Polish characters: how to pronounce and type them

Today something a bit different, a few information about diacritics in Polish language (znaki diakrytyczne w języku polskim).

If you learn Polish language you probably pretty quickly came across some strangely looking characters that are not present in Latin alphabet. In today’s lesson we will quickly discuss what they are, if we should use them and also how to install Polish language to our Windows computer to be able to type them.

Diacritics (also known as diacritical marks or diacritical points) are glyphs added to letters that signal the change the sound-values of the letters to which they are added. In Polish language there are 9 letters with diacritics. Here are the list of “base letter” together with diacritics:

a ą
c ć
e ę
l ł
n ń
o ó
s ś
z ż
z ź

Thinking of diacritics in Polish language as less important than standard letters is a mistake. Some people, even Polish native speakers, sometimes omit them but they should be actually treated like any other separate letters as they are part of the alphabet. Omitting diacritics and using in their place standard letters as I say is a mistake. This will change pronunciation of the words and in many cases also their meanings. Please have a look at these examples:

bak – (petrol) tank
bąk – bumblebee
kat – hangman, executioner
kąt – angle or corner
laska – staff
łaska – mercy
nic – nothing
nić – thread
zona – zone
żona – wife
jedz! – eat!
jedź! – go!

OK, we know that using these Polish characters is important but how we can actually type them on our keyboard? It’s simple, all you have to do is to install Polish keyboard on your computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. Here are some instructions how to do in Windows 10.

How to type Polish characters on keyboard

I will provide you with the instruction for Windows PC but other operation systems (for computers, tablets and mobile phones) have got similar solution. In order to type Polish letters, you need to install on your machine Polish language. On Windows you can do it in following steps:

1# Open Region and language settings

You can click in the left bottom corner on Windows logo, then click on the little gear icon and then, when the window with Settings appears, click on Time & language. Then from the left menu choose Region & language. Alternatively, click on the Windows icon in the left bottom corner and just start typing “language”. When you see Region and language settings, click on it.

Open Region and language settings

2# Install Polish language

When you open Region and language settings in section Language you will see languages that are currently installed. You need to click on “Add language” button, find Polish language and click on it in order to install it.

Install Polish language

3# Change the language into Polish

As soon as the Polish language is installed, in the right bottom corner of the screen you will see additional option for language. Because my original language was English, on my computer I can see there ENG but if you had other languages, the symbols may be different. It does not matter. Click on it to display available languages. You should be able to see Polish there (Polish programmers keyboard), click on it. This is one of the ways of switching between different languages and keyboards. You can either click on this option but also press left Alt and Shift. Press these two keys and check if languages are changing. OK, leave Polish as the active language.

Change the language into Polish

4# Start typing in Polish 🙂

Now you are ready to typing in Polish language. In order to type any of these letter I mentioned, you need to press right Alt and type the base letter. So, for instance, to type ą you need to press right Alt and type a, to type c press right Alt and press c. Now, as you probably noticed two letters with diacritics ż and ź come from the base letter z so what happens if you press Alt and z? You will get ż. In order to get ź you need to press right Alt and x (it is located near z so it is easy to remember).

Start typing in Polish

That is all really. I have also prepared a short video tutorial about these Polish characters and letters. Perhaps you fill find it useful as well. Please have a look:

Polish characters: how to pronounce and type them

Thanks for reading and watching. As always, I encourage you to put any of the questions you have in the comment section below. I will answer every single question, promise 🙂

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