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Comments on Incubator Posts

Hi Team Ukrainian!

Thank you for taking the course much more seriously now, and indeed I am getting dozens of feedbacks, it's amazing! Your work is much appreciated.

Having said that, the contributor TseDanyloXD has posted two things on the Incubator, and I find two specific points concerning, hopefully this can be discussed and addressed:

  • "Just because some letters look like Cyrillic ones, a computer won't recognise that. Please use one alphabet per alphabet (preferably Cyrillic)" – I have actually brought this up before, and don't think it should be difficult to simply accept these answers. It simply doesn't make sense to ask people who have Russian and Latin keyboards to also install a Ukrainian keyboard, especially on mobile where there is a hard limit to the number of keyboards you can have. For example, I had English, French (for auto-correct), Hebrew and Russian installed, which is the hard limit for the Samsung Keyboard. The SwiftKey keyboard (a popular 3rd party one) has a limit of only 3 languages.
  • "It's Kyiv not Kiev" – I don't see what the argument is about, it should simply be accepted. English is rare for a popular language in that there is no central authority to decide what is "correct" and what isn't—it's the popular usage that decides, and to a lesser extent popular manuals of style (and in this case gazetteers). With all due respect, neither the government of Ukraine, nor of Russia (or USSR) gets to decide what is the correct spelling in English—and the spelling of a city does not equal its transliteration. Naturally if Ukraine wants it to be Kyiv, it might become Kyiv eventually as atlases and gazetteers change, but this process takes decades—and might not happen at all. For example most people write Mumbai today (not Bombay), but also Moscow (not Moskva), Jerusalem (not Yerushalayim), Acre (not Akko), etc.

Again, if the course moderators disagree, a dialogue would be much appreciated so that the number of reports goes down and everyone is happy.

September 6, 2016



Actually, the government of Ukraine decided decades ago to promote the spelling of the capital as Kyiv, which is the Latin English transliteration from Ukrainian (Kiev being the Latin English transliteration from Russian). Ukrainian is the state language, and the course is teaching Ukrainian. And what's the big deal about adding a Ukrainian keyboard? On the app, if you have a Ukrainian keyboard installed, it'll automatically switch to it. Better to learn to type Ukrainian on a Ukrainian keyboard with Ukrainian letters (there are several that aren't present in Russian), and better to use a Russian keyboard for that language (than Ukrainian, since Russian uses several letters that Ukrainian doesn't). Don't try to ram a Ukrainian cylinder through a Russian square.


About the keyboard: As I said, installing a Ukrainian keyboard is not as trivial as many make it sound. On a phone (most Duolingo users are on mobile—unfortunately this means they won't come to this discussion to support my statement, but they exist), there is a hard limit to the amount of keyboards you can install (EDIT: No idea if this is true on the iPhone, but I assume most people use Android). Many Duolingo users are already multilingual, so this limit hurts us even more. It's not a matter of preferring Russian over Ukrainian, it's that some people simply need Russian. If you don't need Russian on your phone, sure it's a great idea to install Ukrainian (if you can), but if you do need it, it makes little sense to replace it. In fact, I believe that supporting this will actually encourage more people to use the Ukrainian/Cyrillic script, as opposed to Latin which many learners use now (a shame IMO).

About Kiev/Kyiv: There isn't a single large city I can think of where the common English spelling is the direct transliteration. Whether it's Tokyo (Toukyou), Hong Kong (Xianggang), Moscow (Moskva), Jerusalem (Yerushalayim), Athens (Athina), or any other non-Latin-script city, the transliteration is always different from the English name. I'm not saying they should reject Kyiv and go with Kiev only, just that both should always be accepted. I understand that it's a sensitive political issue in Ukraine, but I'm coming from a language standpoint, not a political one. Like I'm doing the Hebrew course now to report errors and such, and already encountered ירושלים (Jerusalem). Can you imagine if they forced everyone to write Yerusalayim?


You can override the keyboard limit by installing a different keyboard program. I added Google keyboard to mine and have 8 languages so far. There are other keyboard apps as well that makes this easier.


I tried some alternative keyboard apps but they just weren't very good for everyday use. Question: Do you use auto-correct?


That could explain the difference. Auto-correct requires a lot of memory, storage, etc. so maybe they put a hard limit just on that.


It's very easy on my iPod - you just add a keyboard in the settings. I only have five set, I've never had any indication that there's a limit.

As to Yerusalayim? Not all that different from Jerusalem, frankly. Society would get over it. It's already happened at an official level in the US - the State Department has been using Kyiv since the early 1990s, when Ukraine first asked for the change to be made. Yes, you can't force anything, but who still refers to Peking or Peiping any more save in very specific or historical contexts?


"Naturally if Ukraine wants it to be Kyiv, it might become Kyiv eventually as atlases and gazetteers change, but this process takes decades—and might not happen at all. "

It will happen much quicker if people would listen to what the Ukrainians are asking of us. It is their country, let's show some respect.


Hello Ynhockey! Just a quick post.

About Kyiv VS. Kiev

At first, I was like you with the whole Kiev/Kyiv ordeal. But the spelling is very important to the Ukrainian people and for them it is about breaking away from the shadow of Russian influence and into a new and independent Ukrainian.

About Transliteration

It's not as easy as you think to add all the alternative spellings if we allowed mixing. Some sentences can have up to 50 translations so we are more focused on getting out of beta than taking on another HUGE task.

However, I am thankful that you made the time to make this post and it has really gotten the ball rolling on a lot of things! :)


Cheers. If you need volunteers to go over some of the suggestions with the "weird letters" or whatever, I can help. Can't wait to see what you guys do with the course next!


Thanks, have you applied? I will look at your application :)


Hi, I had not volunteered before your post, because I didn't think anyone would accept an application from someone not fluent in Ukrainian. I have applied now, and believe I can lighten the load significantly on stuff like different alphabet usage (or any reports that are purely grammar-related, because my knowledge of Russian should be enough to filter some things out).

Also someone (I think Sergio) wanted to make the English sentences in the course more English ;) I can help with that as well.


If it is really so important to Ukrainian speakers to have English speakers attempt to mimic a Ukrainian pronunciation (and Forvo at least provides two obviously distinct ones) of their capital city, they would do well to get their government to take a second stab at this, one where they actually take into account the principles of English spelling. "Ky" is not a clearly intelligible string in the English language, and the sound of "Київ" is nowhere near something an English native speaker would ever get out of "Kyiv" on its own.

The problem here is transparently a linguistic one. A new spelling/pronunciation would have been firmly rooted fifteen years ago already if they had put some coherent thought into the linguistic choices needed to achieve it. Madras to Chennai and Bombay to Mumbai, changes that date to several years later, have been adopted without a comparative hitch.

Anybody know if there's been any thought of a do over?


Hi YnHockey. Thanks for your feedback here.

there is a hard limit to the number of keyboards you can have

I've just (out of curiosity) added random 10 keyboards to my Android device. Impossible is nothing.

It simply doesn't make sense to ask people who have Russian and Latin keyboards to also install a Ukrainian keyboard

i is quite a frequent Ukrainian letter. When I see a report-suggestion like дiвчина and дівчина is already among the correct options, I'm puzzled. But then I notice the i in the suggested дівчина looks a little different. I realize that the layout was switched to English when it came to that i and then switched back to.. Russian, I guess? Wouldn't it be more practical (if we are talking about Duolingo being practical) to just type дивчина and suggest that it is accepted by the program? Maybe disregard that є looks to the right and the Russian э looks to the left and just have Duo accept the Russian letters е/э? Or kindly ask Duolingo to ignore input of памятати instead of пам'ятати? Should that ї be just something we will remember but, Duo, will you please accept моі, іжа, ім? In the end, what language are we going to learn with all this?

neither the government of Ukraine, nor of Russia (or USSR) gets to decide what is the correct spelling in English—and the spelling of a city does not equal its transliteration. Naturally if Ukraine wants it to be Kyiv, it might become Kyiv eventually as atlases and gazetteers change, but this process takes decades—and might not happen at all

Oh, Kyiv.. So much has been already discussed about this. Political correctness? A matter of habit? Just easier? Just used to it? In 2006, the US Board of Geographic Names (the group that tries to make sense of all this) approved Kyiv on the request of the Ukrainian government. These days many news companies and governmental media do redefine language and accept changes considering the dynamics in modern world. English speakers have been told once that the -ie- spelling is what they should use. I'm sure they will easily get accustomed to the new spelling. And the Duolingo Ukrainian course will be among those resources that can promote the process.



Gee, I really didn't think the i issue would be so controversial. Maybe it's really difficult to accept these answers on the Duolingo system? Otherwise I really don't see a reason not to accommodate people with technical limitations. I don't know under what circumstances each person can install more keyboards, but will gladly provide screenshots of what happens on a series of popular Samsung phones, if you are interested.

By the way: the fact that you cited this as a common report proves that many people have this problem. I probably reported this once or twice since the course started, if it's common it means that many other users are reporting as well.

P.S. This is only really necessary in sentences involving її or words with two і`s. We're talking about probably 10–20 sentences in the entire course.


You can do the course with the US or any other Latin layout. Therefore, people with a Ukrainian layout can do the course and people without it can do the course too. I do not see where the problem is.


So far the main problem I have noticed is how so many people argue on why not to accommodate a significant number of users (judging by the admission that there are many reports of this kind), and helping the course in the process by reducing the number of reports :)

Regarding your particular point, using the Latin keyboard to write Ukrainian is neither here nor there. Even some of the course people (IIRC including Sergio) have said that this was a temporary technical solution that isn't really good for learning. I agree. Letting people use another Cyrillic keyboard though and some Latin letters does not harm learning. In fact, if someone went to the effort of switching languages just to put one letter (this is not fun when there are multiple such letters, trust me), you know this person really does want to write in Ukrainian and not use the Latin script.


There are no problems in accommodating any users. If you want to use Ukrainian characters, you just use them. If you cannot/do not want to/do not know how to use a Ukrainian layout, you have an option of using Latin characters.

Using a mix of Latin, Cyrillic, and what not characters is not better than just using Latin characters. If you desperately want to use your own set of characters for Ukrainian, then you could try to convince DL developers to implement it as a third alternative. Manually adding alternatives for each relevant sentence and maintaining them is simply infeasible.

If a person really does want to write in Ukrainian, that person will find a way to solve the technical problems (multiple solutions has been suggested already) and will write in Ukrainian (and not in a mix of different alphabets).


I am with Ynhockey here. Why not just use both: Kiev and Kyiv? It's not like there are no Russian speakers in Ukraine who will say "Kiev" when referring to their capital.

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