Ukrainian (Украïнська мoва – “ukrayins’ka mova”) is the official language of Ukraine and is also the mother tongue of people of Ukrainian ancestry living in neighbouring countries (e.g. Belarus, Romania, Russia). Because of immigration during the 19th and 20th century, native speakers of Ukrainian also live in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States among other countries. Estimates for the total number of native speakers vary between 42 and 47 million. This number however may be suspect since some people (especially in eastern Ukraine) who report native compеtency in Ukrainian may more accurately be described as native speakers of a mixed Russo-Ukrainian idiom or Russian with some Ukrainian influence (see “Varieties/Dialects”).
Linguists classify Ukrainian as an Eastern Slavonic language and linguistic relatives are Belorussian, Russian and Rusyn. Other Slavonic languages such as Bulgarian and Czech are less closely-related. There is some mutual intelligibility between Ukrainian and the other Eastern Slavonic languages (especially Rusyn) but the exact level of mutual intelligibility depends on the background of the speakers involved. In turn, Slavonic languages are part of the Balto-Slavonic group within the larger Indo-European family of languages. Distant linguistic relatives of Ukrainian thus include Albanian, Armenian, Bengali, Greek, Icelandic, Portuguese, and Welsh.
Ukrainians are generally assimilated into the European millieu and most modern Ukrainians are physically indistinguishable from people of neighbouring lands. The territory of modern Ukraine has been inhabited at least since Antiquity by people speaking various Indo-European, Uralic or Altaic languages. Thus modern Ukrainians are an amalgam of several ethnic groups notwithstanding their use of a Slavonic language and identification to Orthodox Christianity as traditional for most other Eastern Slavs. Orthodox Christianity took a lasting hold on religious life toward the end of the 10th century AD and the territory of modern Ukraine formed part of Kyivan Rus’ – a large medieval Eastern European state which was an early predecessor of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.
It is useful in Ukraine and areas where Ukrainian is spoken (i.e. immigrant communities). As Ukrainian is not a common choice as a foreign language for non-Ukrainian learners, some educated Ukrainians younger than 30 years of age speak at least some English. Comparatively fewer have some ability in Polish. On the other hand most Ukrainians regardless of age have at least passive command of Russian. Indeed, Russian is widely spoken in Ukraine and its use is such that much of eastern and southern Ukraine has areas where Russian is the mother tongue of a substantial minority (if not outright majority) of the population. In these areas it is even possible to meet people whose ability in Ukrainian lags so far behind that in Russian that they are monolingual Russian-speakers for all intents and purposes.
Knowledge of Ukrainian would acquaint the learner with features that are characteristic of Slavonic languages. Such knowledge would provide a definite advantage in learning Belorussian, Russian or Rusyn in particular. There is somewhat less of an advantage when learning less closely-related Slavonic languages such as Bulgarian or Czech.
Ukrainian dialects are divided into three groups: Northern, Southeastern and Southwestern. The modern standard language is based mainly on Southeastern sub-dialects called Middle Dniprian used in central Ukraine which includes Kyiv. The sub-dialectal groups of Eastern Polissian (northern group) and Slobodan (southeastern group) are transitional to Russian, while West Polissian (northern group) is close to Belorussian and its use in Belarus with Belorussian grammar marks it to some as a Belorussian dialect. There is also a language used more frequently in rural settings called суржик (‘surzhyk’) literally meaning flour of mixed grains but assuming the figurative meaning of a mixed language. Surzhyk can be seen as a form of Ukrainian with noticeable Russian influence (or perhaps a form of Russian with noticeable Ukrainian influence).
The classification of Rusyn is somewhat controversial in linguistic scholarship as Ukrainian linguists usually consider Rusyn to be a dialect in the Southwestern group rather than as a separate Eastern Slavonic language on the same level as Belorussian, Russian and Ukrainian.
Learning with a background in other languages
According to FSI, it takes approximately 1100 class hours to achieve professional speaking and reading proficiency in Ukrainian. It follows from FSI’s scale that the degree of difficulty in learning Ukrainian for a monolingual speaker of English is roughly the same as that of the other Slavonic languages as well as Amharic, Greek, Icelandic, Tagalog or Zulu among several others.
As suggested in the section on intelligibility, learners with a background in other Slavonic languages will find learning Ukrainian less onerous to various degrees depending on how similar it is to the Slavonic languages that they know.
Mobile stress was the most difficult aspect of Ukrainian for me to deal with in my studies. Difficulty may also arise when trying to understand verbal aspect, verbs of motion, syntax, declension or to retain vocabulary. However these aspects should not be overly difficult for someone who already has at least an intermediate-level grasp of another Slavonic language.
Stress placement in Ukrainian is not fixed and not marked in print with the exception of some dictionaries and textbooks for foreigners. Pronouncing words with the incorrect stress placement at best may not severely impede understanding, but at worse in other instances may lead to some misunderstandings or looks of puzzlement from Ukrainians.
- - Прoшу! = “please”, “here you go!”, “you’re welcome!” (stress on medial o)
- Прошу = “I ask...” (stress on final y)
The details of Ukrainian stress are also important when forming the imperative. Its formation depends not only on the verbal stem in the present tense of the 2nd person singular but also the stress placement in the present tense for the 1st person singular.
If the present tense ending of the 1st person singular bears the stress and the present tense ending of the 2nd person singular is -еш or -иш, then the imperative endings are:
- -и (2nd person singular)
-ім(о) (1st person plural)
-іть (2nd person plural)
(N.B. bolded vowel bears stress)
- - брати “to take”
- беру “I take” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- берeш “you take” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- берy! “Take!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- берiм(о)! “Let’s take!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- берiть! “Take!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
- робити “to do”
- роблю “I do” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- рoбиш “you do” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- роби! “Do!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- робiм(о)! “Let’s do!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- рoбiть! “Do!” (Imperative, 2nd person pl.)
If the present tense ending of the 1st person singular does NOT bear the stress and the present tense ending of the 2nd person singular is -еш or -иш, then the imperative endings are as follows:
- - / -ь (2nd person singular - no ending or softening to the final consonant)
-(ь)мо (1st person plural)
-(ь)те (2nd person plural)
(N.B. bolded vowel bears stress)
- - вибачити “to forgive”
- вибачу “I forgive” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- вибачиш “you forgive” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- вибач! “Forgive!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- вибачмо! “Let’s forgive!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- вибачте! “Forgive!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
- лягти “to lie down”
- ляжу “I lie down” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- ляжеш “you lie down” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- ляж! “Lie down!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- ляжмо! “Let’s lie down!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- ляжте! “Lie down!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
If the present tense ending of the 2nd person singular is -єш, -іш, or -ïш, then the imperative endings are as follows regardless of the stress position in the present tense, 1st person singular:
- -й (2nd person singular - no ending or softening to the final consonant)
-ймо (1st person plural)
-йте (2nd person plural)
- - працювaти “to work”
- працюю “I work” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- працюєш “you work” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- працюй! “Work!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- працюймо! “Let’s work!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- працюйте! “Work!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
- сідaти “to sit down”
- сідaю “I sit down” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- сідaєш “you sit down” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- сідaй! “Sit down!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- сідaймо! “Let’s sit down!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- сідaйте! “Sit down!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
- стояти “to stand”
- стою “I stand” (present tense, 1st person sing.)
- стоïш “you stand” (present tense, 2nd person sing.)
- стiй! “Stand!” (imperative, 2nd person sing.)
- стiймо! “Let’s stand!” (imperative, 1st person pl.)
- стiйте! “Stand!” (imperative, 2nd person pl.)
Note that there are exceptions with certain verbs not following these rules.
In general, mobile stress tends to be best learned through practice and/or careful study. Learning to pronounce Ukrainian words with the correct stress placement should not be neglected by the learner, no matter how unintuitive or difficult it may seem.
A learner may initially also have some difficulty getting accustomed to Ukrainian alternations, especially between the prepositions в and у, and the conjunctions і and й.
Overview of grammar
There is no general restriction on where stress can fall in a word. The placement of stress in a Ukrainian word must be learned through practice, careful study or exposure. There is some vowel reduction in Ukrainian yet it is not as prominent as in Russian (or English for that matter), and many unstressed vowels are pronounced very similarly to their stressed versions.
Like most other Slavonic languages, Ukrainian has elaborate inflection for nouns and adjectives.
There are seven cases for nouns and adjectives: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, instrumental and vocative.
There are two numbers: singular and plural.
There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter.
There are three moods: indicative, conditional and imperative.
There are two voices: active and passive.
There are four tenses: pluperfect, past, present and future. However the pluperfect is not frequently used and much of its function can be assumed by the past tense with suitable adverbs.
There are two verbal aspects: imperfective and perfective. These aspects deal with the concept of whether the verb describes an action that was/is/will be repetitive/ongoing or an action that was/is/will be completed. This means that most actions are expressed with an imperfective and a corresponding perfective verb.
Because of Ukrainian’s inflective nature, personal subject pronouns may in certain instances be omitted unless the speaker wishes to emphasize or clarify the subject of a sentence. However it shows greater similarity to Belorussian or Russian than to other Slavonic languages in that it uses personal subject pronouns more frequently than otherwise the case would be.
Syntax is usually with the verb in the second position but this can change depending on the focus or nuance that a speaker wishes to convey. Thus, syntax can be rather flexible compared to English as much of the relevant grammatical information of a sentence is revealed in the declensions, conjugations, suffixes and prefixes of the words. Syntax is also affected by enclitics or particles and there is a strict order when using them.
Nouns tend to follow the attributive adjectives that describe them.
- украïнська мoва “Ukrainian language”
Spelling is fairly phonemic but it does not account for the few instances of vowel reduction nor does it give clues about the location of stress. The script is a modified form of the Cyrillic alphabet which is as follows:
Аа Бб Вв Гг Ґґ Дд Ее Єє Жж Зз Ии Іі Її Йй Кк Лл Мм Нн Оо Пп Рр Сс Тт Уу Фф Хх Цц Чч Шш Щщ Ьь Юю Яя
It is similar to the Cyrillic scripts of other Slavonic languages. Compared to the Russian alphabet, Ukrainian has the following symbols which are unknown to Russian.
- ґ pronounced like “g” in “go”
є pronounced like “ye” in “yes”
і pronounced like 'ea' in 'meat”
ï pronounced like 'yea' in “yeast”
In addition, the Ukrainian symbol г is pronounced like “h” in “hotel”. This sound is absent from standard Russian.
The graphemes ъ, ы, э and ë do not exist in the modern Ukrainian alphabet as they do in the Russian alphabet.
In addition to native words originating from Proto-Slavonic, Ukrainian has a sizeable stock of loanwords from Polish and Russian because of the long influence of these languages on Ukrainians. There are also some loanwords from other European languages (e.g. French, German, Greek) and Turkic languages.
Some words common to other Slavonic languages but not direct loanwords into Ukrainian include:
- - де "where" || дзе (Belorussian); gd(j)e (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian); где (Bulgarian, Russian); kde (Czech, Slovak); каде (Macedonian); gdzie (Polish); kje (Slovenian)
- жити "to live" || жыць (Belorussian); živ(j)eti (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian); žít (Czech); żyć (Polish); жить (Russian); žiť (Slovak); živeti (Slovenian) [Cf. живея "I live" (Bulgarian); живеам Macedonian)]
- жінка "wife" || жонка (Belorussian); żona (Polish); жена (Russian); žena (Slovenian) [Cf. žena "woman" (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Slovak); жена id. (Bulgarian, Macedonian)]
- ити "to go" || ісці (Belorussian); ići (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian); jít (Czech); iść (Polish); идти (Russian); ísť (Slovak); iti (Slovenian) [Cf. ида "I go" (Bulgarian - literary); одам id. (Macedonian)]
- нога "leg" (same spelling as in Macedonian and Russian) || нага (Belorussian); noga (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian, Polish, Slovenian); noha (Czech, Slovak)
- риба "fish" (same spelling as in Bulgarian and Macedonian) || рыба (Belorussian, Russian); riba (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian); ryba (Czech, Polish, Slovak)
- три "three" (same spelling as in Bulgarian, Macedonian and Russian) || тры (Belorussian); tri (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Slovenian); tři (Czech); trzy (Polish)
- чоловік "husband" [Cf. чалавек "person" (Belorussian); čov(j)ek id. (BCMS/Serbo-Croatian); човек id. (Bulgarian, Macedonian); člověk id. (Czech); človek id. (Slovak, Slovenian); człowiek id. (Polish); человек id. (Russian)]
A few words that entered Ukrainian from Polish include:
- - дякую! “thank you!” < dziękuję! [Cf. děkuji (Czech); ďakujem (Slovak)] (This is a loan into Slavonic languages from German. Cf. Danke!)
- жартувати “to joke” < żartować [Cf. žertovat (Czech); žartovať (Slovak)]
- навіт “even” < nawet
- так “yes” < tak
Words with Russian connections are most apparent in the stock of “internationalisms” in Ukrainian dating from the industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuries or words associated with communist domination in the 20th century. Ascertaining the Russian connection (if applicable) in Ukrainian words that are attested before the 18th century may be difficult as one must determine whether one is dealing with early Russian loanwords in Ukrainian or words that are common to Eastern Slavonic languages by virtue of being part of the ancestral language.
- - воксал “railroad station” (same spelling in Russian) [N.B. This word may have entered Russian from the English name "Vauxhall" or "Faukeshall"]
- колектив “collective” < коллектив
- матеріал “material” < материал
- проблема “problem” (same spelling in Russian)
- революція “revolution” < революция
As mentioned earlier there exists the transitional language of Surzhyk which is rather common in rural settings but it can also be encountered in urban settings with native speakers ostensibly communicating in Ukrainian but with noticeable Russian influence. This may confuse a learner further into finding out which word is “proper” Ukrainian since a Russian word as conforming to Ukrainian phonology may be perceived as being a codified or acceptable Ukrainian one. Knowledge of Russian may be more helpful for communicative purposes than expected but there are still false friends or near-false friends between standard Ukrainian and standard Russian
- Ukrainian || Russian
- безпечний “safe” || беспечный “carefree”
- година “hour” || година “era”, “period (of time)”
- дума “ballad”; “thought”; “council” || Дума “(representative assembly of Russian federal government)”
- лук “bow” (weapon) || лук “onions (collective noun)”; “bow” (weapon)
- лупа “dandruff” || лупа “magnifying glass”
- люлька “tobacco-pipe” || люлька “cradle” (archaic)
- неділя “Sunday” || неделя “week”
- орати “to plow” || орать “to yell”
- питати “to ask” || пытать “to torture”; питать “to feed”
- родина “(extended) family” || родина “homeland”
- рушити “to move” || рушить “to destroy”, “to tear down”
- час “time” || час “hour”
Ukrainian uses a two-way T-V distinction like most other Slavonic languages. To address one person politely or formally, one uses the 2nd person plural instead of the 2nd person singular. For addressing more than one person, the 2nd person plural forms are used regardless of the level of formality or politeness. In addition, it is usual when addressing a person formally or politely to use either a title (i.e. пан ~ "Mr." or пані ~ "M(r)s.") or a person's patronymic. The former custom occurs more often in western Ukraine on account of Polish influence while the latter is typical in the rest of the country and is characteristic of Eastern Slavonic languages.
- - Добрий день, пане Шевчук / пані Боднарчук! Як життя? "Hello, Mr. Shevchuk / Mrs. Bodnarchuk! How are you?"
- Добрий день, пане Петре / пані Оксано! Як життя? "Hello, (Mr.) Petro! / (M(is)s) Oksana! How are you?"
- Добрий день, Петре Івановичу / Оксано Петрівно! Як життя? "Hello, Petro Ivanovych* / Oksana Petrivna*! How are you?" (*Іванович means "son of Іван"; Петрівна means "daughter of Петро")
- Привіт, Олю! Як справи? "Hi, Olya! How're things?"
See 'Difficulties' for other comments on grammar
Mutual intelligibility with other languages
Most English-speaking learners will find little in Ukrainian that is instantly familiar at the outset apart from the occasional internationalism (e.g. комп'ютер ("computer"), туалет ("toilet") шаурма ("shwarma")) but even these internationalisms may not be recognizable to anyone unfamiliar with a Cyrillic alphabet.
Ukrainian is intelligible in varying degrees to native speakers of other Slavonic languages without courses or special training with this "untrained intelligibility" highest when one knows Belorussian or Rusyn. Here are some hints that may help with making sense of Ukrainian for people speaking at least one Slavonic language other than Ukrainian.
- 1) Ukrainian cognates of words found in Slavonic languages tend to have -i- for -a-, -e- or -o-. Two common sources for this trend to -i- are that Ukrainians in the past frequently began to pronounce vowels in closed syllables (i.e. the syllable ends in a consonant) as well as the vowel “yat” (ѣ - likely pronounced as long ‘æ’) from Late-Proto-Slavonic in any position as -i-. For speakers of BCMS/SC, Ukrainian is strongly ikavian like certain dialects in western Croatia, central Bosnia and northern Serbia.
- a) i as a result of “narrowing” of vowels in closed syllables.
- Бачите лід? “Do you see the ice?” (Ukrainian) (Cf. Бачыце лёд? (Belorussian); Vidite li led? (BCMS/SC); Виждате ли лед? (Bulgarian); Vidíte led? (Czech); Czy widzicie lód? (Polish); Видите лед? (Russian); Vidíte ľad? (Slovak); Vidite led? (Slovenian))
- Він був під столом. “He was under the table.” (Ukrainian) (Cf. On był pod stołem. (Polish); Он был под столом. (Russian); On je bil pod mizo. (Slovenian))
- Піду додому “I will go home” (Ukrainian) (Cf. Пайду дадому (Belorussian); Рůjdu domů (Czech))
b) i as a reflex of “yat” (Cf. ikavica to speakers of BCMS/SC)
- Дівчина стоїть на річці. (Ukrainian); Divojka stoji u rici (BCMS/SC - Ikavian) “The girl is standing in the river.” (Cf. Djevojka stoji u rijeci. (BCMS/SC - Ijekavian); Девушка стоит в реке. (Russian); Dievča stojí v rieke. (Slovak))
- Літo не триває довго. “Summer does not last long.” (Ukrainian) (Cf. Летa не доўжыцца доўга. (Belorussian); Лето не трае долго. (Macedonian); Lato nie trwa długo. (Polish))
2) Similar to Belorussian, Czech, Upper Sorbian, Rusyn and Slovak, the Late Proto-Slavonic g often became pronounced as h in contrast to all Southern Slavonic languages, Polish, Lower Sorbian and Russian which did not go through such a change.
- - гуска “goose” (Ukrainian - г is pronounced like “h” in “hotel”) (Cf. гусь (Belorussian - г is pronounced like “h” in “hotel”); guska (BCMS/SC); гъска (Bulgarian - г is pronounced like “g” in “go”); husa (Czech); гуска (Macedonian - г is pronounced like “g” in “go”); gęś (Polish); hus (Slovak, Upper Sorbian); gos (Slovenian); gus (Lower Sorbian))
- круг “circle” (Ukrainian - г is pronounced like “h” in “hotel”) (Cf. круг (Belorussian - г is pronounced like “h” in “hotel”); krug (BCMS/SC); кръг (Bulgarian - г is pronounced like “g” in “go”); kruh (Czech, Slovak, Upper Sorbian); круг (Macedonian, Russian - г is pronounced like “g” in “go”); krąg (Polish); krog (Slovenian))
3) Eastern Slavonic languages often went through a change whereby the old combination of l-/r- plus vowel began to be expanded in being preceded by a second vowel. (e.g. -la- > -olo-, -ræ- > -ere-)
- - голова “head” (Ukrainian) (Cf. галава (Belorussian); glava (BCMS/SC, Slovenian); глава (Bulgarian, Macedonian); hlava (Czech, Slovak); głowa (Polish, Lower Sorbian); голова (Russian); hłowa (Upper Sorbian))
- берег “shore” (Ukrainian, Russian) (Cf. бераг (Belorussian); br(ij)eg (BCMS/SC); бряг (Bulgarian); břeh (Czech); брег (Macedonian); brzeg (Polish); breh (Slovak); breg (Slovenian); brjog (Lower Sorbian); brjoh (Upper Sorbian))
4) Like Belorussian, Ukrainian can express the future tense of an imperfective verb by attaching the infix -м- plus the personal ending to the infinitive in addition to the alternative method which is a combination of the verb “to be” in future tense plus infinitive as is encountered in Western Slavonic languages and Russian.
- “She will be reading.”
- Яна чытаціме. versus Яна будзе чытаць. (Belorussian)
- Вона читатиме. versus Вона буде читати. (Ukrainian)
- - Onа bude číst. (Czech)
- Ona będzie czytać. (Polish - alternative to Ona będzie czytała.)
- Она будет читать. (Russian)
- Ona bude čítať. (Slovak)
5) The ending in present tense for the first person plural is the same as in BCMS/SC and Slovenian (i.e. -мо (-mo))
- “We are going home.”
- Йдемо додому. (Ukrainian)
- Іdemo kući. (BCMS/SC)
- Gremo domov. (Slovenian)
- - Iдзем дадому. (Belorussian)
- Идем у дома. (Bulgarian)
- Jdeme domů. (Czech)
- Idziemy do domu. (Polish)
- Одиме дома. (Macedonian)
- Идем домой. (Russian)
- Ideme domov. (Slovak)
Literature / Media / Film / Music
For the learner of Ukrainian, there is plenty authentic material from Ukrainian culture that could enhance or enrich the learning experience.
A music lover who is learning Ukrainian can use Ukrainian songs to enhance understanding of the language, while also enjoying the creative efforts of Ukrainian musicians. Some popular musicians or ensembles include the rock bands Плач Єремії (Plach Yeremiyi) and Воплі Відоплясова (Vopli Vidoplyasova), the fusion group Мандри (Mandry), and the hip-hop group THMK (short for Танок на майдані Конґо – “Dance at Congo Square”). Ukrainian folk music draws on a long tradition and is especially prominent given its influence into Ukrainian pop music and maintenance in sometimes modified forms by musicians from the Ukrainian diaspora.
Ukrainian literature traces its origin to the medieval state of Kyivan Rus’ in the forms of oral tradition as well as translations of religious texts. Important figures in Ukrainian literature include Taras Shevchenko (poet/painter and effectively a founder of modern Ukrainian literature is renowned for his collection of poetry Кобзар (The Bard) among other works), Ivan Franko (writer known especially for his works inspired by Ukrainian nationalism) and Lesya Ukrainka (poet and playwright whose play Бояриня (The Noblewoman) is based on events in Ukrainian history).
Movies in Ukrainian can also provide a helpful diversion for students learning Ukrainian, although Ukrainian cinema is not very well-known outside Ukraine. Notable Ukrainian films include Тіні забутих предків (Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors), Пропала Грамота (The Lost Letter) and Аврорa (Aurora).
- 1) Teach Yourself Ukrainian (Olena Bekh and James Dingley)
- It comes with two CDs and a textbook and costs about $40 US on Amazon.
- What I enjoy about this course is that it has lively dialogues, a user-friendly presentation to grammar and many exercises compared to most other courses in the “Teach Yourself” series. The back of the book contains the answer key, and a small but useful word list of Ukrainian to English. The list is particularly useful since the authors took the time to provide some inflectional information for most Ukrainian words where applicable so that one can start to learn how to use a word to its full extent. In this respect it exceeds the quality of some English-Ukrainian/Ukrainian-English dictionaries which show only the basic form of every Ukrainian entry.
- A shortcoming of the course is that it doesn’t provide that many exercises (in my opinion). When compared to a few other books in the “Teach Yourself...” series (especially “Teach Yourself Czech” or “Teach Yourself Estonian”), “Teach Yourself Ukrainian”’s rather low number of exercises becomes apparent.
- A potential (albeit minor) shortcoming of this course is the emphasis on situations encountered more frequently by tourists or business travellers (e.g. hotel reservations, shopping). This aspect may irk some users who wish to learn Ukrainian for “less practical” reasons.
2) Colloquial Ukrainian (Ian Press and Stefan M. Pugh)
- It comes with two CDs or cassettes and a textbook and costs about $50 US on Amazon.
- The audio for the latest edition can also be obtained as a free download from the publisher, Routledge.
- The course follows the pattern of other books in the “Colloquial” series with each chapter containing dialogues, some notes on grammar and exercises. Answers and word lists (English-to-Ukrainian and vice-versa) come at the end of the book along with appendices on certain grammatical topics.
- Compared to “Teach Yourself Ukrainian”, “Colloquial Ukrainian” is thicker but burdened by a somewhat verbose style. In addition the glossary at the back of the book do not contain all of the vocabulary as presented step-by-step in the lessons’ word-lists.
- Like “Teach Yourself Ukrainian”, “Colloquial Ukrainian” suffers from the same problem of having relatively few exercises. While “Colloquial...” is about 80 pages thicker than “Teach Yourself...” much of the extra space is taken up by appendices (not to mention the verbose writing style). The actual lessons in each book are spread out on about 250 pages.
3) Modern Ukrainian (Assya Humesky)
- For a serious student of Ukrainian, this is a useful combination of a reference grammar and beginning-level textbook. It costs approximately $40 US on Amazon.
- It is used for Ukrainian courses in some North American universities and as such is better suited for classrooms rather than people learning on their own.
- Each of the 20 chapters begins with a few short texts or dialogues before ending with a set of exercises. Between the dialogues and exercises are concise notes on grammar.
- What I enjoy most about the course is that it backs up its somewhat dense presentation on Ukrainian grammar with many exercises. I find that its grammatical explanations are even clearer and more helpful than those in “Colloquial Ukrainian” or “Teach Yourself Ukrainian”. The word lists at the back are English-to-Ukrainian and Ukrainian-to-English.
- A couple of large shortcomings are that it does not usually come with audio and that there are no answer keys. People using this book must have access to a native speaker to give feedback on the exercises. The accompanying 12 CDs for the course can be ordered from the University of Michigan’s Language Resource Center for $120 US plus shipping. Supplementary materials for the book can be bought from Foreign Language Publications at Ohio State University (see “Links” at the bottom of this profile).
4) Ukrainian for Speakers of English (Roma Franko)
- It is a kit of a textbook, two workbooks and a CD by a professor who worked at a Canadian university. It may be difficult to find on Amazon but it can be bought from “Language Learning Publications” in cooperation with Detselig Enterprises Inc. for about $80 Cdn. (see “Links” at the bottom of this profile for the URL of the publisher).
- This is a very thorough but somewhat dry course in beginning-level Ukrainian designed to take a person up to an intermediate-level command of Ukrainian. The textbook’s size (a spiral-bound book of 794 pages on 8.5 in. x 11 in.-sized paper) means that the course has rather short chapters (40 in all).
- The grammatical explanations are very concise and are supplemented by many exercises thus making the course quite suitable for those accustomed to drilling or needing a lot of practice to help with retaining Ukrainian. The workbooks consist broadly of translation or substitution (including “fill-in-the-blanks”) type exercises.
- Two large shortcomings of the course are that there are no answer keys and that the audio accompanying the kit consists of a CD with pronunciation exercises from the introductory chapter. Any prospective learner should have access to a native speaker who can correct the learner’s answers to the assigned exercises. The audio for the remaining chapters and exercises however might be obtainable by contacting Dr. Franko herself (see “Links” at the bottom of the profile for her contact information).
5) Ukrainian: A Comprehensive Grammar (Stefan M. Pugh and Ian Press)
- This is an useful but somewhat verbose guide to Ukrainian grammar. Those familiar with the writing style of “Colloquial Ukrainian” should already be accustomed to the wordiness seeing that Pugh and Press are co-authors of that book too.
- It gives a systematic presentation of Ukrainian grammar with plenty of lists showing inflectional patterns. The explanation of grammar is somewhat technical but should not be beyond the ability of anyone who’s learning Ukrainian independently.
- Compared to otherwise similar books in Routledge’s series of grammar handbooks (e.g. “Finnish: An Essential Grammar”, “Polish: An Essential Grammar”), the handbook for Ukrainian is written in a way that would appeal slightly more to those interested in linguistics than those learning Ukrainian. Nevertheless, it is the only reference book of its kind for Ukrainian that I know of, and I can still recommend it with a few qualifications.
6) Ukrainian-English and English-Ukrainian Dictionary (W. Niniows’kyi)
- This dictionary is a somewhat small bi-directional dictionary meant originally for children studying Ukrainian in elementary or secondary schools (its introduction states there are 23,000 entries in both of the dictionary’s sections). It may be difficult to obtain on Amazon, but it may be obtainable from online Ukrainian bookstores based in North America. Its cost varies between $20 and $40 US with these online shops.
- Advantages of the dictionary are that it has inflectional tables and charts (presumably to help students who are unfamiliar with concepts commonly encountered in non-analytic languages) and the headwords in the Ukrainian-English section each provides hints about inflection or verbal aspect.
- Unfortunately the dictionary is small, as mentioned earlier, and does not show verbs in a way whereby perfective counterparts are matched with imperfective verbs (or vice-versa).
7) English-Ukrainian Dictionary (edited by M. L. Podvez’ko and M. I. Balla)
- This is an old dictionary that may be the largest one of its type that’s easily obtainable for English-speakers learning Ukrainian. However it appears targeted at Ukrainians learning English rather than the other way around with rather minimal information about idiomatic or secondary usages of headwords.
- The dictionary contains about 65,000 entries and may be difficult to find on Amazon. However it may be obtainable from online Ukrainian bookstores based in North America. Its cost there varies between $30 and $60 US.
8) Ukrainian-English Dictionary (edited by C.H. Andrusyshen)
- This is an old dictionary that may be the largest one of its type that’s easily obtainable for English-speakers learning Ukrainian. However it is excellent if not showing its age as it was published in 1955. What exists now are reprints with the latest reprint being from 2004.
- Many of its entries are representative of the speech of Ukrainian émigrés and their forefathers from western Ukraine. Therefore some of its estimated 60,000 entries may be considered non-standard in modern Ukraine.
- The high quality of the dictionary lies in Andrusyshen’s decision to provide inflectional information beside almost all entries, usually including the explicit indication of perfective verbs beside headwords that are imperfective verbs. The dictionary also contains inflectional tables of model nouns, pronouns and verbs.
- It may be difficult to obtain on Amazon but it may be obtainable from bookstores dealing with foreign languages such as Schoenhof’s or Bay Foreign Language Books Ltd. The dictionary may also be available from the bookstore of the University of Toronto since the dictionary’s publisher is University of Toronto Press. The cost of the dictionary varies between $40 US to $60 US.
*As with other languages, AVOID getting the Ukrainian dictionary that is published by Hippocrene Books. Hippocrene's Ukrainian dictionary is inadequate and contains even less information than the free online Ukrainian dictionaries that I have listed under the section "Online material and links to information of interest".
There are other courses, dictionaries or guides of Ukrainian for independent learners. Unfortunately I have not had a chance to examine these other materials in person. Professor Robert A. De Lossa has however written an essay about materials used to teach Ukrainian in the USA, including some of the material that I’ve reviewed in this section plus several others. The Ukrainian Language Education Center in Canada has also issued a review of several Ukrainian courses available to English-speakers. See “Online material and links to information of interest” at the bottom of this profile for links to the evaluations.
As hinted in the description of Andrusyshen’s dictionary, some materials found in the English-speaking world (e.g. Roma Franko’s course, Niniows’kyi’s dictionary) are actually the work of Ukrainian émigrés and in some places reflect a greater bias toward constructions or words that may be deemed today to be archaic or Polonisms. Indeed, most of these Ukrainian émigrés descend from immigrants originating from what is now western Ukraine adjacent to Poland. Their native dialects historically showed a greater influence from Polish or German but had less influence on the formation of standard Ukrainian compared to southeastern or even northern dialects of Ukrainian.
ii) Online material and links to information of interest
- Discussions on how-to-learn-any-language.com dealing with the relationship between Ukrainian and Russian or relations between speakers of each of Ukrainian and Russian in Ukraine:
- Help with Ukrainian
- Is Ukrainian easier than Russian?
- Language situation in Ukraine
- Russian and Ukrainian
- Russian and Ukrainian- why not dialects?
- Russian or Ukrainian?
- Ukrainian vs. Russian
- What's the Difference between Russian...
Discussions on WordReference dealing with differences between Russian and Ukrainian:
- Distinguishing Ukrainian & Belarusian from Russian (upon hearing)
- Russian/Ukrainian: Differences
- Ukrainian: A unified language?
- Unilang's Ukrainian forum
General treatment and descriptions of Ukrainian's learning difficulty
- Brief description of the current situation in Ukraine of Ukrainian and Russian
- Wikipedia's article on the language.
- For a website on language difficulty for native speakers of English
Dictionaries and other databases
- A monolingual inflectional dictionary of Ukrainian. Entries include information about placement of stress in additional to the inflection of the word.
- A monolingual descriptive dictionary of standard Ukrainian with limited hints about inflection of headwords.
- Online dictionaries between English and Ukrainian
Online courses, downloadable material or lists of available courses
- List of learning materials for Ukrainian with bibliographical information and reviews by the Ukrainian Language Education Center at the University of Alberta (Canada)
- List of learning materials for Ukrainian with bibliographical information and reviews by Professor Robert A. De Lossa.
- UCLA’s page on Ukrainian as part of the Language Materials Project. Use the search engine above the profile to see a list of learning material for Ukrainian as well as links to portals and websites related to Ukraine.
- Audio of Ukrainian songs from Indiana University as .mp3 files (may require password)
- Online course of basic Ukrainian for foreigners
- Online course “Read Ukrainian!”
- Ukrainian: Language Competencies for Peace Corps Volunteers in Ukraine hosted at ERIC
- Lessons in Ukrainian from the Peace Corps
- “In Days Gone By: A Reader” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “In Days Gone By: Student Activity Book” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Conflict: A Reader” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Conflict: Student Activity Book” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Decisions: A Reader” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Decisions: Student Activity Book” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Deeds and Doers: A Reader” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Deeds and Doers: Student Activity Book” Collage 1 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Courage: A Reader” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Courage: Student Activity Book” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Fascination with the Unknown” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Fascination with the Unknown: Student Activity Book” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Human Nature: A Reader” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Human Nature: Student Activity Book” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Relationships: A Reader” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Relationships: Student Activity Book” Collage 2 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “It’s Interesting: A Reader” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “It’s Interesting: Student Activity Book” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Just Imagine: A Reader” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Just Imagine: Student Activity Book” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Laughter and Tears: A Reader” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Laughter and Tears: Student Activity Book” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Two Paths: A Reader” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
- “Two Paths: Student Activity Book” Collage 3 (Ukrainian Language Development Series) hosted at ERIC
Literature and authentic texts
- Large collection of texts from Ukrainian literature in .html or .pdf
- Large collection of fiction and non-fiction in Ukrainian
Stores that deal in Ukrainian books or have material of interest to learners of Ukrainian
- Language Resource Center of the University of Michigan (source for audio for “Modern Ukrainian” by Assya Humesky)
- Foreign Language Publications at Ohio State University (source for supplementary audio, workbooks and readers for “Modern Ukrainian” by Assya Humesky – run a search using the keyword “Ukrainian”)
- Multimedia Ukrainian courses sold as part of the Critical Language Series by the University of Arizona
- Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (includes links to CIUS Press (publisher of several books pertaining to Ukrainian studies including several Ukrainian textbooks for foreigners) and the Ukrainian Language Education Center (publisher of educational material for Ukrainian classes in Canadian elementary and secondary schools))
- Language Lanterns Publications (source for Dr. Roma Franko’s “Ukrainian for Speakers of English” with her contact information in the link)
- List of bookshops or gift shops opened by members of the Ukrainian diaspora.
- Bay Foreign Language Books Ltd.
This is a somewhat modified version of my Ukrainian profile in the "Collaborative Writing" subforum last edited on Dec. 19, 2013 at how-to-learn-any-language.com