languages officially spoken there. Polish itself is a Slavic language, the second most common one behind Russia. Some sources also report a high level of Russian proficiency among the Polish population, but I’ve had feedback from multiple sources from Poland that this is not true at all.

Nowadays, most young people in the Post-Soviet generation have no real understanding of Russian, and very few can hold a basic conversation in it. Russian proficiency is much lower now, and mostly restricted to the much older generations that lived through the Soviet era.

English is now probably the most widely spoken second language, with around 40% proficiency, but German is also quite widely spoken among younger people as well. Ukrainian, Lithuanian, Armenian and Romani are also spoken as minority languages in the country; Poland of course borders Germany and Ukraine and so has many native speakers of these languages in certain regions.

Learning Basic Polish

Polish can admittedly be a frightening looking language to read on paper, but there will be no expectation for a tourist to be proficient at Polish. English alone will suffice in the bigger cities, but having a few basic phrases will help endear you to the locals. Here are some of the more common words you might need.


EnglishPolishPronounced as
Thank youDziekuje Jin-ku-yeh
You're welcomeNie ma za coNie ma zatso
Excuse me/sorryPrzepraszam Sheh-prasham
How are you?Jak sie maszYak she mash
I'm fine, thanksDobrze, dziekujedobr-je, jin-ku-yeh
What time is it?Ktora jest godzina?Ktora est good-jina?
Good morning/afternoonDzien dobry Djien-dobry
Good eveningDobry wiezcor Dobry vi-air-chor
See you laterDo zobaczenia Doh zoba-chenia
Nice to meet youmiło mi ciebie poznacmiwo me che-bie pos-natch
Where is the restroom/bathroom?Gdzie jest toalete?Gjee est tarleta?
How much is this?Ile to kosztuje?e-leh toh cosh-tu-eh?
Can i get the check please?Czy moge prosic o rachunek? Chi mo-geh pro-sich oh rakunek?

So from even the basic list you can see that Polish can seem an intimidating language to learn at first, since words are often not pronounced as they read, with lots of particular accents and pronunciations which can’t really be guessed and just need to be learned. However, just memorizing the pronunciation of a few key ones should help you get by whenever you run into a non English speaker.

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Language & Travel Essentials For Visiting Poland

  • Essential stats on Poland:
      • Population: 38 million
      • Time zone: EST +6 hours; GMT +1 hours.
      • Currency: Polish zloty (PLN) ($1 = 4.52 PLN; £1= 5.35 PLN at time of writing)
      • International calling code: +48 (see here for getting a working local SIM card/number when abroad)
      • Drives on the right
  • Luggage allowancessee here for an excellent guide on luggage allowances (checked and cabin) for all major airlines worldwide.
  • Banking – If you use foreign cards at Polish ATMs, you will get stung with high fees. For a good multi-currency card you can use in Poland with zero purchase fees and zero ATM withdrawal fees up to EUR/GBP 200 per month (around 900-1000 zloty at current rates), see our review of the TransferWise/Wise Cross-Border card (great option for Brits especially who go there a lot, but most nationalities including US residents can get them).
  • SIM Cards – If you’d rather not be messing about with physical SIM cards, E-SIMs (digital SIM cards) are now available. If your phone is unlocked and E-SIM compatible, you can take advantage of Airalo‘s cheap, data only (no calls/texts) E-SIM cards, available for 200 countries, which you can download to your phone. With customized cheap E-SIM packages tailored for your data needs and length of stayClick here to view Airalo’s E-SIMs now (almost all countries covered). Pay for what you need, for how long you need – no getting ripped off with tourist SIM cards and roaming charges.