Duolingo: What You Need to Know About Ukrainian Language

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Duolingo was recently reportedThere was a 200% increase of Ukrainian-language users between February 14 and 22.

This language learning site confirms that there was a spike in interest in Ukraine and its language. It also indicates a potential desire to be of assistance in times of turmoil.

Duolingo developed a “need-to-know” guide for learning Ukrainian. It included historical context, common errors, and some tips.

Duolingo identifies Ukrainian as a Slavic language. This means that it is related to languages such Russian, Czech and Polish. While modern Ukrainian is multifaceted, there are some similarities to similar languages. You can also use a Cyrillic version of the alphabeWhile it shares many letters with Russian writing, there are a few letters that can be used to make Ukrainian sounds.

The site reveals that even with these similarities not all neighboring nations speak or understand Ukrainian. Because the Soviet Union, in which the spoken language was Russian, occupied Ukraine for almost 70 years, Russian was the only official language of Ukraine. 

This required that all government agencies, schools, and businesses use Russian. It led to Ukrainian families speaking Russian at home, as well as Russian in public places. In turn, older Ukrainians grew up with Russian and younger ones still having Russian in their lives.

Although there are similarities between Russians and Ukrainians, they also have many differences. “… because the languages come from a common ancestor, sometimes a speaker of one language could deduce the meaning of a word based on its roots — the same way an English speaker might be able to look at the word Hund in German, relate it to “hound,”You can figure it out with some effort ‘dog,’”This blog has a lot to say.

Duolingo’s blog says that learning Ukrainian as an English speaker for the first time could be tricky, especially because of what’s called the case system.

“This means that nouns change their form depending on what role they play in the sentence,” the blog reads.

Duolingo claims that many languages use case systems, even English speakers, even though they tend to mark case only on a few words.

The blog addresses vocabulary, accents and pronunciation as well spelling. It also discusses how language can be political or connected to identity. 

The site is a good resource for information regarding the current war. a video of the Ukrainian President ZelenskyyHe can switch between Russian and Ukrainian in one speech, depending on whether he’s addressing fellow Ukrainians or sending an email to the Russian forces inside the country.

Duolingo says that where a Russian speaker puts emphasis on the word Ukraine can also determine identity or political alignment: “… it can sound more like the word for a borderland, or region at the edge of a larger area, or it can sound like a separate word entirely, emphasizing Ukrainian sovereignty,” they write.

“So Russian speakers who want to suggest that Ukraine is part of Russia will put the stress on the “a” in the Russian word украинский (Ukrainskiy), which makes it sound more like a borderland. Ukrainians and Russians who support Ukrainian sovereignty will pronounce “Ukrainian” with the stress on the “yi” in украинский (Ukrayinskiy).”

These blog posts conclude with acknowledging the importance language in politics and offering volunteer opportunities for those who speak Ukrainian or other Slavic languages such as Translators without Borders