In terms of origins and category, Polish is derived from the Indo-European family of languages and belongs to the West Slavic languages which evolved over millennia and finally separated from their roots. It is estimated that the Polish language is used by approximately 45 million people worldwide. The Polish alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet and consists of 32 letters. Complex grammar and complicated phonetics make the Polish language one of the most difficult to master. It is full of exceptions and differences in pronunciation and spelling. However, the fundamental problem for foreigners learning the Polish language is its syntheticity—also known as declension —which indicates number, case and gender.
The formation of modern Polish was heavily influenced by other languages, mainly Czech, German, French, Italian and Latin. Currently, due to the prevailing fashion, Polish is infiltrated by numerous Anglicisms—both lexical and syntactic—which often displace native forms. Foreign vocabulary is also increasingly used in scientific publications.
On the national level, there are two varieties of Polish: standard and colloquial (including slang and everyday dialect). Further, standard Polish splits into spoken (free and spontaneous) and written language (planned and orderly). Like any other language, Polish can be formal (official, used in various governmental bodies and institutions) and colloquial (used in everyday life). In terms of colloquialisms, Polish abounds in many forms of slang (such as occupational, environmental and regional) and dialects. The most important dialects are those spoken in Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), Małopolska (Lesser Poland) and Śląsk (Silesia).