Among the most frequently mentioned problems when moving to another country is the issue of communicating in a foreign language.
‘We want foreigners to be able to learn Polish and not to create ghettos, because if such a ghetto is created, as evidenced by the practice of many countries, it’s hard to break out of it,’ emphasizes Rafał Dutkiewicz, mayor of Wroclaw.
Wroclaw supports foreigners
The new class of the Ukrainian language in the Primary School No. 84, extra classes in the Ukrainian language and culture in inter-school groups in the Primary School No. 63 and volunteers teaching the Polish language – the city wants to support expatriates living in Wroclaw in different ways. Details of the programme supporting foreigners in Wroclaw were discussed during the meeting of 23 June 2016.
Since by far the largest number of foreigners in Wroclaw are the Ukrainians, it is mainly at them that the municipal support programs are addressed. Read more – Ukrainians choose Wroclaw. A good number of them come here with children that are increasingly enrolled in Wroclaw kindergartens and schools. It is mostly they who take advantage of the two additional hours of Polish language in primary schools.
A class with the Ukrainian language is formed
‘At the same time, we want children from Ukraine to remain in contact with their language and culture,’ emphasizes the mayor of Wroclaw. Therefore, the city officials’ tip of the hat to Ukrainians living in Wroclaw is forming a first grade with Ukrainian language (all subjects will be taught in Polish) from September 2016 at the Primary School No. 84 in ul. Górnickiego. Read more here about the class with the Ukrainian language.
Students can count on an additional two hours per week of classes in Ukrainian, and two hours of religious instruction in Greek Catholic religion in the so-called interschool groups in the Primary School No. 63 in ul. Mennicza. Such classes have taken place since 2002.
City sponsors classes in the Polish language
In its primary schools, attended by foreign children, the city organizes extra classes of Polish and remedial classes. At Primary School No. 63, there is a Ukrainian language teaching point, in which anyone can learn the language. In the school year 2016, there were 84 students, including 6 of the Ukrainian citizenship.
In total, in primary schools run by the City of Wroclaw (in 2016) there are 269 foreigners attending 62 primary schools, of which 183 students come from Ukraine. 204 students attend additional and remedial classes in the Polish language, of which 153 students are children from Ukraine.
The educational offer for foreigners – where to look?
Raghavender Balasubramanian, head of the Wroclaw division of the company Crisil Irevna, has been working in the city since July 2014.
‘During my first visit to Wroclaw, one thing I did was to search for a school for my daughter. Employees of the Wroclaw Agglomeration Development Agency had arranged my meeting with the heads of several institutions, because I wanted to know the infrastructure of schools and their offer. During my second visit, the formalities associated with renting an apartment were taken care of. All in all, everything went pretty smoothly and I could bring the family with me to Wroclaw, and start working. Today, my daughter goes to an international school and attends extracurricular activities, including ballet.
Foreigners living in Wroclaw can take advantage of the offer of public kindergartens and schools (where the care and teaching is done in Polish), or use the services of private kindergartens and schools where classes are taught in English. A list of municipal schools and kindergartens is available here . A list of international, private educational institutions in Wroclaw is available here.
‘We have three divisions: nursery (for children aged from 6 months to 3 years), kindergarten (3 to 6 years) and primary school (6 to 12 years). The educational program of our private primary school combines the elements of American and Polish curriculum, and is approved by the Lower Silesian School Superintendent to comply with all the requirements of the Ministry of Education. Currently, we have approximately 200 children enrolled, representing over 20 different nationalities. We offer transport of children to and from school, and numerous extra-curricular activities such as swimming, horse riding, contemporary dance, school band, football and other. We also have our own kitchen and canteen, where we independently prepare and serve four meals a day,’ says Minakshi Sharma, director and owner of the American School of Wroclaw.
In Wroclaw, there are many corporations that assist the foreigner and his family in moving to Wroclaw comfortably and safely. They can seek out housing and schools for children, to name but a few.
‘Relocation of highly qualified IT professionals is a challenge, both formal and HR-wise. On the one hand, the employer is engaged in the issues of logistics and organization of their stay, and on the other, an equally important task is to help employees and their relatives adapt to the new environment. The issue of acclimatization relates specifically to families. We help both employees and their families cope with the language barrier by financing Polish language courses. We want both the specialists and their loved ones to feel at home in Wroclaw. Therefore, we organize integration meetings for them, and twice a month our guide walks the new people around the city,’ says Bartosz Strożek, regional director of Luxoft in Wroclaw.
The volunteer teaches the foreigner
In June 2016, representatives of the city announced a new support addressed to foreigners, which is to serve their integration. It’s about teaching the Polish language, the insufficient knowledge of which is a barrier in acquiring education and finding a better job. Therefore, the Wroclaw Centre for Integration (in pl. Strzegomski) recruits volunteers, who will be teaching foreigners (most candidates are Ukrainians) the Polish language in a practical way.
‘Teaching will take place in a tandem: volunteer – foreigner, and in a practical manner, e.g. in the shop or at the office. Lists of volunteers and places where the Polish classes can be held are now created,’ says Jacek Sutryk, director of the Department of Social Affairs in the City Hall. As per June 2016, 200 volunteers and 80 city partners are involved in this project. These include, among others, youth culture centres, branches of the City Public Library, churches, NGOs.
Volunteers (individuals and institutions) can register with the Wroclaw Centre for Integration in pl. Strzegomski from September 2016. It will also be possible via the Internet.
There’s value in learning Polish
Inna Grynova, employed in a Wroclaw division of Google since 2011 describes her experience with learning Polish: ‘Language is the most important issue when it comes to adapting to the new environment. For people who come from countries other than Slavic, learning Polish is as complicated as learning Chinese. In many international corporations the language of communication is English, so it’s not easy to pick up some Polish.
Kateryna Sukhetska, originally from Ukraine, insists that a certain similarity between the Ukrainian and Polish languages helps in communication only at the beginning of your stay, at the so-called ‘survival level’. ‘Sooner or later, you have to learn Polish properly. This applies particularly to people who are planning to stay in Poland for long.
Erik Maita, has been working in the Wroclaw branch of Google since February 2016. He is 27 years old, and comes from the capital of Peru, Lima: ‘A person such as myself, who is not familiar with the language and comes to Wroclaw for the first time, can find themselves quite easily here. For me, tram transport has been a little complicated, but I had no problem with buses. And you can communicate in English in taxis,’ enumerates Erik and adds that he plans to enrol in a Polish language course, because he’s learned only a few words so far: ‘proszę,’ ‘przepraszam,’ etc.
35-year-old Marvel Matarrita comes from Costa Rica. After six years of living in Wroclaw, he understands a lot in Polish. In fact, he had no choice, because he married a Polish woman. At home, the family speaks three languages. – With my wife, I speak English. With the children I speak Spanish, and my wife speaks Polish. My son replies to me in Polish, and interjects English words. And so, it’s a barrel of fun sometimes,’ adds Marvel and describes his method of learning Polish: ‘At first, I used public transport a lot and the old ticket vending machines were a problem. Now they are modern, with different language versions. I use them to learn Polish a bit, I switch the English version to Polish and check if I understand everything,’ Marvel laughs.
Foreign students choose Wroclaw
Since 2006, a project “Teraz Wroclaw” has been launched on the initiative of the city authorities, aimed at attracting students from Eastern Europe. Since the beginning of the project, more than 1,000 people have taken up studies in Wroclaw. Project participants can count on the information support in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish, and just before the start of the academic year, also undergo an intensive Polish language and adaptation course. The requirements for taking up studies by foreigners can be found here.
Wroclaw is one of the largest and most well-known academic centres in Poland. According to the Central Statistical Office in Wroclaw, out of more than 630,000 residents of Wroclaw, more than 122,000 students have taken up or continued their studies from 1 October 2015. The CSO informs that 3670 foreign students studied at Wroclaw’s universities in 2014. The list of universities is available here.