Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Is Kharkov finally ready for Euro 2012?

Preparations for the Euro 2012 tournament continue to change the face of Kharkov.
A giant new addition near the train station. Sorry, haven't managed to get a shot of this in the daytime yet. I did happen to walk by the afternoon they were installing it- these two guys were hanging on ropes at least 70 feet off the ground, slowly unrolling the banner. The building itself is an intimidating hotel that looks like a ministry building out of Orwell's book 1984.
A Ukrainian friend recently sent me this email:
Did you hear the new English announcements in metro? Do you think they sound like English? I think there are several mistakes there. I made inquiries, and found that it was made by a woman who has nothing to do with English. That is how we save money in Ukraine.

These are the announcements I've heard:
  • "Train is coming. Please move back from the platform's edge."
  • "Doors about to close. Next stop {station name}."
  •  once I heard either "hurry up" or "speed up" as the passengers were boarding
To answer your question, the English appears to be okay. A bit accented, but it gets the point across. It's more natural to say "the doors are closing" and they do forget articles a couple of times (ie, "the doors", "the train") but those are small things. It doesn't have to be perfect so long as people can understand it and get the information that they need. I've seen a couple other minor mistakes, like "1th Hospital" instead of "1st Hospital" and this one word:
sguare? you mean square?
 hey, at least the spelling is consistent!
 but overall Kharkov has done a decent job of trying to English-ify itself.
no problems here!
And I've been enjoying the EURO 2012-themed advertising frenzy, especially on the metro trains. These rhyming ads for an electronics store always make me smile.

The ad on the right spells out the sounds of "I am happy very much" using Ukrainian letters.

D tells me that the one on the left references a dirty rhyme :p

Other changes include the addition of perplexing symbols near the metro and on some streets:
 Luckily there's now a guide to these EURO 2012 symbols on the Kharkov Expats Facebook page (but it's in Russian). Some of the symbols are self-explanatory: metro, bus, airport, train station, playing field. Others are not so easy. The movie theater picture represents the fan zones. P&R... park and ride?

Although Kiev has added wi-fi access to parts of its metro, this is not the case in Kharkov as far as I know.

Slightly older news: Kharkov has changed the metro entry system. Tokens are no longer accepted- now you get either a one-time pass (slip of paper) or a reloadable plastic card. These plastic cards used to be rather plain and dark; now they're friendly-looking and bright and have a map of the metro printed on the back. The machines that sell the passes and cards have also been changed. They've got trilingual stickers on them (Russian, Ukrainian, English, if I remember correctly) and only accept certain denominations of bills. Maybe this is why there's always a line around them?

The metro has been showing TV ads of happy citizens using the metro. Pretty cute! Although... the metro attendants do not stand around and smile in real life- instead, they're usually yelling at someone from behind their desks or flirting with a cute police officer.

PS: One final picture, this one from Odessa. Even though they're not hosting any games, they're still getting in the spirit of things.
Happy Euro 2012, everyone!


  1. Good review! As for metro announcements, you might be interested in Kharkovians perception of them here, and maybe contribute to the discussion.

  2. Missed the link: http://www.kharkovforum.com/showthread.php?t=2224106

    1. Wow, very interesting discussion going on there! It sounds like most people are pretty dismayed by the English announcements. What do you think of them, Roman?

    2. Well, the overall mood of the messages on that forum is pessimistic. But don't let this disinform you: it's usual bias for free polls, when people tend to stay silent if they like the topic, and are expressive in negative comments.

      As for me, the announcements sound innatural for English. It's Engrish after all :)

  3. I was in Kyiv just two days ago and I'd say the city is NOT completely ready for Euro 2012. The first problem is that there is too much rubbish in the streets, too many building brigades are still working and occupy a lot of important streets. As for English in Metro and in street boards, I am also not fond of them, as it seems the announcer sometimes mispronounces Ukrainian names, as well as the voice is not very clear. Needless to say that foreigners will hardly understand things like "vul. Khreshchatyk", "vul. Saksahanskogo" etc.

    1. Do you mean that the English announcements there are being said by a native speaker, someone who can't pronounce the Ukrainian names? There's still a lot of frantic building here too. I guess we'll see what happens! :) Thanks for your observations, Lena!

  4. Lena, about "foreigners will hardly understand things like "vul. Khreshchatyk", "vul. Saksahanskogo" etc."
    For finding path in the city street names should not be translated. And I'm pretty sure that this is the main daily function of street names. Street names' ethymology are then less clear, but it's still feasible to discover it.
    E.g. fan-zone in Vienna's Heldenplatz hardly could have been found, if it's location would have been translated as "Heroes square".

    Kate, thanks for blog layout change - looks better and more readable.

  5. Great pictures! I'm looking forward to following Euro 2012, and I'm hoping everything goes smoothly. Also: "I am happy very much" is ridiculously cute. Love it.

    1. Nice to hear from you, Tara! Are people in Canada / the Canadian press following this event closely?

    2. Somewhat- it depends on how into soccer you are. The games are playing live on TSN, and replayed again in the evening. I think most people have at least a passing interest in it. Carl is pretty into soccer so it's rubbed off on me- we've been watching daily.