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Why learn Ukrainian?

When looking at the Ukrainian for English speakers course I noticed that only 8000+ people signed up for the notification of the course being released, while Russian has over 90000+ people signed up. While Ukrainian is most likely going to come out sometime in the next few weeks and Russian within the next half of the year, I wan't to do a quick persuasion on why you should learn Ukrainian first if you are one of the 90000 waiting for Russian to be released.

-Ukrainian has a estimated 62% mutual intelligibility with Russian.

Because Ukrainian has about about a 2/3 mutual intelligibility with Russian you will be generally understood with everyday normal conversations. This is because of the many loan words from Russian and the fact that a large part of Ukrainian speakers also speak Russian. Some people even consider Ukrainian as just a dialect of Russian (But this is controversial). To see how really close Ukrainian and Russian are linguistically, here's a sample sentence saying "I love you" in Ukrainian and Russian: (Russian) Я люблю тебя. (Ukrainian) Я люблю тебе.

-Ukrainians Cyrillic alphabet is almost as same as Russians.

Example: (Ukrainian Alphabet) -> А а Б б В в Г г Ґ ґ Д д Е е Є є Ж ж З з И и І і Ї ї Й й К к Л л М м Н н О о П п Р р С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ь ь Ю ю Я я

(Russian Alphabet) -> А а Б б В в Г г Д д Е е Ё ё Ж ж З з И и Й й К к Л л Мм Н н О о П п Рр С с Т т У у Ф ф Х х Ц ц Ч ч Ш ш Щ щ Ъ ъ Ы ы Ь ь Э э Ю ю Яя

As you can see there are a few differences in the alphabet but nothing to crazy. Plus the pronunciation of the same letters is pretty much the same.

Overall, there are many other similarities between Ukrainian and Russian but these are the two significant ones I could think of.


Sources: - Myself :) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_language

March 22, 2015



Looking forward to both Russian and Ukrainian. Sad to see brothers fighting each other.


I have some Ukrainian ancestry, so that is a small motivating factor for me, but I've recently become more fired up about learning it because of a conversation I overheard in class a few weeks ago. A Moroccan student was talking with a Russian student, and they touched on the conflict in Ukraine. The Moroccan student said, "Is there such a thing as a Ukrainian language?" and the Russian student answered, "No, there is not really any Ukrainian language." The next time I hear something like this, I'd like to be able to answer back in Ukrainian that yes, there is a Ukrainian language.


If you learn Russian, I'd recommend you NOT to touch political topics in conversations with Russians, otherwise you are going to be very demotivated.


I have a similar reason for wanting to learn Ukrainian. I feel so bad for Ukraine and everything she's had to go through in her long history and the events that are going on now. I just feel like it's somehow validating Ukraine in the face of Russia. Also, it's a really lovely language.


There is not one, but two! And that is not saying anything good. The Ukrainian spoken in Kiev can be regarded as a completely different language in comparison to the one spoken in Lwów, the former having more Russian influence and the latter having a lot more Polish influence. You also have Surzhyk, which is a whole bunch of different speeches. In other words, you'd basically be learning a language that is only limited in its scope within the very country whose national language it is.

[deactivated user]

    Any idea on which one will taught in the course? I know you're not a contributor but just wanted a guesstimation.


    I don't know, honestly. It depends where the standard of Ukrainian is from, and I assume that standard Ukrainian is from Lviv, since it is the farthest from the Russians. It won't include Surzhyk, surely, as Surzhyk is considered to be improper.


    "standard Ukrainian is from Lviv" - completely wrong. It is from central Ukraine area (known as Middle Dniper dialect). Many "special" Lviv words are not the part of the standard Ukrainian.


    I'm OK with limited scope, but thanks for the info! :-)


    I really cannot agree with everyone who argues against starting with the Ukrainian course before Russian one. Common guys, people studying here are not preparing for anything serious, they don't need to become spies and speak Russian perfectly. And in any case Duolingo is only for beginners. So I don't see how Ukrainian can hurt Russian learning. Indeed one may confuse for a while some declinations and some pronunciations, and some words? so what? They will still be understood most of the time, just as English speakers understand us - non-natives, who constantly make mistakes in English omitting articles, using wrong words (like instead of as, for instance). More than that, most of them we'll never even speak or write Russian but will only use it for reading and listening, and in that case knowing some Ukrainian is not bad and actually helpful.

    My advise is, if you want to learn Russian you can for sure start with the Ukrainian course. It is a beautiful language and it is close enough to help with your Russian later. Just be FLEXIBLE and OPEN-MINDED, be prepared that the 2 languages are different and don't be angry when they work differently, embrace the difference - that is the beauty of languages.


    I am russian, but i do not understand my ukrainian friend while she is speaking ukrainian! Do not learn ukrainian if you think it is soo similar to russian language! There is the greatest difference! And i love you is Я тебе кохаю! ( i mean Western Ukrainian and North)


    Я тебе кохаю! Я тебе люблю! are both correct Ukrainian phrases and mean almost the same. You can say "Я тебе люблю!" to your mom, daughter, friend, wife, girlfriend; but you can only say "Я тебе кохаю!" to your girlfriend or wife.

    It is true that Ukrainian and Russian are not too similar for an English speaker. When I was little, my brother and I used to speak Ukrainian to each other when we wanted to confuse our friend (a boy from Moscow, who spent his summer in Ukraine). However after a month in Ukraine he was able to understand almost everything we were saying in Ukrainian. Ukrainian and Russian grammar is very similar, with minor difference in endings; vocabulary is very similar to, with minor differences in pronunciation. So IMHO starting to learn Ukrainian while you are waiting for Russian course to launch will definitely not hurt and most probably will help you.


    I agree. The languages are not the same, but they are however quite easy to learn when you know the other one (or some other slavic language). I am personally a Czech native speaker, but I also speak fluently Polish, Ukrainian and Russian and understand Slovak (Czech and Slovak are generally mutually intelligible. We don't even use subtitles when there is something in Slovak on TV) and Belarussian. With every new language it is simplier to learn at least understand another one. The great thing with grammar is that it is very similar also to west slavic languages and the same applies for vocabulary - a lot of words in Ukrainian are the same or similar as in Czech. And by the way Ukrainian has also pretty similar pronunciation as Czech, so it is really nothing difficult :)


    See I was taught in school "Я люблю тебе" or "Я тебе люблю" because word order can mixed around in Ukrainian (& Russian); and isn't "Kохаю" still "Love" but just a different way of saying it? Please correct me if I am wrong, I'm not fluent in Ukrainian or Russian but I have been around it and studying it for about 5+ years now. I know there are significant differences but even some of my Russians friends say they can Understand Ukrainian like how a fluent Spanish speaker can understand a lot of Portuguese.


    There is a number of different words among the most basic vocabulary over there, which impedes the intelligibility significantly. Russian is my native language, yet even though half of what I may hear in Ukranian would be comprehensible, I would not bet any amount of money on my ability to understand Ukranian.

    To understand what a native speaker of Russian might be dealing with when listening to Uranian, imagine an English native speaker in a village speaking Scots. It is sort of familiar, and at times — very familiar. However, if you want to understand the language reliably, you'd better put some effort. At least, one should learn the most popular words much different from English. And if you want to speak the language like a native would, you have to practice even more to nail down the grammatical differences. It is one thing to understand that "selt" is like English "sold"; it is a different thing to produce this form yourself.

    I may also suggest the following mental experiment. Let us take 1000 most popular English words, and replace 33% of them with STUFF:

    • the, what, get, about, time, all, ... → du, dath, yut, bont, zug, yeder...
    • like, because, woman, tell, very...→ faver, juta, fride, verse, waya...

    Now, your understanding of a sentence is very much dependent on what the sentence is about. Which words exactly it uses to convey the meaning. Is it easy to make up for these lexical differences? Sure! Can you claim that a native speaker can understand that "naturally"? Not exactly.


    You reminded me of an incident when I was in Poland, and had someone want to talk to me who said he spoke Russian.

    What he really meant was that he had some Russan vocabulary, and every time he came across a word he knew in Russian, he would say it in Rusian, but he was essentially talking to me in slow Polish with a few Russin words thrown in.

    That was an interesting combination and an interesting conversation ;)

    For non speakers of Slavic languages: this is a little like I said I spoke German and then started sprekking mit you like das. There sind a few German words in there, but es ist definitely nicht German. Add in the fact that ich bin nicht even a native sprekker of Russian, and you can sehst that es was ein sehr strange conversation... we did manage to talk for a while, but it was a totally mind melting experience. It did help a lot that I speak/spoke some Croatian and had picked up a certain amount of Polish over a week and a half, but man 8-o

    (With sincere apologies to any German speakers reading that, because I dare say it was very painful, but it's as close as I can think of to demonstrate how peculiar that was for me... xD)

    With sufficient patience, if you have a Slavic language or two floating round your brain, you can often have a decent conversation with someone whose language you don't officially speak, but it's definitely an exercise in patience for both parties 8-o... and don't expect to be discussing anything too in depth. Oh, and also expect that you will come across words in the middle of an otherwise comprehensible conversation that you cannot understand at all. It's fun xD and of course, theres a world of difference between being able to have a conversation and being able to fluently understand, never mind speak, a language :)


    Lol the pidgin German was fun to read.


    I agree. I speak Russian fluently and I can not understand Ukranian. I can understand Serbian almost 80% of the time because it really is close to Russian.

    Ukranian on the other hand is a mix of Polish and Belorussian. And in some way it's almost an artificial language. By the way, almost everyone in Ukraine learns Russian. It's the second language of choice there. No-one in Russia learns Ukranian, though.


    > Ukranian on the other hand is a mix of Polish and Belorussian. And in some way it's almost an artificial language.

    Linguisits start to cry at this point


    You know, when you get people writing Кохам те in Ukrainian, and you compare it to Polish Kocham cię, it is kind of hard not to think "Well, Ukrainian is heavily polonized". People think that because it is, and because Ruthenian (the ancestor of Ukrainian and Belorussian) formed during the PLC when the Poles ruled over most of Ukraine.

    Also, Ukrainian has a good amount of neologisms (akin to new Croatian) in order to make Ukrainian stand out more from Russian, therefore, calling it artificial is partially true.


    Apart from being wrong factually (the split between Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian happened before PLC, approximately in XII century), your approach it absolutely wrong: similarity between languages A and B doesn't mean language A has been B'nized (or vice versa). The stuff regarding neologisms is factually wrong as well.

    EDIT: Ach, Serb. I see.


    Actually the "stuff regarding neologism" takes place.


    That implies that the Ukrainian language that formed in that period (if it did it surely wasn't called Ukrainian, because during the XII century Kiev and Galich were still important principalities) is the same as the one spoken in Ukraine today (which it cannot be) after several long periods of forced Russification which had surely altered the language heavily.

    EDIT: Yes, thank you for condescending me for being a Serb. You should be proud of yourself for that, you know.


    >And in some way it's almost an artificial language.

    Oh yeah, bring it..

    >Ukranian on the other hand is a mix of Polish and Belorussian.

    [Linguists sigh]

    [deactivated user]

      Do the Belarussians still even speak Belarussian? I read an article (admittedly it was written a few years ago) that in Belarus people prefer to speak Russian espcially with young people since Russian is seen as chic and "in".

      By the way, if Ukrainian is anything like Polish I ESPECIALLY want to learn it since it'll be a while for that course.


      About 20-ish percent of Belorussians actually use Belorussian as far as I remember. An interesting thing about Belorussian is that there are three scripts for it: Cyrillic, Latin and Arabic.

      Also, you'll sometimes find that Ukrainian will look like Polish with some of the palatalization taken out (there's no stuff such as rz). As mentioned previously: Кохам те vs. Kocham cię

      You might want to look at the Polish-Ukrainian song Hej, sokoły/Гей, соколи (Hey, falcons) which has a version in Polish and Ukrainian if you want some more parallels:


      Polish (also contains the Ukrainian song Їхав козак за Дунай (The cossack rode to the Danube)): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kxxqm7b_ys

      Ukrainian: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ml1ao_QHiMQ


      But linguistically isn't Belorussian, Ukrainian, closer to Russian then Serbian and Polish is? Because I was taught Belorussian, Ukrainian, and Russian are East Slavic Languages while Polish is a West Slavic Language and Serbian is a South Slavic Language. Plus, throughout history, weren't the Russians more in contact with the Ukrainians compared to the others countries around them?


      Belorussian and Ukrainian are in a separate branch of East Slavic languages, called Ruthenian (a stupid name, by the way, it means Russian in Latin). This branch came from the East Slavic language spoken in the area of modern-day Ukraine and Belorussia, especially under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Ukrainian also had an extent of Turkic influence as far as I am aware, due to contact with the Crimean Tatars). As a result of being ruled by the Poles their language is simply closer to Polish. I cannot tell you why they are closer to Serbo-Croatian than Russian, could be many things, from actual natural evolution, to reforms changing Russian in a weird way, or maybe some other factor.


      In support of endangered Crimean Tatar language, we have started the discussion and hope that it will help approve it by the Duolingo team.


      >But linguistically isn't Belorussian, Ukrainian, closer to Russian then Serbian

      It's not.


      -2? I speak Russian fluently. I was born in Russia.

      When I hear or read Serbian, I can understand what is being said. When I hear or read Ukrainian, I barely understand a word. What other proof do you need?


      I learn Ukrainian. Sorry) Do you really think that Ukrainian is unpopular in Russia because it's artificial? And what about Tajik, Uzbek, Kazakh and so on. Russians are funs of the European culture( and have always been ). That's the cause of the low popularity of all non-western languages.


      As a Ukrainian-American who grew up hearing but not speaking Ukrainian, then studied Russian for 3 years, then Ukrainian for 2, and now lives with Russian speakers, I've had my fair share of switching between the two languages. In my experience it is very frustrating to try to learn both before being fluent in one because they are so similar that it is hard to properly compartmentalize them. You will say a Ukrainian word or use Ukrainian pronunciation thinking it is Russian or visa-versa. Some of the words that are the most different are also the most common-yes (tak/da), no (ni/nyet), thanks (dyakuyu/spasibo), you're welcome (proshu/pozhalsta), but (ale/no), or (abo/ili)- which means you will frequently say the wrong one out of force of habit and may not be understood. Especially if you are new to the Cyrillic alphabet, the two different pronunciations of vowels will make it difficult for you to feel confident reading and pronouncing. Obviously I did not follow my own advice because I am passionate about both of these languages, but if your goal is to only learn Russian, I would start by studying the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, not the Ukrainian one, until the Russian course comes out.


      Yes, it is not recommended to learn two similar languages from scratch. I've tried this with Spanish and Protuguese. Had to drop Portuguese in order to not damage my brain)

      [deactivated user]

        I like the Slavic languages and they've got a very interesting history so you don't have to convince me to learn Ukrainian. Plus I want to know more about what's going on with Russia and Ukraine in this whole Crimea thing so I want to do both the courses and get both perspectives.

        I have a question though, is it Ukraine or 'the' Ukraine? I remember hearing it called the Ukraine growing up but I notice no one says it anymore. Is it an either or sort of thing?


        In support of endangered Crimean Tatar language, we have started the discussion and hope that it will help approve it by the Duolingo team.


        "The Ukraine" is sort of a dated term and has Cold War-era connotations. "Ukraine" is generally the preferred term nowadays.

        [deactivated user]

          Ahh ok gotcha! It sounds better and less awkward as just Ukraine.


          It was "The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic" when it had "the" in front of it)


          So that's where that "the" came from! Thanks! I didn't know that before.


          "The Ukraine" is often seen as carrying the connotation that Ukraine is a region and not an independent state.

          More generally, the rare country names which once included "the" -- the Sudan, the Gambia -- are falling out of style in English.


          The Lebanon, also, is now mostly referred to as Lebanon, which it wasn't when I was a kid.


          Wow really? I had no idea. Thanks!


          Я тебя люблю - Я тебе кохаю, Спасибо - Дякую

          Actually these ones are the most common.


          I want to learn Ukranian because I am quarter Ukranian (my maternal grandfather is from the western Ukraine and my maternal grandmother is half Ukranian) . I was born in Russia and my native language is Russian but I feel more connection with Ukraine.


          Half my family speaks Ukranian, but not me.


          You should too then. ;)


          Let's hope that after the course is released I will learn and be able.


          I don't know you, but I'll be rooting for you! :D As the Japanese say, Ganbatte!


          If I were you, I would learn Ukrainian, you have the best motivation factor and in home help!


          Good day everyone!

          During 2014 I visited Ukraine. Beautiful country, in my opinion! Kiev is gorgeous, one may write! And, in my opinion, Ukraine possess a good citizenry. I may recommend a visit. :D

          I am excited to continue learning Ukrainian. Thank you for the post! :)

          <pre> -Sincerely, Mr. Guckenberger </pre>


          I wish you successes! Бажаю успіхів! :)


          If you want to study more than one Slavic language, studying Ukrainian will help you. The Ukrainian is much closer to the anciant slavic language. Knowing Ukrainian, I can read Polish, speak and understand in Montenegro, Belarus, etc. In real russian is the less slavic language of all group.


          After reading this article I feel more intrigued in this new course. Being a learner of Russian myself, I am very much into the slavic languages, especially how many other one can understand after mastering (or at least knowing) one of them. Is there much more in common in the two languages? I hope I won't mix them up should I have a chance to learn Ukrainian.


          The amount of intellegibility with Russian heavily depends on the dialect. From Kiev, you might be able to understand Ukrainian as a Russian speaker, but it's likely that Lviv/Lvov Ukrainian would come to you almost as if it were Polish.

          Also, the concrete differences in the Ukrainian and Russian Cyrillic are:

          • І = И, И = Ы, Ґ = Г, Є = Е, Е = Э (Ukrainian vs Russian)

          • Щ in Ukrainian is ШЧ, Ч is harder than in Russian (like in Polish, Czech, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, etc.), Г a voiced H (like Г in Greek or H in Czech)


          I am a native speaker as russian as ukrainian. I also know english alphabet excellent.

          But I do not be able to speak english and very very bad write, read and understand spoken english. Know the alphabet and know the language are three different things. It is very amusingly compare language when you only know alphabet and be able to use google translate.

          Ukrainian and russian are similar languages but they have many differences. These are different languages.


          Oh, yes, I forgot that one, thanks.


          Thank you for this, I dont speak russian but I learned the alphabet and wanted to learn Ukranian too so this will help!


          Ukrainian language is the most beautiful language in the world!)


          Yes, Ukrainian langage is very beautiful. I also very like French language.


          Just how Different is Ukrainian from Russian ? Is there a difference is saying hello , Or is it the same like saying привет оr здравствуйте?


          I lived in Donetsk and Kiev and both places, about 95% of the people in Kiev and about 99.99% people of Donetsk speak Russian. I want to learn Ukrainian for reading labels and other things. But Russian is what I really want to learn.


          I lived in Kiev as well and I can say that no where close to 95% are russian speaking. A lot of people will switch to the language of the opponent if he chooses to speak in russian first. Never been to Donetsk but official statistics shows that 93% of people in Donetsk region use russian in every day communication (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_language_in_Ukraine#Polls)

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