Some people say that learning to speak Russian or Ukrainian is hard. Not true! It’s really just as simple as ABЖ…

With this easy 3 step guide, you’ll be conversing with the locals in no time!

Step #1: Learn your alphabet

As you can see, there are just a few strange new letters to learn...

As you can see, there are just a few strange new letters to learn...

The Ukrainian alphabet has a total of 32 letters while Russian has 33. Yes, there are 10 more letters than in English, but it’s really not as bad as it seems (that is, until you start singing the alphabet song, which lasts like ten minutes).

The only hard part you might have is in pronouncing the letters. But don’t worry, let me give you a little example of how easy it is to learn…

Hmmm... Not exactly sure what that says.  Oh well.  I'm sure it's not important!

Hmmm... Not exactly sure what that says. Oh well. I'm sure it's not important!

A lower case ‘n’ is pronounced as a ‘p’. A lower case ‘n’ with a little tail is pronounced as an ‘l’. An upper case ‘N’ that’s backwards is pronounced as ‘ee’, but if the same letter has a squiggle above it, it’s pronounced as ‘ya’. Oh, and since ‘n’ is taken, you pronounce ‘n’ with an upper case ‘H’.

See? Simple!

Step #2: Figure out which language is which

Both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken in Ukraine. Without wanting to put too fine a point on it, the eastern part of the country speaks (and adamantly defends) Russian, while the western part of the country speaks (and adamantly defends) Ukrainian.

In Zhytomyr, which is right in the middle of the country, both Ukrainian and Russian are spoken. Depending on where a person grew up, where they went to school and where they are living now, they might speak Russian, Ukrainian, or both.

A Russian dictionary.  It looks JUST like Ukrainian, doesn't it?

A Russian dictionary. It looks JUST like Ukrainian, doesn't it?

But don’t worry, because the Ukrainian government is trying to help. The law requires all signs and advertisements here to be in Ukrainian, so it’s pretty easy to know what what language you’re looking at when you’re driving down the street.

In fact, the government now requires all Russian TV shows to have Ukrainian subtitles too. So when you watch an afternoon soap opera here, you can actually have no idea what’s going on in two languages!

But in the end, both languages are really similar, so let’s just forget about trying to tell them apart, ok? Why don’t we just move on to Step #3…

As you can tell by MTU's sign, they're used to English speakers hanging around...

As you can tell by MTU's sign, they're used to English speakers hanging around...

Step #3: Fake it!

If someone asks you a question, just answer “Da” (“yes”) and smile knowingly. If they get a strange or confused look on their face, just laugh and say “Nyet, Nyet…” (“no, no”) like you were joking the whole time.

If they still look confused, say “Ya Americanyetz” (“I’m an American”) then whip out a giant American flag, run around the room and smile. That should clear things up.

Ok, in all honesty, I haven’t tried that last bit yet, so I’m not entirely confident that it would work.

But then again, I haven’t needed to. I use an interpreter…

Enjoy this post? Get future updates sent to you for free! Join by email or RSS

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

More posts by Follow Barry on Twitter


Comments

  1. Jo Nading said... 

    Reply

    June 3rd, 2009 at 1:11 pm  

    Hey Barry – I love the way you write. I’ve learned your style and can anticipate (most of the time) where you might be headed with your comments. Of course, that is only when I can almost imagine what you are seeing. Gotta admit that clinking hooves and ankles in a sauce that looks like runny blood and likely smells like some kind of “Indian pickling” – …puke. No offense to the Indian culture – gotta be kinda like those hard boiled eggs soaking in pickled beat juice my aunt always had at Easter. Again – PUKE. At least those didn’t clink. You are probably ready for pickled pig’s feet – surely you can find a recipe, and I’ve seen those hooves packaged in the meat dept. Let me know how that goes! :-)

Leave a Reply