Number of speakers worldwide: 40 million
Polish is spoken in:
-the numerous countries with sizeable Polish immigrant communities, such as Canada, France, Germany and the United States in particular (10 million Polish speakers). 15 million Polish people left their native country in the 19th century due to economic and political problems.
-Belarus and Lithuania.
Polish is the official language of Poland, where it is spoken by 97% of the population, making it one of the most linguistically homogeneous countries in Europe.
Polish belongs to the West Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. Out of all the other Slavic languages, Polish seems particularly close to Belarusian and Slovakian. Generally, the majority of Polish words are comprehensible to the speakers of any other Slavic language, in written form.
Warsaw Voice, an English language Polish newspaper, at http://www.warsawvoice.pl/; PolOrg, an online community to help Polish people living in the US and Canada, at http://www.polorg.com/Org/Default.asp?Language=English.
-Polish is written with a Latin alphabet with the addition of some diacritical signs, such as the kreska (Ć ć Ń ń Ó ó Ś ś Ź ź), the kropka (Ż ż) and the ogonek (Ą ą Ę ę). Another addition is the l with stroke (Ł ł). Polish orthography uses seven diagraphs (ch, cz, dz, dź, dż, rz, sz). The letters “q” “v” and “x” are only used in borrowed words.
-In total, modern Polish has seven vowels and 36 consonants. Polish grammar and style are determined by an intimidating number of rules and exceptions, a fact which might explain the language’s reputation as one of the hardest in the world.