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Ukraine and language

amadeus

burning out his fuse out here alone
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Since this isn't directly about the war, I thought it would be better in its own thread. I know we have some Ukrainian users here and their feedback would be appreciated since they know first-hand how this is being done.

If memory serves correctly, your President Zelenskyy (forgive me if the romanization is wrong) was mainly from the Russian-speaking population, was he not? I know this might be the case for many Ukrainians, so I'm wondering what your thoughts are on a few things:

  • How does the government communicate with the people, speaking sometimes two different languages?
  • How well does Zelenskyy speak Ukrainian? Does he sound natural to you?
I watch the Ushanka Show on YouTube, he's a Soviet Ukrainian who moved to the USA in the 1990's; his experience, growing up in Soviet Kiev, was the dominance of Russian language and speaking it as his first language, as did his parents. He seems to struggle with Ukrainian a bit, so he says, English being his second language and Ukrainian effectively relegated to third. He said it wasn't unusual before to speak Russian in public in Ukraine as many had been raised that way and it seemed to just be the way things were.

So I'm just curious about how this is all changing since Russia, the political entity, has not done much to endear itself to the Ukrainians since earlier this year, to put it mildly.
 
I have another question. From reading about russification and hlodomor lot of Ukrainians in USSR, it seems that people were changing their surnames.
Its safe to assume that surnames ending ...-chuk, -enko and -o are Ukrainian origin, or it is it not that simple? There are lot of Russians with enko (Zakharchenko...)
 
The more I learn about the sociolinguistic situation and history of Ukraine the more I see the mirroring image of Catalonia so I'm also interested in getting to know the details in order to see the main differences (other than the obvious of having an independent state backing the language).
 
How does the government communicate with the people, speaking sometimes two different languages?
The government communicates mostly in Ukrainian. The two languages aren't that different. They are related like Dutch and German, or Portuguese and Spanish. If a person was born in Ukraine, regardless of the language of their parents he or she gets enough exposure to Ukrainian language to be able to understand it. The only case when a Russian-speaking person doesn't understand Ukrainian is if they are fresh arrivals from Russia.
How well does Zelenskyy speak Ukrainian? Does he sound natural to you?
I'm Russian-speaking, but in my opinion he speaks almost as good as a native speaker now.
So I'm just curious about how this is all changing since Russia, the political entity, has not done much to endear itself to the Ukrainians since earlier this year, to put it mildly.
The popularity of Ukrainian language is definitely on the rise in Ukraine. I can't think of any person in recent couple of centuries who made such a significant contribution to the revival and strengthening the Ukrainian identity other than Putin. But as it took several generations to eradicate Ukrainian language from certain areas of Ukraine, it will probably take generations to bring it back. In a favorable scenario, of course.

Its safe to assume that surnames ending ...-chuk, -enko and -o are Ukrainian origin, or it is it not that simple? There are lot of Russians with enko (Zakharchenko...)
Historically those endings are of Ukrainian origin, yes. But there has been a lot of mixing for centuries and nowadays few people pay attention to it. The only thing a person's surname tells you about is what ethnicity was the grand-grand-grand.....grandfather of the bearer of the surname.
 
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They are related like Dutch and German, or Portuguese and Spanish.
So Ukrainian is in essence part of the language family Russian is in? (East Slavic Languages)

The only thing I know about the two languages is the use of the Cyrillic Alphabet.
 
The government communicates mostly in Ukrainian. The two languages aren't that different. They are related like Dutch and German, or Portuguese and Spanish. If a person was born is in Ukraine, regardless of the language of their parents he or she gets enough exposure to Ukrainian language to be able to understand it. The only case when a Russian-speaking person doesn't understand Ukrainian is if they are fresh arrivals from Russia.
Dutch-German and Spenish-Portugese have some pretty considerable differences – I've always gotten the impression it's closer still, more like Finnish-Estonian, or the Scandinavian languages. Swedish-Norwegian etc. So close you end up fooling yourself you understand everything, and end up misunderstanding some stuff because it is just so damn close you don't expect differences.
 
The more I learn about the sociolinguistic situation and history of Ukraine the more I see the mirroring image of Catalonia so I'm also interested in getting to know the details in order to see the main differences (other than the obvious of having an independent state backing the language).
Probably significantly less genocide in Catalonia, even under Franco.
 
Dutch-German and Spenish-Portugese have some pretty considerable differences – I've always gotten the impression it's closer still, more like Finnish-Estonian, or the Scandinavian languages. Swedish-Norwegian etc. So close you end up fooling yourself you understand everything, and end up misunderstanding some stuff because it is just so damn close you don't expect differences.
Yep, this is exactly the case. Russian-Ukrainian-Belorussian languages are the closest relatives of each other. But as I said before, a Russian speaker in most cases would not understand what's being said to him in Ukrainian if he has never been exposed to Ukrainian language environment. Too many essential words are different, some words sound similar but evolved different meanings.
The opposite may be also the case, but I can't think of any real life example of it. It's hard or even next to impossible, to find a Ukrainian who doesn't understand Russian. Maybe only in places with Ukrainian diaspora in Canada or South America.
 
One of my friends is Crimean, ethnically Russian but of Ukrainian nationality and with relatives in free Ukraine as well as occupied Crimea, and moved to the U.S. around age 6. He speaks mostly Russian with his parents at their home and knew it growing up before immigrating here; his parents still have a heavy accent when speaking English. Last year (2021), he decided to learn Ukrainian. He reported that progress was rapid, after learning the basic differences, he could expand his vocabulary quickly, and before long was understanding Ukrainian songs and conversing with Ukrainian speakers online.

I have another friend who's Ukrainian, also immigrating to the U.S. at a relatively young age. I don't actually know whether she speaks Ukrainian, Russian, both, or neither; she always speaks English when my Crimean friend is also around, and doesn't have family nearby who might not speak English at home.

I have wondered, how are Western journalists who speak Russian but not Ukrainian (or not very good Ukrainian) viewed? I've read some articles by journalists who at least ten months ago only spoke Russian, but were doing excellent reporting (in English) from within Ukraine. I'd have to imagine that's a little bit awkward but probably also not that uncommon. Maybe it depends on the area and what the proportions are for each language locally?

I suppose related to that, saamohod, do you speak more Ukrainian now than you did a year ago, in day-to-day situations?

The language question is an interesting one since both are spoken to different degrees in different regions of Ukraine. There's more of the "enemy's language" domestically than there were in most if not all countries in WWII, for example.
 
I suppose related to that, saamohod, do you speak more Ukrainian now than you did a year ago, in day-to-day situations?
Only because I'm currently living away from home in a mostly Ukrainian-speaking town in the Northern Ukraine, I do speak more Ukrainian in day-to-day situations. But for longer conversations I switch back to Russian because my vocabulary and fluency is better in Russian. And it never causes any problem, because almost every single person understands Russian language in Ukraine. Also because the "language issue" has always been an artificial problem created by Moscow for the purpose of division and as a pretext for invasion.
Before Russians started pressing the "language button" 10+ years ago, nobody here gave a damn whether you spoke Ukrainian or Russian.
 
The only thing I know about the two languages is the use of the Cyrillic Alphabet.
I just know that too.
I think the difference between Russian and Ukranian are the same as between Portugal and Spain.
Very similar language who anyone will note if just become just one in next century.
 
I just know that too.
I think the difference between Russian and Ukranian are the same as between Portugal and Spain.
Very similar language who anyone will note if just become just one in next century.
I believe Russian and Ukrainian (Belorussian too) are more similar. If you know Russian, you can understand people speaking Ukrainian pretty well without learning it, and vice versa. Difference between Spanish and Portuguese is probably closer to the difference between Russian and Czech or Polish. If I hear people speaking Polish, I can make out some words, but generally cannot understand what they are talking about. Ukrainian doesn't take much effort to understand for me, even though I never learned it.
 
My understanding is Ukrainians speak a language that is combination of Russian and Polish. Is that correct?
How would it be a "combination"? It's an East Slavic language, like Russian also is, so they are close. Polish as West Slavic a further removed from both.
 
Modern English is often described as combination of Flemish (Nederlands) and French though - at least here it is, you don't even have a word for "entrepreneur" :D

That's not a million miles away actually. Modern English is the descendant of a language that formed from a mixture of the Anglo-Saxon dialects of proto-Germanic, which were probably quite closely related to those that lead to the modern Germanic languages in the Low Countries (particularly Friesian), and the Norman dialect of Old French, with a small dash of Old Norse added on top.

Most European languages (and maybe elsewhere, I'm just not that knowledgeable) formed by branching off of older proto-languages, and, while they will pick up some words, and maybe even grammar, from neighbours, still retain a pretty clear singular decent. English is one of the few that is a genuine combination with a large amount of both Germanic and French words and aspects remaining.
 
I’ve spent time in Georgia and Azerbaijan. In Georgia people almost always spoke Georgian, of course both languages have nothing at all in common with Russian anymore than they do with English except some borrowed vocabulary.

In Azerbaijan it was really different. I knew Azeris who would speak Russian even to family members, but a lot would speak Azeri as well.

I wonder if the difference between Ukrainian and Russian would be like Azeri and Turkish from Turkey. They’re very similar but some really basic differences, like the way people say “How are you?” or “Where are you?” is different but seems like people mostly understand each other.

There’s some odd differences like kişi means people in Turkish but specifically man in Azeri so I’d see like a kişi salonu, a men’s barber in Baku and it seemed odd, like obviously it’s for people, not animals.
 
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