First-language speakers of Polish have no trouble understanding each other, and non-native speakers may have difficulty distinguishing regional variations.Polish is normally described as consisting of four or five main dialects: Kashubian, spoken in Pomerania west of Gdańsk on the Baltic Sea, is often considered a fifth dialect.In history, Polish is known to be an important language, both diplomatically and academically in Central and Eastern Europe.

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The geographical distribution of the Polish language was greatly affected by the territorial changes of Poland immediately after World War II and Polish population transfers (1944–46).

Poles settled in the "Recovered Territories" in the west and north, which had previously been mostly German-speaking.

The largest concentrations of Polish speakers reported in the census (over 50%) were found in three states: Illinois (185,749), New York (111,740), and New Jersey (74,663).

Enough people in these areas speak Polish that PNC Financial Services (which has a large number of branches in all of these areas) offer services available in Polish at all of their cash machines in addition to English and Spanish.

According to the 2011 census there are now over 500,000 people in England and Wales who consider Polish to be their "main" language.

In Canada, there is a significant Polish Canadian population: There are 242,885 speakers of Polish according to the 2006 census, with a particular concentration in Toronto (91,810 speakers) and Montreal.

The "Recovered Territories" (in pink) are those parts of Germany and the Free City of Gdańsk that became part of Poland after World War II.

Gray color, territories lost to the Soviet Union followed by mass Polish population transfers (1944–46) The Polish language became far more homogeneous in the second half of the 20th century, in part due to the mass migration of several million Polish citizens from the eastern to the western part of the country after the Soviet annexation of the Kresy in 1939, and the annexation of former German territory after World War II.

Some Poles remained in the previously Polish-ruled territories in the east that were annexed by the USSR, resulting in the present-day Polish-speaking minorities in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine, although many Poles were expelled or emigrated from those areas to areas within Poland's new borders.