Monday, May 20, 2013

Ukrainian

The Ukrainian release is titled Star Trek: Retribution

We saw the new Star Trek film this weekend. Almost all incoming foreign films are dubbed into Ukrainian, not Russian, which means I usually spend 2 hours floundering along, trying to catch the odd word. This time, though, maybe because of our recent trip to Ukrainian-speaking Poltava?, it was comfortable to listen along. In fact, it felt pretty awesome... until the movie ended and my friends started talking about all these sub-plots I never caught :p At least I figured out who the bad guy was!

Every now and then I start feeling bad for not knowing much Ukrainian. Never mind the fact that any leftover non-teaching/non-blogging time is spent studying Russian or that most of my friends never use Ukrainian, there's something guilt-inducing about not learning a country's language. Locally the case could be made that Russian is just as much an "official" language as Ukrainian, but Russian is still seen as the-language-of-the-invaders in much of the country. And honestly, it's just awkward to be out of the loop when it comes to Ukrainian. The language on the street may be Russian around here, but the metro and street signs, movies, TV, advertising, and official documents are all in Ukrainian.

To those who scratch their heads and say- isn't it pretty much the same language??- you're kind of right.

And wrong.

No, this sign isn't wishing you hello! Нi is Ukrainian for no. This sticker is actually protesting a rise in transportation fare. There's a story about a NATO protest in which Ukrainian activists promoted signs reading "Нi Nato" (No to Nato), which of course looked  more like Hello Nato! to the western press.
I've noticed that people who go with Russian claim to not understand much Ukrainian. A penpal of mine came from Russia to vacation in Ukraine and felt completely linguistically lost. People I know here in Kharkov also back this up, saying their Ukrainian is bad and they can't understand everything in films, etc. Meanwhile, some friends who go with Ukrainian (and use "Kharkiv", not "Kharkov") say these claims are rubbish, that if you understand Russian you should be fine with Ukrainian. Other Ukrainian speakers, though, complain that they can't understand Russian. To my ignorant foreign mind, I'd compare the languages to Spanish and Italian. Sure, they're close enough to communicate (did this awkwardly once with a couple off a cruise ship), but without doubt not the same language.

Oh, let's not forget surzhik, a third (psuedo?)language which is actually a mixture of Ukrainian and Russian.
Russian language to Ukrainian language: Girl, move over, you're discriminating against me!
The language issue is a hot topic in Ukraine and tempers often flare so I don't want to take any sides. I just wish I knew both languages!
Don't let it burn out! Keep the flame of the mother tongue alive.
So this is me getting back on the Ukrainian horse. And when I do so, these are my theme songs, courtesy of a well-known Ukrainian rock band from Lviv- Okean Elzy. Give them a listen, see what you think!

Like them? Hate them? Drop me a line in the comments! (Especially if you don't understand a word of Ukrainian. It would be interesting to get your take on the songs.)

Another cool way to get in some Ukrainian practice* is by watching Великі перегони, the heavily-advertised Ukrainian version of The Amazing Race, a game show in which contestants race around the world and- if the US show is anything to go off of- scream and yell at each other most of the time. (*One note about Ukrainian reality tv though- often the host will speak Ukrainian and the contestants will speak Russian.)

Several other helpful resources are:



Happy studying!! I'd better get to it as well if I want to see another movie on the big screen : )

11 comments:

  1. I am proud to say that Ukeainian is my native language, and I don't use surzhik in my daily life. As for Russian, I use it at my work, but only in written form, and feel quite shy when I have to speak it orally. When it comes to the problem that Russians don't Understand Ukrainian...well, they CAN learn and understand other languages, which don't have much in common with Russian. And I am pretty sure they just ignore Ukrainian, or think that Ukrainian is "a dialect of Russian", which is totally wrong... People who respect other nation will try their best to put an effort to learn their language.

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    1. Dear Lena, I'm so glad to hear your voice on this one!! : ) You are one of the few true Ukrainian speakers I know. Speaking of which, maybe we can do a future Skype exchange in Ukrainian/English?

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  2. That would be a good idea!

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  3. Мой родной язык - русский! Украинский я знаю хорошо. Я не говорю на нем без особой надобности, но с теми кто говорит на украинском чувствую себя совершенно комфортно. Мне нравятся языки, мне интересно учить их. Иногда я бываю в растерянности от того что ни чего не понимаю, но чаще я испытываю настоящий кайф от общения на других языках. Мало что может сравниться с этим. Изучение языков объеденяет совершенно разных людей, это интересно. Давайте учиться!!!

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    1. я испытываю настоящий кайф от общения на других языках, мало что может сравниться с этим- what beautiful words, Max!

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  4. In my opinion if some russianspeaking Ukrainian citizen say that he or she doesn't understand Ukrainian language they most likely tell a lie (because of their political views, anti-Ukrainian brainwashing supported by some interested parties with foreighn sponsors etc.). I assume the situation if some 80-year-old person, that used to live in totally russian-speaking enviroment, for some reasons remained in independent Ukraine (after USSR collapse) and just unable to learn Ukrainian because of their old brain or a little child born and living somewhere in Crimea in ukrainophobic russian-speaking family, totally isolated from Ukrainian information (books, tv ...) or immigrants - they truely can not understand the language, all others are liars, totally ukrainophobic or mentally retarded. The similar situation with ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians that pretend not to understand Russian language. I'm sure they understand it. I live in Ukrainian-speaking region, my native language is Ukrainian, I totally understand Russian, Belorussian, partially understand Polish and other slavic languages, have being trying to learn English, would like to know Spanish and other languages and in real life I've never met a ukrainian-speaking person that doesn't understand Russian. It's everywhere, on TV, on the Internet, books, newspapers, it's almost impossible not to understand Russian if you was born and live in Ukraine even in Ukrainian-speaking western regions.

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    1. Hi Andrew, nice to see you here again! Thanks to you and Lena and Maxim, I'm getting a much better feel for the linguistic situation in Ukraine. I guess Kharkov is in many ways a little insular bubble of Russian... and most of my time here has been spent between Kharkov and Crimea (relatives), would love to see more of the Ukrainian-speaking areas in the future.

      Thanks again for commenting!

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  5. I am a true Ukrainian myself. My name is Roman Melnychuk, Halychan from Halychyna and I came to the USA when I was 8 years old and have forgotten most of my Ukrainian.. at age 37 I am trying to relearn it.. but its not easy as not many here speak Ukrainian where I live.. even the Zhydy from Ukraine hate Ukrainian and don't want to speak it.

    Someone please pray for me! I feel like a Ukrainian who has no language anymore :(

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    1. Привіт Roman! Can you come visit Ukraine and spend some time rediscovering your roots?

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  6. Please allow me to ad a comment. In South Africa we have 11 official languages. (crazy) of which i can speak two and a half !! lol
    My mother tongue is Afrikaans and the most likely people in Europe to understand me are the Dutch and Flamish. My second language is English which i heard for the first time when i joined the navy. The half language is a language that was created so immigrant workers on the mines would understand each other as working underground is very dangerous if there are not proper communication. However, 90% of this language, called "Fanagalo" is from the biggest black tribe in the RSA. So, where ever you go in South Africa, any person who is not white (Afrikaans or English) will understand you when you address them. Most English and Afrikaans speaking citizens here can't speak any other official South African language (a black language)

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    1. Wow, Wim- that sounds like a very complex situation! Well, hopefully with 2.5 languages already under your belt, a Cyrillic language will be a piece of cake for you :p

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