These are the differences between Ukrainian and Russian

Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine, many people around the world have wanted to know more about Ukrainian culture and language. For example, language learning portal Duolingo saw a 200 percent increase in people wanting to learn Ukrainian through the app between February 14 and 21.

In fact, Ukrainian is not like Russian. However, both languages ​​are of Slavic origin. There is also a certain similarity with the Czech and Polish language. Ukrainian contains Cyrillic elements (the Russian letters are Cyrillic) and Latin letters. However, the writing system also contains some unique characters that stand for specific Ukrainian sounds.

About 40 percent of Ukrainians speak Ukrainian in everyday life

Every Ukrainian speaks Russian – about 40 percent of them also speak Russian in everyday life. But very few Russians can speak Ukrainian. This is not because of linguistics but because of politics and history: since the Russian-speaking Soviet Union occupied Ukraine for nearly 70 years, Russian has been the only official language of Ukraine. The government, schools, and businesses were required to use only the Russian language. Although most families continued to speak Ukrainian at home, the Russian language was in demand in much public life. Therefore, older Ukrainians grew up speaking Russian, and younger generations still encounter the Russian language in everyday life.

In April 2019, the Verkhovna Rada passed a new “Language Law” that was deemed controversial. This should ensure that Ukraine is the lingua franca, especially in the public sector – that is, in health care, in the cultural sector, in education and science as well as with the security forces. In particular, civil servants and candidates for government positions must be able to speak the Ukrainian language fluently. Print media must also appear in Ukrainian. Ukrainian philosopher Volodymyr Yermolenko wrote an essay on why he believes law is a good thing. It also gives an interesting outline of the historical dimension in the Ukrainian and Russian debate.

What is the difference between Ukrainian and Russian?

In a detailed article, experts from Duolingo explain that Ukrainian and Russian are two different languages ​​and are actually cousins. Over a thousand years ago, a language was spoken in Central Europe that linguists now refer to as Proto-Slavic, and is the ancestor of all Slavic languages ​​spoken today. Primitive Slavic speakers migrated through Europe, spread, settled and taught their children to speak their language. However, because they were so widely spread, each community began to do things a little differently – and over time the differences became larger and larger, until eventually, the members of those communities, who once spoke the same language, could no longer understand each other. some. .

The difference between Russian and Ukrainian

Practically everyone who grew up in Ukraine speaks Russian fluently, but no one of Russian origin can speak Ukrainian in any way. (Photo: Sakchai – AdobeStock)

There are many similarities between Ukrainian and Russian. For example, both languages ​​have an amplification system, although the endings sometimes sound different. Ukrainian and Russian have three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Verb conjugation patterns are also similar. However, often the endings of verbs and nouns in both languages ​​are different, and there are some grammatical features (for example, the unique future tense) that Ukrainian rather than Russian possesses.

Another important similarity is the alphabet in both languages, which consists of 33 letters. However, there are differences, as a language expert explains in the language learning portal Babbel:

  • In the Russian language there are the letters “Ёё”, “”, “ы” and “Ээ”, which are not used in Ukrainian.
  • Alternatively, Ukrainian has “Ґґ”, “Єє”, “Іі” and “Її”.
  • The pronunciation of some words and letters is also different: “И” is read as long in Russian [i] As shown here.
  • In Ukrainian, “И” becomes like a short word [i] It is also pronounced in please.

In addition, there are so-called false friends in the linguistic picture:

  • The Russian word приклад means “the rear of the gun”.
    However, in the Ukrainian language, приклад means “example”.

Ukrainian and Russian vocabulary

The authors of Duolingo explain some of the most obvious differences between Ukrainian and Russian in vocabulary. This is often the reason why Russian speakers have difficulties when trying to understand Ukrainian, and vice versa: many common Russian words sound completely different from Ukrainian translations. However, because the two languages ​​descend from a common ancestor, sometimes a speaker of one language can derive the meaning of a word from its roots – just as an English speaker would look at the word Hund in German, associate it with “hound” and with a little work, it might mean.” dog.”

These examples show that the two languages ​​share some vocabulary, while other words may be very different:

Source: Duolingo

There are also some important differences between Ukrainian and Russian in the sounds of the language and how these sounds are represented in the text. In current reports, one frequently encounters some differences in the name of the Ukrainian capital. The Russian name for the Ukrainian capital is Kyiv (Kyiv), which uses Russian chopsticks. (Just as the English use the English sounds to pronounce Madrid, Istanbul, and Reykjavik) The Ukrainian name for the Ukrainian capital is иїв (Kyiv), who of course uses the original Ukrainian sounds to pronounce the name of his capital. The letter и is similar to the English “i” in “kit” and is pronounced “yee”: together they make the word “ki-yeev”, which means “Kyiv” in English.

The Ukrainian alphabet is designed to represent Ukrainian sounds, so sometimes sounds and distinctions are lost when writing Ukrainian words in the Latin alphabet. As a result, the same Ukrainian word or name sometimes appears in several different spellings in the Latin alphabet. The name of President Zelensky of Ukraine is a good example of this. In the Ukrainian nominative case (that is, for the subject of the sentence), the last two letters of his name are и (y) and й (i). Since the English pronunciation of “y” and “i” is the same at the end of a word, you’ll often see “Zelensky,” but you can also see “Zelenskyi” or “Zelenskyy,” which more closely matches the Ukrainian spelling. Zelenskyy’s private Twitter account uses this last option, as does Duolingo curriculum developer Mykhaylo Zakryzhevskyy.

Emphasizing the word “Ukraine” has a political dimension

Language always has a political dimension. This becomes clearer in this war. Even the pronunciation of the Russian word “Ukrainian” can become political. Depending on where the speaker places the stress in the word, it can sound more like a word borderland or an area on the edge of a larger area, or it can sound like a distinct word emphasizing Ukrainian sovereignty. So Russian speakers who want to point out that Ukraine is part of Russia emphasize the “a” in the Russian word украинский (Ukrainskiy), making it sound more like a border country. Ukrainians and Russians who support Ukrainian sovereignty pronounce “Ukrainian” with an emphasis on “yi” in украинский (Ukrayinskiy).

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there were about 30 million native Ukrainian speakers and about 138 million Russian speakers in Russia. There are about 154 million people worldwide who speak Russian as their first language, and Russian is also one of the most widely spoken languages ​​in Europe.

List of the most important sentences for Ukrainian refugees

The Duolingo team has developed an online phrasebook that can be used to help people dealing with Ukrainian refugees. Because volunteers and refugees must communicate about a variety of topics, including security, family, identity, and medical needs.

The result was more than 300 words and phrases (with translations in German, English, Polish and French) that the team created based on their own experiences of volunteering at refugee shelters, welcoming refugees into their homes and investigating vocabulary they need so much in emergency situations.

The content is very different from that of a Duolingo course because it is not a language teaching resource. Instead, it provides useful (sometimes advanced) vocabulary and expressions for people who don’t know anything about a particular language, including its grammar or even how to read and pronounce words. That’s why pronunciation guides are included on each tab – audio aids that help anyone pronounce words they may not be familiar with. The goal of the phrasebook is to help refugees and those who work with them to communicate their most urgent needs immediately.

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