As the capital city of Ukraine, a European country, you’d perhaps expect Kiev to have outstanding levels of English.
But with the turbulent linguistic past, they simply haven’t yet had the opportunity to effectively incorporate any other language over a wide scope.
As you probably already guessed, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, but here’s the twist!
Russian is practically the second (but not official) language of the country.
Razumkov Center poll undertaken in early 2017 suggests that 68% have taken Ukrainian as their only language, with 13% stating Russian as their preferred choice.
Though it seems that the numbers seem to be largely skewed towards the use of Ukrainian this has been shown to depend largely on the varying Regions of Ukraine with the biggest discrepancy being recorded between Western Ukraine (92.8%) and Eastern Ukraine (36.1%) or the Donbas region (27.4%.)
Many Ukrainians do not speak English
English is not particularly at the forefront of Ukrainian school’s curriculums.
There is, however, an increasing interest in English among the younger generations due to the prospects it so often brings and its presence within popular media.
With up to 20% of Ukrainians citing a proficient level in English, it’s only natural that the percentage would be higher for those within cities.
But don’t expect the older generations to be able to understand your every word!
Most will simply know the basics. So, if you must speak in English, make sure you do so slowly and clearly.
Keep in mind that the level of English will also diminish as you head out farther away from the bigger cities of Ukraine.
English in Kiev
If you are an English speaker who wishes to travel to Kiev to explore all it has to offer, it’s only natural that you’d be inquisitive about the standard of English spoken here.
Especially if you have no grasp of either of the two most popular languages in the city.
The prospect of trying to find a way around a country with an entirely different writing system can be enough to make anyone sweat.
Fortunately, for you, many of Kiev’s inhabitants will be able to understand your inquiries, however, they may struggle to respond.
A little bit of patience will go a long way towards a smooth and easy stay in Kiev through English.
You may find some signs, leaflets, notices and most restaurants/cafés menus with English translations.
You’ll also find plenty of tour guides around the city that will be delighted to help you explore Ukraine by acting as a translator between you and the inner world of Kiev.
Feel free to contact me if you are planning to visit Ukraine, and I will be your own personal guide in Kiev!
What languages are spoken in Ukraine?
It’s not a surprise that there is some contention in Ukraine over the two main spoken languages (Ukrainian and Russian).
This can be put down to the history that both Ukraine and Russia share.
Not to mention how alike the two languages are with some studies citing the languages as being 90% similar.
You’ll find a mix & match of both languages throughout Kiev. There’s also a spattering of minority languages that can be heard in some cities in such as Romanian, Polish, and Hungarian.
Ukrainian vs Russian: which languages is easier?
Perhaps the idea of diving into one of the aforementioned languages has now popped into your head.
Even if you learn a few essential sentences your journey will be a lot more pleasurable and satisfying.
It’s then only natural to wonder which language is the easier to learn of the two. The truth is that there isn’t a great deal of difference.
With both languages being of Slavic origin, they are composed of similar grammar and vocabulary.
It is true, however, that many English speakers that opt to learn both Ukrainian and Russian languages have found Russian pronunciation to be somewhat more of a challenge.
Both languages also use the same writing systems knows as Cyrillic, so the task of learning an entirely new alphabet is equally challenging for both languages.
Navigating Kiev without knowing Ukrainian or Russian
Without a doubt, the best way for anyone to traverse Kiev without knowing either of the popular languages is to hire a personal tour guide.
A professional tour guide will delightfully facilitate your travels throughout the city.
If this isn’t an option for you, your best bet is to keep your English simple and to the point.
Don’t give up if you don’t get the answer you are looking for the first time. Remain polite and understanding and others will help you.
Kiev is a welcoming city that will be delighted to help you find your way as long as you ask.
Consider downloading an easy access downloadable app that will allow you to translate those tricky sentences.
The moral of the story is that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help through English if strictly necessary – you’ll always find someone with a sufficient level of English to help you.
Despite this, it’s highly recommendable that you make an attempt to learn the basics of either of the two languages (Ukrainian or Russian), not only as a sign of respect but for your own safety and ease-of-mind.
Consider hiring a personal guide to bypass any problems that may arise due to differences in language.
Not only will this improve your trip immensely but will give you the real authentic experience of Kiev.
Just head over to the contact page and start planning your trip to Kiev with a delightful personal Kiev guide, who is ready to show you around the city!
See you in Kiev 🙂
2 thoughts on “Speaking English In Kiev: Is It An Effective Means Of Communication?”
Comments are closed.