Working in the pandemic… again…

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So, we’re back to square one. This is a nice idiom. Back to square one, or back at square one, which means going back to the same situation as before, with no progress made. The origin ( = pochodzenie) of the idiom is not clear, but one of the theories states that it comes from board games ( = gry planszowe). In the very basic board games, you travel around the board ( = plansza) with your counter (= pionek), and the person who reaches the finish first is the winner. So, getting sent by some in-game event to the beginning of the game, the first square, really cancels all of the progress you’ve made, and you have to start from scratch ( = zacząć od zera).


In this situation, back to square one means that we have a déjà vu /ˌdeɪʒɑː ˈvuː/ – we’re back to similar restrictions as the beginning of the pandemic in March. Now, note the pronunciation ( = wymowa) of déjà vu /ˌdeɪʒɑː ˈvuː/ – it’s quite different from the French original. This is a major ( = duża, ważna) difference between English and Polish. In Polish, we try to keep the original pronunciation, while in English they very much adapt it to fit the English (or American) rules of pronunciation. So, my favourite pasta would be tagliatelle (taLIAtelle) in Italian AND Polish, but it will be /ˌtæljəˈteli/ in English. The Spanish sausage which I won’t ever try, even if I’m starving, is choriso (czioriso) in Spanish AND Polish, but /tʃəˈriːzəʊ/ in English. And lots of Latin phrases get mispronounced in English, such as quid pro quo /ˌkwɪd prəʊ ˈkwəʊ/ or vice versa /ˌvaɪsi ˈvɜː(r)sə/


OMG, two linguistic digressions before I even started! Sorry, back to business, or – actually – back to square one!


We’re witnessing right now the so-called ( = tak zwana) second wave of the pandemic. Please note that the English word is “pandemic” – it ends with “-mic”, not with “-mia,” so it’s different from Polish. The same with the word “epidemic” – it also ends with “mic.” And the decisions from last Saturday border on ( = graniczą z) a lockdown. Now, a lockdown often gets confused with a quarantine, especially by Polish speakers, so let’s get that straight. A lockdown is when people are prevented from leaving their homes for some period of time. It’s a preventive measure ( = środek zapobiegawczy), and it affects everyone. We had a lockdown in March, when we were allowed to leave home only to go shopping, to go to the doctor’s, or for “essential needs” ( = podstawowe, konieczne), whatever that might entail ( = zawierać).

Don’t confuse that with a quarantine /ˈkwɒrəntiːn/. Quarantine means staying alone for a number of days, because you’ve been infected with the virus, or the likelihood ( = prawdopodobieństwo) of infection is high. A quarantine is determined on an individual basis.

In addition, both now and in March we’re having a curfew. A curfew is when nobody can leave their homes after a specified time, usually in the evening. In Polish: godzina policyjna. Our Polish curfew right now is a bit weird ( = dziwna), as it prevents kids from leaving home alone between 8 am and 4 pm. Supposedly ( = podobno), this might be intended to keep them at home during school hours and remote learning ( = uczenie zdalne). But, because Polish schools are packed with way too many ( = dużo za dużo) students, both of my kids start school around 11 and finish around 5 or 6. So, when are they supposed to have a walk? Beats me! ( = nie mam pojęcia, nie ogarniam)

And how does the pandemic affect your work? For me, nothing much ( = niewiele) has changed. I’ve worked at home for a few years now, so I just keep doing the same. The only inconvenience ( = niedogodność), which actually ( = w gruncie rzeczy; nie, nie aktualnie) is quite a major inconvenience, is having my kids at home, and having to share my computer with them, so that they are able to do remote schooling ( = nauka zdalna). And remote schooling really turns out to be a hurdle ( = przeszkoda) for parents – there is so much stuff to organize, making sure your kids get to those classes, checking Librus, checking messages, checking email, logging in, navigating between various software, printing, scanning, emailing, supervising… Between March and June, I was probably the most knackered ( = wykończony) working parent alive, and I dread ( = boję się panicznie) that the situation might repeat… Let’s hope not, keep your fingers crossed! (zaciśnij kciuki)

And do let me know how your working life has changed!

P.S. If you’ve found yourself out of work ( = bez pracy), if you’re afraid of losing your job, or if you’re thinking of requalifying – don’t forget I have two affordable ( = w przystępnej cenie) video trainings for you. “The most frequent mistakes at a job interview in English and how to avoid them” and “Sample answers of the most common job interview questions in English – on three different levels of English” .

 Good luck in your new career!

 See you next week! 🙂


Kasia Sielicka, doktor filologii angielskiej. Konsultant kariery: rozmowa o pracę po angielsku.

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