About Learning Ukrainian with Berlitz
Ukrainian is the national language of Ukraine. It is spoken by the country’s Ukrainian population of 35 million people, but many Ukrainians consider Russian to be their first language and prefer to use it in daily life. This is also largely true of the more than one million Ukrainians living in Russia. Other former Soviet republics with large Ukrainian populations are Kazakhstan (750,000) and Moldova (250,000). There are also many Ukrainian speakers in Belarus and Poland, as well as in Canada (mainly Alberta and Saskatchewan) and the United States.
The use of Ukrainian was severely repressed in Soviet times from 1930 onward, but at independence in 1990 it was made the country’s sole official language. Since then the government has aggressively encouraged, and even required, its use in official circles and in the schools. But this is meeting resistance from Russian speakers, who are content to have no more than a working knowledge of the language.
Like Russian, Ukrainian is a Slavic language and thus part of the Indo- European family. The dialects of the western part of the country contain many Polish words; those of the east, Russian. It is written in the Cyrillic alphabet, with three additional letters not found in Russian: the e, pronounced ye as in “yet,” the i, pronounced ee as in “meet,” and the ï, pronounced ye as in “year.”