which language for Kiev
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Feb 19, 2007 4:42 PM Last Post By: RobinSevastopol
Feb 3, 2007 3:22 PM
Feb 3, 2007 4:55 PM
I've never been to Kiev, but I've heard it's pretty much 50-50 Russian and Ukrainian speakers, while the Crimea is overwhelmingly Russian. The Russian and Ukrainian alphabets are almost identical, so you could easily learn both. I would advise spending more time learning Russian, but maybe learn a few basic phrases in Ukrainian too. As far as I know almost everyone in Ukraine speaks Russian. I can't speak from personal experience about how many people speak English there, though I've spent a lot of time in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where I would say it's mostly young, educated people who speak English, and people (mostly in St. Petersburg) in the tourist industry.
Feb 3, 2007 6:11 PM
2#1 is right. Learn Russian for Crimea. Everyone in Kiev understands Russian - some may prefer Ukrainian but nthere's never any problem being understood in Russian and (unlike further west) nobody minds using Russian in Kiev.
You'll find English speakers in up-market hotels and restaurants in Kiev, and you may be lucky to find passer-by's who may intervene to help you. But in much of day to day life: shopping, museums, especially public transport, you'll find no English speakers. So learning some Russian, and being able to read it, are important. Or you can hire an English speaking guide, as I did the first time I went to Kiev.
The alphabets are similar (most letters identical) so if you can read Russian you'll also be able to read Ukrainian.
Feb 3, 2007 11:50 PM
Feb 4, 2007 6:46 AM
4Russian is the first language in Kiev, if 2 people start talking it's almost always in Russian, only if they hear (accent) they are both Ukrainian speakers they will continu in Ukrainian
Feb 4, 2007 10:13 AM
5Learn Russian. Ukrainian is basically useless outside of Ukraine. Learning to speak Russian will open up the entire CIS to you. People in Kiev prefer to speak Russian by a large number and generally will speak Ukrainian only if they have to. Former President Kuchma was known for his very bad Ukrainian and PM Yanukovich can barely speak the language and he had to take lessons not very long ago to be able to do so. Honestly, I am convinced that the majority of the country if given a choice would prefer to speak Russian. You should be aware that in the English speaking world there is a real dearth of Ukrainian learning books. The best Ukrainian-English dictionary is about 50 years old and goes one way - Ukrainian to English only.
Not many people anywhere in Ukraine speak English, but sometimes you can find young people who do. Expect no one over 30 to know much more than "Hello" and "My name is ...". You can get by as others do with no Russian knowledge, but if you can learn any Russian it will be helpful. Be sure to learn to read Cyrillic as you can learn the alphabet in a few hours with serious study and you will need this for sure. You don't need to learn anything in Ukrainian. Your accent will give you away as a foreigner (your appearance probably will too) and in Crimea, they will not want to speak to you in Ukrainian unless it appears that you know no other language. People in the Russian speaking parts of Ukraine really do not like to speak Ukrainian and generally do so only when they deal with "Ukrainian country bumpkins" who are unable to speak Russian at all. I've had many native Russian speakers roll their eyes when talking about having to speak Ukrainian to some Ukrainian person who was unable to speak Russian and they generally look at those Ukrainian speakers as uneducated morons.
Feb 4, 2007 11:35 AM
6I suppose that you can hardly make progress in any of these languages within a few months and there is no use wasting one's efforts on it . Personally I am slightly puzzled by the disparaging and even scornful attitude to the Ukrainian language on behalf of Ukrainians. Do they really think that if they speak Russian and disdain the mother tongue of their ancestors they will look like educated and intelligent people who are worth respecting?
Feb 4, 2007 11:41 AM
7Jman might be right, but people in the west of Ukraine will kill him for saying this.
The situation is kind of ridiculous, Ukraine is basically a bi-lingual country (okay I forget about Hungarian, Roma, Polish, Romanian and Tatar for a second) Make both languages official and everybody will be happy. Now suddenly teachers are forced to start teaching in Ukrainian in DOnetsk for example, where no-one speaks or will ever speak Ukrainian, it's 100% Russian. No wonder the east is starting to talk about seperation.
Feb 5, 2007 3:39 PM
8I don't speak Russian or Ukranian but on my trip to the Ukraine I found even those Ukranians that did not speak a word of English to be very helpful, mostly. If I needed anything specific I would have someone at the hotel/hostel write it down for me, I found this method particularly helpful for train booking.
Feb 19, 2007 4:42 PM
9The best is Russian because at Crimea it is mostly spoken. In Kiev 9,5 out 10 speak it.
For help at The Crimean peninsula with this I advice to see here and here.
I see that jman does not live in west, because he tell this without worry?
There are also towns in Ukraine where people get educated! See sevastopol. I live here and most of our friends and business partners speak English or German. But at the other hand there are in this town 19 universities!
The Devil is right with the Ukrainian language. Sevastopol is the only town in Ukraine where Russian is the first official language. The second tatar and then Ukrainian with about 0,9 %
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