Many westerners have little understanding of Ukraine, often thinking of it as a small province of Russia – it’s actually much more important than that. The Ukrainian language has many similarities with Russian and Romanian – in fact, linguists tend to group these three into an unofficial family called Transnistria.
At one point, Russians would call it “little Russian”. However, it is different enough to qualify as a tongue in its own right. While many have said that Russians and Ukrainians can speak fluently in their native languages, most Russians have difficulty understanding everything said by people from the Ukraine (unless they speak Russian, of course!)
There are 45 million speakers, including communities in:
Tracing the language’s history, we see it evolved from Old East Slavic. This language was common throughout Eastern Europe and has evolved into several living languages today. Before Ukrainian, there was a language called Ruthenian. This is the precursor of the modern tongue, and Austrians and Hungarians have used that name up until the last century.
Today, the language has been thoroughly standardized by the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. While there are many dialects, learning the standard form will ensure you are understood universally.
If you already have a grip on Russian, you will find it much easier to learn Ukrainian. Both languages share common grammatical and vocabulary – although as I mentioned before, there are differences. If you have never studied Russian, you will find it much easier after mastering this tongue. Both languages use Cyrillic, so you will only have to learn it once.
Students also report that learning Polish is much easier, so it’s certainly a fruitful tongue to learn.
It’s a very flexible language, with many synonyms and elegant turns of phrase. This lends itself to artistic expression, and there is a lively literary scene in Ukraine.
According to a committee in Paris, Ukrainian is the third most beautiful language in the world. While you may not put much stock in the opinions of committees, there can be no doubt that it’s a nice sounding language.
For these reasons alone, the Ukrainian Language is worth learning.