Whenever travelling abroad, it's a good idea to remain in touch with your respective consulate and/or embassy. Just in case you need their assistance (lost passport, marriage arrangements, etc.) here's a list of some of the embassies located in Warsaw:
Nautilus Building, ul. Nowogrodzka 11.
Tel: 022-521-3444 / Fax: 022-627-3500.
ul. Gagarina 34, 00-748 Warszawa.
Tel: 022-841-0081 / Fax: 022-841-0085
al. Matejki 1/5.
Tel: 022-584-3100 / Fax: 022-584-3192
ul. Fr. Chopina 4/8.
Tel: 022-598-9500 / Fax: 022-621-3442.
ul. Piekna 1, 00-477 Warszawa.
Tel: 022-529-3000 / Fax: 022-529-3001.
ul. Dabrowiecka 30, 03-932 Warszawa.
Tel: 022-58-41700 / Fax: 022-58-41739.
pl. Dabrowskiego 6, 00-055 Warsaw.
Tel.: 022-826-3471 / Fax: 022-827-8507.
> NEW ZEALAND:
Dom Dochodowy, al. Ujazdowskie 51, Warsaw 00-536.
Tel: 022-521-0500 / Fax 022-521-0510.
> UNITED KINGDOM:
al. Rozy 1, 00-556 Warszawa.
Tel: 022-311-0000 / Fax: 022-311-0311.
> UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
al. Ujazdowskie 29/31.
I have been to Poland twice, and visited many places, I love the country, love the people, so please, do not get me wrong. It is true that in Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk, and other major cities some of the population speak English around the tourist areas, But in general I would say 10% to 15%, speak English enough to be able to hold conversation, and less than 5% do speak French. But if you travel in villages or small cities have a guide that speaks Polish with you, or do like I do bring a dictionary and a “cheat sheet”, before going learn basic words, and be prepared to do a lot of pointing.
However those younger than 25, that is about when Russian was no longer forced and they could choose other languages, can almost all understand basic English. Sadly most of them are still in school so not a great part of the workforce.
For that question my reply in 2006 is: not yet but soon. Folks working for visitors in hotels and tourist offices can speak English. In Warsaw Central Railway Station in what was proudly marked Intenational Cashier's Window the lady could understand my English (it's a change for better!) although she was very happy when I switched to Polish :-). The older shop-assistants in many shops located along the Royal Way could speak perfectly... Polish.
In restaurants menu in English (and German, sometimes French) is available except in some usually worse ones (skip them) and in those cheap, extremely Polish in style and food (don't skip them :-). In most, especially larger restaurants and in all fancy ones English speaking waiter is available :-). Direction signs for pedestrians are bi-lingual: Polish and English.
There is large, wider and wider difference between the generation which went to school before 1990' and those lucky younger folks. The latter ones study two foreign languages and one of them is almost always English, the second usually German, rarer French. Moderately ambitious Warsaw youth can speak some English now.
The older generation mostly seems to be happy about lack of knowledge of any foreign language except those ones who were forced to learn it in recent years due to new job requirements (international business, tourism). In December 2005 I took FCE (First Cirtificate in English by Cambrifge University) exams. Among over 100 folks I met during the exams only a few were older than me.
Older Polish generations should speak Russian which was obligatory taught in all schools and universities until 1990 (excluding one school year 1980/1981 - during the first Solidarity) but it was a matter of pride not to learn it :-). At my primary school kids joked that "the language of the enemy should to be known" and... we learned Russian. I could speak/write Russian but not using it for years I think I almost can't speak it now :-(.
Polish looks unpronouncable to foreigners. Very true, it's hard to get, especially because they like to exclude vowels and pronounce letters in a different way.
The city of Wroclaw is pronounced as "Vrotsjwaf", quite different than what you read.
Main basics to get the hang of pronouncing Polish:
the W is pronounced as a V
the £ is pronounced as the W
The C is pronounced as a TCH (as the Cz in Czech Republic). Just try to pronounce a C like this, even if it has funny characters on it this intonations comes always close to what it's supposed to be.
The Z is pronounced quite soft.. it sounds like the J in June.
Otherwise, just try to make the best of it, you are likely to mispronounce it a bit, but they just friendly laugh at you and correct you by saying what you mean to.
Polish is the official language, but travellers will find that many people, especially those in business or the tourist trade, will speak some English, German or French. Most Poles were required to learn Russian in school, however, it was a matter of pride not to learn it, and speaking Russian may give offence.
Polish is a West Slavic language, related to Czech and Slovak. The following are the Polish characters and their nearest English equivalent: a-u, aj-i (as in bike), c-ts, cz-ch, dz-ds or j, ej-a (as in bake), h-ch (as in loch), j-y, l (with a slash through it)-w, sz-sh, u-oo, w-v, rz-s (as in pleasure). The second-last syllable of a word is always the one stressed.
Yes - Tak
No - Nie
Hello - Dzien dobry
Goodbye - Do widzenia / Do zobaczenia
Please - Prosze
Thank you - Dziekuje
My name is ... - Nazywam sie ...
How are you? - Jak sie masz? / Jak sie pan ma?
I'm very well - W porzadku / Miewam sie dobrze
I feel ill - Jestern chory(a)
How much does it cost? - Ile to kosztuje?
Do you speak Czy mowi pan po
English? - angielsku? (to a man) / Czy mowi pani po angielsku? (to a woman)
I don't understand - Nie rozumiem
Where is ...? - Gdzie jest ...?
Entrance - Wejscie
Exit - Wyjscie
Danger - Niebezpiecznie / Niebezpieczenstwo
Open - Otwarte
Closed - Zamkniete
Toilets - Toalety
Doctor - Doktor
Hotel - Hotel
Restaurant - Restauracja
Beer - Piwo
Wine - Wino
Menu - Jadtospis
Today - Dzis / Dzisiaj
Tomorrow - Jutro
Monday - Poniedzialek
Tuesday - Wtorek
Wednesday - Sroda
Thursday - Czwartek
Friday - Piatek
Saturday - Sobota
Sunday - Niedziela
One - Jeden
Two - Dwa
Three - Trzy
Four - Cztery
Five - Piec
Six - Szesc
Seven - Siedem
Eight - Osiem
Nine - Dziewiec
Ten - Dziesiec
Twenty - Dwadziescia
Thirty - Trzydziesci
Forty - Czterdziesci
Fifty - Piecdziesiat
Sixty - Szescdziesiat
Seventy - Siedemdziesiat
Eighty - Osiemdziesiat
Ninety - Dziewiecdziesiat
One Hundred - Sto
One Thousand - Tysiac
When you are going to buy a ticket or take the taxi, I would prefer you write down all the details on a piece of paper before you doing so.