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Ukrainian for English speakers

Giving the beta a try to see what Ukrainian is like. Unlike other Duo languages using the Latin alphabet I get a choice of alphabets. My question is whether its best/easier to learn Ukrainian (or any non Latin alphabet language) typing in Latin alphabet or the Ukrainian one. Since I dont understand what a single letter means its very confusing. I wondered if I became really proficient in Ukrainian and sent an email in that language using Latin alphabet whether a person from Ukraine would understand or not. If the answer is no then does Duo need to include an even more basic section teaching the Cyrillic alphabet? How or if that would help I dont know since I am fairly new to Duo.

October 26, 2015



I recommend you split the cyrillic alphabet into 4 categories

  1. True Friends: These are letters that look like letters you know and are pronounced the same way. Letters like Т, О, А, К

  2. False Friends: These are letters that look like letters you know but are pronounced differently. Personally I hate these the most when first learning a language. Letters like Р, Х, В

  3. New Friends: These are letters that look strange and new, but they have sounds that you already know. Letters like І, Ф, Б, Д, Л,

  4. Strangers: These are letters that look new and have sounds you might not be familiar with unless you speak other languages. Letters like Ж, Ю, И


Excellent, that's a great system! I'm going to remember that. :)


Of course they will understand it (Ukrainians know the Latin alphabet)—but it will be extremely uncomfortable for them.

Imagive receiving a message from a friend, who decided to learn English funetikali:

Hulou! Givinn ze bitu u trai tu si wut inglish iz laik. Bat ai get u chois ov aelphubets hir! Sins inglish spelinn iz veri konfjuzinn ai wandurd if ai bikeim rili profishunt in inglish und sent un imeil juzinn u simplur spelinn wezur u purson from inglund wud andurstaend or not? Pliz help mi.

It is not that you cannot spell Ukrainian using Latin characters—when creating a writing system for a language, you can decide to use any set of characters that have sufficient variation (otherwise, digraphs would be an issue). However, native speakers are not accustomed to reading Ukrainian texts of any length transliterated, so it would be painful and slow. By contrast, they are very used to reading them spelt conventionally.

Note that for obvious reasons every authentic Ukrainian material will be in Cyrillics, as will be the signs in the streets. So, without learning this extremely Latin-reader-friendly alphabet, you won't be able to use most learning materials and won't be able to find a restroom or a grocery store in Ukraine even if they have a huge sign on top.


Your example looks and sounds like some of the kids near my house. Perhaps they were taught in the wrong alphabet.


Unless you're simply interested in speaking only, take the time to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, since this is the alphabet that the Ukrainian language uses. It looks elusive and complicated at first, but it's a false alarm. It can be learned in a short time. Using the Romanized "aid" featured in the course will only make a rather grammatically complicated language more complicated than it needs to be.


Thanks it does look like it will be a nightmare to learn but I will give it a go.


It takes literally 2 hours christ!


Well, getting the basics of it surely takes from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Reading it comfortably takes some practice.

Then again, the whole Ukrainian course is one giant Cyrillics practise.


Well perhaps it does only take two hours but then perhaps I was only pointing out it looked like it might be difficult and not that it was impossible.


Usage of Latin characters instead of Cyrillic will add a lot of confusion sooner or later.

There are specific sounds that can be conveyed only with clusters of Latin characters, so it’s simply a headache that one can successfully avoid by learning Cyrillic from the beginning.


I like this explanation of Cyrillic alphabet; it’s always useful to have examples of foreign sounds in your own language.

I especially appreciate this one, so accurate:

Щ ‒ sh ch like in fresh cheese


I would highly recommend skipping the latinisation. If you have even the vaguest intention of using Ukrainian at some point other than speaking very simple phrases, then you're go into have to learn it sooner or later, and the steeper learning curve at the start will be rewarded with the alphabet being much more natural to you later.

Put the sound on, so you can hear as you see the words, find the UK alphabet written out with its English equivalents, write English words or even sentences, you name, your pet's name, etc in Cyrillic. IMO if you lean too heavily on the crutch of latinisation, you won't do yourself any favours, it's best to jump in headfirst and accept that Ukrainian has a different alphabet and it's on you to get to grips with it. It honestly isn't as hard as you might imagine at first, and it's worth it, IMO.


It's always really intimidating to try to learn a new writing system. Here's my method: I go over the alphabet a few times, then have a printout of the alphabet with me as i attempt to read words and refer to it as I need it. In a very short time, I recognize most of the letters and soon I will have forgotten my printout completely.

So jump in head first with your floaties on.

You may find that all you needed was a good half hour going like this before you understand most of the letters. After a while you'll start reading your mother tongue as if it were in Cyrillic, since the Cyrillic will become so natural, which happened to me last week. Not sure if that's a plus tho.

My point is that it's a pretty low cost for a large pay off.


My point is that it's a pretty low cost for a large pay off.

^ excellent, excellent summary, IMO.


Hi, so I'm a 16 year old waiting to learn Russian and I just want to say that learning Cyrillic was the first and easiest thing I did. AaronTupaz describes it very well and you could learn it in a day quite easily. I used the "Read Russian in 3 hours" app on my iPhone, worked wonders. Just take from this that Cyrillic is straight forward to learn and made me feel like I was reading Russian without knowing any words :D


I'm using Roman, and i wouldn't understand any of it if i had started with cyrillic, BUT i am going back and doing easier lessons in cyrillic. I would learn it. (i also can't learn by reading i'm not very good at it)

(here is the alphabet by power puppets, on my youtube i can even slow it down!)https://youtu.be/23ufw--E2RQ


I think I may try a bit of a combo of learning it in Latin so I can put the words to the sounds and compare to my language and then go back and redo stages in Cyrillic until it makes sense. I feel that if I just try to learn the alphabet before beginning it may either take an age or put me off altogether.


That is exactly what i thought! I would like it if they had a lesson or two on it because its very important and hard to pick up!


Well you'll have to consider the long-term purpose as well.

Yes, of course, we learn languages often out of a love of acquiring knowledge, but sometimes there is a practical edge to it as well. Are you ever going to visit Ukraine (holidays, work, etc.)? If the answer is yes, then I highly recommend learning the Cyrillic alphabet.

It would really pay off if you could actually read the signs and menus that will be everywhere. And it won't help much to "latinize" it because there won't be any signs that really accommodate it.

If you're never going to read a book, a sign, or an email in Ukrainian, then perhaps it might be simpler and more enjoyable to use the Latin script.

It all depends, and I don't really think there is a wrong choice when it comes to personal preference. Just learn at the level you enjoy and the rest will take care of itself.

With that being said, I recommend learning the script. It's part of the experience and an integral part of the linguistic foundation of the language. If you pull it off, you might feel a little more of the whole experience along the way. It's a beautiful language and a beautiful script.


Thanks, I always did intend to learn the Cryllic part but wasnt sure if it was better to learn using the latin alphabet first or not since this my first non Latin/German language. Seems the general feeling on here agrees with you.


Ok so I am trying to do this in Cyrillics however I dont want to change my laptop to Ukranian and struggle to get it back. I thought I saw someone say on another post about an on screen keyboard but cant find it now. Can anyone help?


Depends on your operating system. MS Windows, Mac, or other?


Its W7 and I can find the on screen keyboard but cant switch between languages.

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