Where is Russian spoken? Official language (dark blue) and unofficial (light blue)
I’ve encountered the idea occasionally that learning Russian is a useless endeavor because it is a “dying language”. Proponents of this thesis allege that since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian has been in decline because no one outside of Russia is forced to learn it anymore.
And then there are the cases of other post-Soviet countries, such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. In both of these countries, Russian remains an official language. (In fact, in Belarus, the majority of the population speaks Russian in their daily lives.) In Ukraine, Russian is not an official language, but it is very, very widely used and understood. Continue reading →
Yesterday, August 24, was the twenty-first anniversary of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. Ukraine is one of my absolute favorite countries – I was there for two or three days in 2009 and I have spent three years now wishing I could go back – so I decided to prepare a nice little post as a tribute to this country.
Before it became independent in 1991, Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union and before that, the Russian Empire. For much of its history, it has been ruled over by various people, such as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Even though it was not an independent state for much of modern history, Ukraine has a distinct language and culture.
Despite the fact that the Ukrainian language was often repressed (both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union practiced policies of Russification), it is a rich and vibrant language today. Though it is closely related to Russian and is part of the East Slavic subgroup along with Russian, it has had a heavy Polish influence and is distinct from the Russian language. I have never properly studied it, but I can understand quite a bit of it when it’s spoken. To compare it to Russian, consider the title of this post: З днем незалежності. In Russian, that is С днём независимости. Close, but not exactly the same. Continue reading →
If someone were to make a film about my life, my friends, one potential title would be Confessions of a Language Nerd. As of Friday, these two lovely dictionaries are the newest additions to my already-too-large collection of foreign language dictionaries. I bought them at my university’s bookstore for $0.99 apiece. That’s cheap, especially considering that they were originally $7.95.
See, my issue is that I have language lust. I’m sure fellow language learners can relate to this. Simply put, I mean that I have a massive list of languages that I need to learn. Here is a list, by no means exhaustive:
Ukrainian: for research and general interest. I love anything Ukrainian.
Serbo-Croatian: for general interest, as I really want to read Ivo Andrić and Miodrag Bulatović’s work in the original.
Spanish: I studied it in school once and I like to finish things that I start. Plus I have developed a random and recent interest in South America, which made me have the rather obvious epiphany that by learning Spanish, I could get along in almost every South American country (except Brazil). Which leads me to the next point…
Portuguese: another rather new interest of mine is finance, which is how I became aware of emerging markets. Brazil is an emerging market and knowing its language would probably be helpful. Plus Romance languages are my second-favorite language family after the Slavic languages.
Polish: Great literature, fascinating history, and overall a really interesting and beautiful country. Need I say more? Oh, and Polish-Russian relations are a special interest of mine.
Bulgarian: Why not add another Slavic language? Basically, I want to learn every Slavic language ever…
Persian: the newest addition to my language wish list, added because of this article. The alphabet still scares me, but it sounds like a fascinating language.
German: Well, I don’t really want to learn German, but one of my professors told me that I ought to, so I’ll probably end up learning it at some point.
Norwegian: it sounds fun. That’s reason enough, right?
See why I have no time?! When I’m not writing my thesis, preparing presentations in Russian, or cramming random psychology concepts into my head, I’m trying to study languages. (Not all at once, by the way. My current language, aside from Russian, is Ukrainian, because that is the one I have the most urgent need for.)
Yesterday I learned to play the national anthem of Ukraine (Государственный Гимн Украины if you speak Russian; Державний Гімн України if you speak Ukrainian) on my violin. I think it’s interesting to listen to different national anthems, and the Ukrainian one is one of my favorites.
There are many recordings out there, but the one I’ve chosen to embed is my absolute favorite.