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Is Ukrainian language much like Russian?

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  • Is Ukrainian language much like Russian?

    If I visit Ukraine will I need to learn Ukrainian as well as Russian to get by or is Russian going to be sufficient? Are there many there who speak English also?



  • #2
    Ukrainian or Russian?

    Bill, you do not say to which part of Ukraine you intend to visit, for what purpose and how long is the duration of your stay? This information is pertinent the advice that one might offer.
    Before I ever came to Ukraine I asked a Ukrainian in the UK "was there a big difference between the two languages?" I was told Ukrainian is to Russian, as Portuguese is to Spanish! What I was not told is that virtually all Ukrainians understand Russian, but for historical reasons, in the western part of Ukraine prefer to speak Ukrainian. Neither was I told that this language issue is a reason for disunity among Ukrainian citizens, similar to that existing in Belgium between the French and Dutch speaking peoples.

    I am staying in Lugansk, in the eastern part of Ukraine, which is predominantly Russian speaking. I am consequently trying to learn Russian, but perhaps because of my age it is a hard slog. Applicable to both Ukrainian or Russian you must learn to read Cyrillic characters, then I started with a basic vocabulary, but forming correct sentences is difficult for me because the logic of the grammar is so very different from English.

    If I were coming for a couple of weeks, or one month only, I wouldn't even try! On Ebay you will see used Ectaco electronic traveler translators (iTRAVL series) including Russian language (Ukrainian language models are rarer). When new they are very expensive, but you can buy a used model from £70 GBP($110 USD). It will contain virtually all of the basic phrases you will need and in most cases you will be able to speak the phrase into it in English and it will repeat it in Russian. Additionally you can use the stylus on the touch screen to select phrases, or touch type with the stylus onto the screen's chosen script keyboard in English, or Russian, basic sentences for translation. It will also include a language teacher to get you started with things like the numbers and salutations etc.

    In the larger cities you will find some professional and younger people who can speak English, but if you are dealing with taxi driver's and certain other trader's, products and services may cost you more because of your language deficit.