Pick up and
speak up

25.01.2013 | By Leonid Uzvar

Kyiv Weekly offers advice on the best ways to learn the language of nightingales and Ukrainians

Kyiv Weekly offers advice on the best ways to learn the language of nightingales and Ukrainians

Many prominent polyglots have gone down in the history books. Danish linguistic scholar and philologist Rasmus Rask spoke 230 languages, German linguist Schutz mastered 270, the renowned scholar and statesman Wilhelm Humboldt was fluent in 117 languages and the famous researcher of the history of Ancient Troy Heinrich Schliemann knew around 60 languages. So, join us in the linguistic fray!

Starting is the first step

Learning a foreign language is very enthralling work. Specialists affirm that the more languages a person knows, the easier it will be to learn others. In ancient times there was a saying: The more languages you know, the more you are a human being.

The thing is that if a person has the will they can learn at least one foreign language, particularly if it is related to another language group. For example, knowing Italian it is quite easy to learn Moldovan and Romanian. If you are fluent in Russian, it is much easier to pick up the Belarus or Ukrainian languages in a matter of a few months.

Dialects of the Ukrainian language are united by three main dialects: south-eastern, south-western and northern. Today, Ukrainians predominantly speak the south-eastern dialect, which is the basis of the Kyiv-Poltava dialect native in the works of the poet Taras Shevchenko, who is considered by scholars to be the founder of the contemporary Ukrainian literary language.

Ukrainian roots

The easiest way to learn the Ukrainian language is taking lessons with a tutor that is fluent in the dialect you want to learn for around 100 hryvnia per hour. The tutor will teach you conversational phrases, explain the subtleties and nuances of certain phrases of Ukrainian discourse and more.

Given this, you are best off taking courses in Ukrainian for foreigners. Unfortunately, today there are very few such specialized courses offered in Ukraine. The fact is that the linguistic market is more targeted at Ukrainian citizens that want to learn foreign languages than at polyglots.

Besides the Internet, such courses are offered in local universities or in private schools. The majority of higher learning institutions offer Ukrainian language courses in their Slavic language departments.

You can get the best bang for your buck by turning to specialized communities. In Ukraine there are cultural centers that organize thematic meeting for foreigners in clubs according to their interest. In order to quickly learn to communicate in Ukraine one only needs to meet native Ukrainians. Communicating with them will help you learn the basic conversational phrases in a very short time.

If you are not interested in lessons with a language tutor, find yourself some friends that are willing to teach you the basic conversational phrases of the Ukrainian language free of charge. This is possible through social networks or Skype. The main thing is you should not be shy as you can reciprocate by teaching your interlocutor words in your native language.

The next option of lessons is hiring a professional Internet tutor. One can be found without an intermediary through Internet ads or ordering the services of a language school on the Internet. The most widespread method of paying for lessons is the Internet payment system that allows for immediate money transfers. It should be noted that many tutors do not recommend virtual language lessons to novices as they require a certain vocabulary allowing them to hold a conversation on the basic level at the very least.

Learning via the media

A good piece of advice for learning any language is to watch films in the Ukrainian language, listen to audio recordings and read books. Linguistic experts recommend writing down all unknown words in a special notebook. By transcribing and translating them into your native language, pupils will enrich their vocabulary. This is already half the way to successful learning. Dont fret if you have to write down every second word in the first stages of learning. This will help you to very quickly get a good grasp of the Ukrainian language.

In contemporary Ukrainian literature there are at least four respectable writers: Lyubko Deresh, Vasyl Shlyar, Yuriy Andrukhovych and Serhiy Zhadan. It may take a few years to pensively delve into their Ukrainian language. Reading at least one of their books will allow a person to significantly enhance their vocabulary and learn how to speak Ukrainian. If this is not enough, check out the bookshops Ye at 3 Lysenko St., 5 Spasska St. and 33/2 Povitroflotska St. There you will find translations of many well-known novels into Ukrainian.

Films and cartoons in Ukrainian are really cool, especially when they are comical. Many among todays Ukrainian youth say they are even funnier than in the original language. So, all you need to do is open the sites or and download Die Hard or the TV cartoon sitcom The Simpsons for free.

As for audio, it is only worth listening to quality music in Ukrainian. Its refined style and melodic sound will be a perfect addition to your knowledge of literature. The classic set consists of songs by VV, Mertviy Piven, Okean Elzy, Komu Vnyz and Tartak.

Translating newspaper articles and clips is a great way of learning a language. Moreover, reading the news in the official state language has become fashionable and cool. This way one can kill two birds with one stone: learn the language and stay in tune with the latest events in Ukraine, though for some this is more difficult than simply studying the language.

Such Internet sites as Ukrainska Pravda,, the Ukrainian language version of, and the evening TV program Vikon on the STB channel are the best sources of to stave off your hunger for news. From time to time, watch Channel 5, Channel 24 and UT-1.

A language environment will turn your vocabulary into a truly comprehensible lingo. Ukrainians have always respected people that have tried to learn the Ukrainian language and acclimatize to the culture. Nobody will ridicule you for making a mistake, especially if you surround yourself with Ukrainian-speaking friends. Simply listen to their form of speech and try to use Ukrainian words that you have learned when conversing with them.

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