August 20, 2017

Language

One confusing issue about Ukrainian culture is the language. Though Ukrainian is the official language and all government documents and advertisements are in Ukrainian, many people (especially in Kyiv and eastern Ukraine) speak Russian. A period of intense Russification during the Soviet Union almost completely destroyed Ukrainian, but now there is somewhat of a revival, especially in western Ukraine. Even the spelling of the capital is affected by this problem: the official spelling is Kyiv (based on Ukrainian), but many spell the city's name Kiev (from Russian). The use of the article “the” in front of Ukraine is also a product of Russification and should be avoided. Use of the article “the” implies Ukraine is a part of Russia. In places where Ukrainian and Russian were on a more equal par, a dialect or mix (known as surzhik) of Russian and Ukrainian emerged. Many people who come from villages to Kyiv speak surzhik. Since most people in Kyiv speak Russian, Russian may turn out to be the best option for study. Its foreign alphabet, derived in many areas from the Greek alphabet is shown here.

The Pimsler Russian CD series, often available at local US bookstores, is an excellent beginning point for learning conversational Russian and developing good pronunciation. At the minimum, one should learn the Cyrillic alphabet as well as basic words and phrases before arriving. Some Russian-language materials are included as an appendix.

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Web www.ueckyiv.org