Żal, żal za dziewczyną,
Za zieloną Ukrainą,
Żal, żal serce płacze,
Już jej więcej nie zobaczę.
Hej, hej, hej sokoły
Omijajcie góry, lasy, doły.
Dzwoń, dzwoń, dzwoń dzwoneczku,
Mój stepowy skowroneczku.
There are two slight problems.
First, the music score we have been given omits all the diacritics in the Polish text. I don’t know if this is because the Sibelius software we use is not Unicode-compliant, or (more likely) because the person preparing the score didn’t know how to input Polish characters.
The reading rules for Polish, though unfamiliar to English eyes, are straightforward. Given the spelling, you can predict the pronunciation with some confidence — provided the diacritics are there. If they’re not there, you can’t.
The other problem is that the chorus member teaching us the Polish pronunciation, although he’s doing his best, is not a native speaker and not a phonetician.
He’s given us a Pronunciation Guide, consisting of the words of the song (with diacritics) supplemented by a respelling using English spelling conventions. It looks like this:
Żal, żal, za dziewczyną, za zieloną Ukrainą, żal, żal serce płacze,
Zhal Zhal zah jehv-che-nahw, zah jeh-lo-nahw Oo-crah-e-nahw, zhal zhal sertseh pwacheh
Not a disaster — but if I had been consulted about the respelling, that’s not exactly what I would have come up with. For example, the word dziewczyną is pronounced authentically, to the best of my knowledge, as dʑɛfˈtʃɨnɔɯ̃ (or you could write the second affricate as ʈʂ). The nearest I would be able to get with English spelling would be ‘jeff-chin-ong’. I think that would be closer than 'jehv-che-nahw'.
I know that Polish has obligatory obstruent voicing assimilation, which is why I respell the first syllable of dziewczyną as ‘jeff’. However our teacher is convinced that the fricative should be voiced (‘jehv’), which shows that he is dazzled by the Polish spelling (w) rather than listening to how Poles really say the word. It’s the same with ą: the respelling with ‘ah’ reflects the Polish letter but not the Polish sound.
Then in the next line there’s the word już ‘already’. It’s been respelled for us as you-zh. But I know that Polish has obligatory final obstruent devoicing. I would have written yoosh.
These details clearly don’t matter in the great scheme of things. Please don’t take this as a disparagement of the valiant efforts of our teacher. I’m sure that the Polish audience will be delighted that we are attempting a Polish song they will know, and they’ll probably all join in and drown us out anyway.