Ukraine is bilingual country and people speak on two languages – ukrainian and russian. Official government language – ukrainian, but since the country was a part of USSR, most of people speak russian. Also you should know, depending on country region, each language is more or less preferable between locals. But it’s not a problem, because if one speaks russian it doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand ukrainian and vice versa. Consider the ratio of Russian-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking in different parts of Ukraine.
West. Mostly ukrainian speaking population, especially in the countryside. In a big cities, like Lviv, Lutsk or Uzhgorod living many russian speaking people, so we can call them bilingual also.
East. Nearly 95% russian speaking people, mostly in big cities, like: Kharkov, Zaporozhye and Dnipropetrovsk. People in countryside usually speaks on a mix of both languages.
South. This region always considered as russian speaking. People in big cities, like: Odessa, Nikolaev or Kherson mainly speak russian, but also understand ukrainian. In a small towns or villages usually using both languages, or mix.
North. Bilingual region, but russian language is more in use. Countryside people speak both languages and understand both.
What may be difficult?
The population of big cities in Ukraine more or less good language, whatever: russian or ukrainian. That’s why if you know any of them, you can understand people around. But understand what say people from small towns and villages, could be much harder. These people mixing both languages using russian and ukrainian words simultaneously. This phenomena called “surgik”. So even if you know some of local languages, it may be hard to understand people of countryside.
How to differ ukrainian and russian language?
In Ukraine, many inscribtiptions on shops, transport or street pointer can be made on one of both languages. Of course it produce some misunderstanding, cause both languages are pretty similar. For example, you bought a map of the city on ukrainian and can’t find the street, because street pointer on russian. How to avoid this? First of all remember – ukrainian language has latin letter ( i ), but russian – no. Also russian has special letter ( ы ), that you can’t find in ukrainian.
Basic russian phrases you need for speaking
To not go so far, we chose a channel of russian phrases, that could be useful in Ukraine. Also you can compare it with ukrainian pronounce, to understand the difference. There is no such a big difference in pronunciation for local people, but for all others it probably sounds like totally different languages. Nevertheless, you can use either ukrainian and russian for chatting in Ukraine. The ukrainian language chanel, watch below.
Do locals speak english in Ukraine?
There may appear a problems to chat with locals, because most of Ukraine population doesn’t speak English at all. Nevertheless with some possibility you can find english speaking people, according to next categories:
Adult people over 40 – possibility of knowing English nearly a zero. Usually because these people born in USSR and didn’t studied language at school.
People of age 20-35 – approximately 50% of them can speak english, but it depends of profession and place of living. For example, in countryside this percent is extremely low.
Teenagers – all pupils in Ukraine have english calsses at school, but of course it doesn’t mean they can speak good. At least teenagers may understand what you saying.
Who may speak English when you travel Ukraine?
Drivers – never know english language, don’t even hope they can understand you.
Сonductors – of any transport also don’t speak english, except in special Ukraine trains – Intercity.
Hotels workers – always understand english. So if you need a help, try to find any hotel and ask people on reception.
Police – sometime yes, sometime no. Very hard to predict. Well, certainly in Kiev is higher possibility to find.
Guides – only those who lead the group of foreigners, or young ones.
Cashier – in banks or in airports – as a rule they can speak english. Supermarkets, shops, in train and bus station – not.
Waiters – good restaurant always has english speaking waiters or waitresses.
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