Learning Ukrainian

Ukrainian book

In the earlier part of April, 2020, I reached a milestone on DuoLingo. The popular, and sometimes addictive app/website notified me that I’d learned 1,000 Ukrainian words. It gave me a helpful dose of motivation to continue on. After all, the Ukrainian language has over 270,000 unique words. Yikes.

This feat took me around 250 days, using DuoLingo and studying Ukrainian for 15 to 30 minutes per day.

Below is some advice for anyone who wants to learn a foreign language. My example applies most directly to Ukrainian, Russian, and other Slavic languages that use the Cyrillic alphabet. However, the advice is relevant for any foreign language.

The Process

For anyone looking to learn a new language, I can offer some advice. Everyone learns a little bit differently, but here’s what worked for me:

  1. Learn the Cyrillic alphabet.

    (It turns out P in Ukrainian is a rolled R! That’s weird at first…)

    Without this simple Ukrainian Language website, I would’ve struggled to learn what sound each letter makes.

    Listen to the Ukrainian alphabet here:
    https://www.ukrainianlanguage.org.uk/read/unit01/page1-2.htm
  2. Try to use DuoLingo, Mondly, and/or another lesson-based app every day.

    …And supplement it with books, Ukrainian news, famous movies with Ukrainian subtitles (Alien 3, for example).
  3. Buy Ukrainian books, read Ukrainian news, join Ukrainian groups on Facebook, and of course, pester any Ukrainians you know for pronunciation and grammar advice.
  4. Ride the waves of inspiration and doubt.

    Learning a new language, especially a drastically different one from your native language, can be both thrilling and painful. Getting the same thing wrong several times can feel like losing a game. In contrast, getting correct answers can be a source of continuous mood improvement. The key is to find your pace. Some people may thrive at 15 minutes per day, others might want to study all day. Try different things to see what works for you.

It’s a long road to become fluent, but the rewards for learning a new language are hard to describe. Let’s just say it’s undoubtedly life-changing.

Helpful Links

First and foremost, https://www.ukrainianlanguage.org.uk

DuoLingo

Mondly

Quora has many useful questions and answers about Ukrainian, like this one: https://www.quora.com/Is-Ukrainian-closer-to-Russian-or-Polish

Babbel has some good info about things like Russian Vs. Ukrainian.