Did you find learning Ukrainian useful in order to eventually learn Russian?

Hi there!

I know that there are a lot of threads like "Should I learn Russian or Ukrainian?" and the usual answers (Russian is more spoken, there are more resources for Russian, learn the language of the country that you feel more interested in, etc. I know that, but my question is a little different (and it might have been asked before, sorry in that case). My point is: for people who have learned some Ukrainian (or at least has completed the Ukrainian tree or done a fair amount of it), have you found this learning useful in order to subsequently learn some Russian?

I am perfectly aware that every Slavic language would help you learn the others more easily. What I mean is: considering that Russian presents a number of difficulties, like having to get used to a new alphabet, the "inconsistency" of the spelling*, the multiple possibilities in spelling for the same sound, the difficulty of the declensions, and so on, did you find that a) Ukrainian was significantly easier regarding one or several of those points and 2) the fact that you had got familiar with the way Ukrainian deals with those issues made learning the Russian equivalents easier for you?

My situation is: I am interested in both languages (well, I am interested in virtually every language, actually XD), and I have learned a little bit of both here on Duolingo, but more Russian. I know that Russian is more useful (even in some parts of Ukraine) and I am interested in Russian literature. But at the same time, I am also interested in "minor" languages (I know that Ukrainian is not really minor, but you got the point). I have a limited amount of time available for my Russian (or Ukrainian) learning since I am focusing right now in my German, so I can't dive into the Russian (or Ukrainian) language and devote it all the time I'd like. So my point is: from what I have learned so far, I have the feeling that Ukrainian is a little bit simpler, at least in respect of spelling and pronunciation. On top of that, I am more likely to visit Ukraine than Russian, for a number of reasons (although I am perfectly aware that you can go around the most part of Ukraine speaking only Russian).

That's why I was curious about other people's experience. For those who have learned (I don't mean "learned" up to a total mastery, but a firm grasp, at least) Ukrainian and then tried Russian, did you feel that Ukrainian was easier than Russian in some respects (of course, you can only know that in hindsight) and/or do you think knowing Ukrainian has helped you tackle some of the hardest points of the Russian grammar or spelling? And also: how easy or difficult is to keep both languages separated in your head?

Thanks in advance!

*I know that this is the case for a number of languages, like English, French, you name it, so I am not "blaming" Russian, just pointing out a fact.

June 7, 2019


I've completed both the Russian and the Ukrainian trees, although I started the Russian one before I did the Ukrainian one, so I can't give you a perfectly applicable answer to your question. Maybe you'll find my impressions helpful anyway, though.

The Ukrainian tree on Duolingo is shorter than the Russian tree, and in my opinion, it is better constructed. What I mean is that I felt as though the Ukrainian tree had the right amount of repetition (at least for my tastes). As such, I didn't feel completely out of my depth when I started getting toward the second half of the tree because it successfully integrates a lot of vocabulary learned earlier in the tree when teaching you new words. The Ukrainian tree also has recorded audio instead of TTS like the Russian tree, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you choose to view it. There isn't recorded audio for every word/sentence in the Ukrainian course (although I think they've increased the amount of audio coverage since I completed the course), but since it's recorded by actual humans rather than computer-generated, there is much less chance of audio bugs/mispronunciations.

I personally found it helpful to do both trees, because similar vocabulary in both languages just created additional repetition - and when I got frustrated with the Russian tree, I usually found it easier/more enjoyable to do exercises on the Ukrainian tree, which I never found frustrating. As to keeping the languages separate in my mind, though - I personally have issues with any similar languages if I'm trying to speak/write in that language, because I often have trouble thinking of the word in the correct language. When reading/listening, though, I actually find it helpful to know similar languages, because if you don't know a word in one language, you can often guess by context clues and/or your knowledge of another similar language to figure out what it means.

June 7, 2019

The Ukrainian tree also has recorded audio instead of TTS like the Russian tree, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you choose to view it.

It is ugly! Слушать его без смеха и слёз невозможно.

June 7, 2019

Thanks for your answer! It is interesting to read your positive opinion about the Ukrainian tree because I, in a very simplistic way, had assumed that the Russian one should be better / more complete, just because is longer. It is useful to hear the insight of someone who has actually finished it like you. Thanks!

June 7, 2019

the Russian one should be better / more complete, just because is longer

Because of endless elections and politics. Выборы, выборы...

June 7, 2019

The Russian one is certainly "more complete" - it has more vocabulary and introduces more grammar concepts than the Ukrainian tree does. "Better" is a bit of a subjective judgment, but I absolutely prefer the Ukrainian tree over the Russian one, personally. It is definitely a shame that the Ukrainian tree isn't longer, though.

June 7, 2019

It is definitely a shame that the Ukrainian tree isn't longer

Because it is made by volunteers with modest resources. :(

June 7, 2019

I have good knowledge in both, and in my opinion YES, OF COURSE...
I think I made a mistake, because I went first for the Russian tree, but now, I found the Ukrainian tree easier and better organized, It's shorter however it will help you conquer the Russian tree much more easier...

June 9, 2019

I have the feeling that Ukrainian is a little bit simpler, at least in respect of spelling and pronunciation

It's true. Ukrainian is more phonetiс than Russin. For example: корова - корова/карова, молоко - молоко/малако, собака - собака/сабака...

Ukrainians mostly pronounce what they read, Russians mostly transfporm unstressed vowels, and Belorussian write what they prnounce.

Most Ukrainians will understand you if you speaks Russian. If you learn one of them it will be easier to learn the other one. Both languages are similar but there are notable differences.

June 7, 2019

Thanks. I am glad to hear that my impression is right. Bye for now!

June 7, 2019

It seems like you have more learning toward learning Ukrainian than Russian. You're visiting there, and I find that to be more of a reason to learn Ukrainian over Russian anyway. Since independence, Ukraine has restored Ukrainian, even though Russian can be understood in parts of Ukraine, it would be more formal to learn the language of the country you're visiting.

I myself can read some Russian thanks to the Ukrainian course. I'm not fluent by any means, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I could pick up many Russian words due to their similarities.

As @ehartz has mentioned, the Ukrainian course is taught with human-voice audio which is wonderful. It's also shorter (with 51 Skills). Perhaps I'm biased, but I think that in your case for traveling, and wanting to eventually learn both, it might make sense to learn Ukrainian first and Russian when you have more time.

June 7, 2019

Hi, HeyMarlana. Thanks for your answer. As for the travelling thing, maybe I didn't express myself well but I didn't mean that I am planning a trip to Ukraine right now. What I meant is that if someday the chance arises, I am more likely to visit Ukraine, rather than Russia (even though I'd love to visit both) because of a number of reasons (visa requirements, mainly, but not only).

June 7, 2019

LOL! Well I didn't think you were heading there tomorrow. It's just the fact you mentioned visiting Ukraine, instead of saying you planned to visit Ukraine and Russia (which I now see it's possible you might visit both countries). Your Russian would be more useful in southern/eastern and conflicting parts of Ukraine. It depends where you want to make friends, if you know what I mean. ;)

I am suggesting Ukrainian since Ukraine is more likely where you'll go, but it's also a short-and-sweet course, with human-voice audio, and you wanted to do something in quicker time. If you want to get more in-depth with reading Russian literature, that can come in time and Ukrainian can help, since you learn the Cyrillic alphabet in the first few steps of the course. However, you mentioned that you have more of the Russian course under your belt. How are you finding learning both at the same time? If it does not confuse you, then you have an advantage right there! :) Good luck with your studies and your future travel plans! I'm quite jealous. I'd love to go to Ukraine some day.

June 7, 2019

Hi again! Hahaha, sorry if I misunderstood you :-) I think your pieces of advice are very reasonable. I guess I would probably visit the central/western part of the country. As for the confusion thing, actually, I haven't done any Russian or Ukrainian in the last months. I wanted to resume at least one of them, that's why I was asking myself which one to choose. In the past, when I started the Ukrainian tree I had already learned some Russian and I have to confess I found it difficult to keep them separate in my mind, that why I did really little Ukrainian. I think that the fact that they were the first languages using the Cyrillic alphabet that I started to learn contributed to the confusion. I mean that when you learn a new alphabet or writing system you associated so intimately with the language you are learning that in your mind they are so intertwined that is difficult to come to separate language/alphabet and assimilate that the same alphabet can represent a different language. I don't know if this makes any sense, but this is a sensation that I had when learning Russian/Ukrainian on Duolingo :-)

June 7, 2019

Hmm.. maybe Russian is your first love then. If that's the case you will learn better if it's a language that seems the most agreeable with you.

June 7, 2019
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