Which Language is Spoken in Ukraine?

what do ukrainians speak

Which Language is Spoken in Ukraine?

Which Language is Spoken in Ukraine?

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2023)

Language Spoken in Ukraine

Which language is spoken in Ukraine? Is it Russian, Ukrainian, or both? The two languages are similar, and they use the same alphabet, but they’re not the same, as you’ll see in this guide to which language is spoken in Ukraine. Ukrainian and Russian are both East Slavic languages; they are derived from Old East Slavic, which in turn descended from Proto-Slavic. You might say that Russian and Ukrainian are siblings with the same parents but different upbringings. They share many of the same letters and sounds, and their grammar rules often overlap as well.

Ukrainian Language

The Ukrainian language has been spoken in Ukraine for centuries, with its roots dating back to the Kievan Rus’ period. In the 18th and 19th centuries, under the Russian empire, the Ukrainian alphabet was replaced with the Cyrillic alphabet, and the language was banned from public life.

However, in the 21st century, Ukrainian has become one of the official languages of Ukraine, alongside Russian. The political situation in Ukraine has led to an increase in Ukrainian speakers and a decrease in Russian speakers. While minority languages are also spoken throughout the country, Ukrainian is by far the most common language spoken.

As this regional language continues to spread into more areas and become more integrated into society, it will likely be considered a native language for many Ukrainians who have yet to adopt it as their own. –

The Ukrainian language shares similarities with other Slavic languages but maintains its uniqueness because of historical events. All modern Ukrainian language variants trace their origins to Old East Slavonic. Throughout the centuries, there were language issues that caused the Ukrainian and Russian languages to evolve separately. One such event occurred during the 18th century when Russia made Ukrainian illegal.

In addition to being the primary language of instruction at schools, law enforcement, government offices, and courts, English is taught in secondary schools in regions where it is not commonly used. Ukrainian society also emphasizes education.

Schools require every student between ages 6-18 to learn at least two languages: their native language and either Russian or English (depending on which they’re not fluent).

There are around 40 different languages spoken in Ukraine according to census data; however, over 90% of people only speak one language due to geographical boundaries. It is estimated that 10% of Ukrainians can fluently speak both Ukrainian and Russian, but for some reason, these individuals choose only to use one language.

do ukrainians speak russian

Origin and History of the Language

The Ukrainian language, deeply rooted in the Slavic linguistic heritage, holds a rich history embedded in everyday life across the vast majority of Ukrainian communities. Emerging from the Slavic language group tracing back to settlers in the 6th century AD, Ukrainian, belonging to the East Slavic group alongside Russian and Belarusian, boasts a shared literary tradition and linguistic ties. Its origins in Old East Slavic, an iteration of Old Church Slavonic, have contributed to its evolution, marking distinctions from other Eastern Slavic languages due to centuries of Russian colonization and the influence of Soviet policies until Ukraine’s independence in 1991.

Throughout the 20th century, Ukrainian faced challenges amid dominant languages and foreign influences, especially during periods of Polish rule and the Soviet era. Despite these pressures, Ukrainian schools have been pivotal in preserving the language and fostering its usage among ethnic minorities, including Russian-speaking Ukrainians. Today, amidst a diverse linguistic landscape where European languages and English are prevalent, Ukrainian continues to persist, adapted to both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, with variations in dialects shaping its expression across regions. Taras Shevchenko, a significant figure in Ukrainian literature, remains an influential voice in the preservation and celebration of the language’s cultural significance.

What language is most widely spoken in Ukraine?

Most Ukrainians are considered bilingual, i.e., they speak Ukrainian and Russian. About the country as a whole, around 68% of Ukrainians state Ukrainian as their mother tongue, although the proportion varies depending on the region and the dominant ethnic group there: In the western and central Ukrainian areas, it is up to 95%, while in the east the proportion of Russian native speakers predominates, especially in Crimea and in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. 80% of the lessons in schools today are in Ukrainian.

Are Ukrainian and Russian the same language?

No, Ukrainian is neither a regional variant nor a Russian dialect. These are two independent, equal languages. However, since both belong to the East Slavic language group (Belarusian is a third East Slavic language), they naturally have a lot in common. However, there are also significant differences.

language of ukraine

Other Languages Spoken in Ukraine

In addition to Ukrainian, which is the official language of Ukraine, Russian is also widely spoken. According to a 2012 estimate, about 67.5% of the population speaks Ukrainian as their first language, while 29.6% speak Russian.

Other languages in the country include Belarusian, Crimean Tatar, Romanian, Polish and Hungarian. The Cyrillic alphabet is still used for Ukrainian, though it has been modified from its original form by Vladimir Lenin.

The Slavic language family includes over 300 languages related to each other and spoken in Europe and Asia. There are both Eastern Slavic languages (including Russian) and Western Slavic languages (including Czech).

Many dialects within each group have different grammar systems and vocabulary. For example, Russian speakers may use a word like tvoye instead of tvoi or tvoe to mean you.

Many people think that Slavic languages belong together because they have similar grammar structures and they share certain words. They share some words, but there are more differences than similarities between them.

Ukrainian is a regional language, meaning it’s only spoken in Ukraine and Russia. However, many minority languages are spoken in the country, such as Belarusian, Crimean Tatar, Romanian, Polish and Hungarian. The Ukrainian government promotes the Ukrainian language with schools teaching only Ukrainian classes.

Ukrainian vs. Russian

Many people believe that Ukrainian and Russian are the same languages. While they are both Slavic languages, they are pretty different. Ukrainian is the official state language of Ukraine, while a minority only speaks Russian of the population. Ukrainian has its alphabet and grammar, while Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet and has different grammar rules. While you may be able to get by speaking Russian in Ukraine, it’s essential to make an effort to learn some key phrases in Ukrainian to show respect for the local culture.

These few sentences will help you get started:

  • Khorosho (khor-OH-sho)! – Hello
  • Amerikanskyi vyrok – I speak English
  • Doroha dyadya – Good morning Kto ty – Who are you?
  • Dobryi den’! – Have a good day!

Languages Spoken Today

The most common language spoken in Ukraine today is Ukrainian, which is used by about 32 million people. Russian is also widely spoken, with around 28 million speakers. Other national languages spoken in the country include the Romanian language, Polish languages, and Hungarian language.  It is important to note that these numbers may not be accurate due to recent political changes in the country. Currently, efforts are underway to remove Russian as the official language of Ukraine. There has been some discussion about making Ukrainian the only official language of the country. However, whether these discussions are severe or not, the most common language spoken in Ukraine today remains Ukrainian and Russian. Know the history of Russian language?

Russian as a mother tongue in Ukraine

In the 2001 census, almost 30 percent of Ukrainians declared Russian their first language. However, the distinct language now has no official status in Ukraine. Only between 2012 and 2018, according to a language law that was controversial during the term of ex-President Viktor Yanukovych, was it the “regional language” in nine south-eastern regions of the country, including the autonomous republics of Crimea and Sevastopol, which have now been annexed by Russia.

The language policy of the USSR

When the Russian Empire was destroyed in the October Revolution of 1917, the differences between the romance languages ​​were already at the level they are today: Russian and Ukrainian were utterly different languages.

Since the official language of the Soviet Union was Russian, it was also treated as an official language in the Ukrainian SSR: Russian flourished, and Ukrainian was suppressed. By the 1930s, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had supported ” Ukrainization “; however, only to abruptly reverse these measures now:

  • Russian was introduced in schools.
  • Ukrainian newspapers and publications were abolished.
  • A large part of Ukrainian intellectuals, artists, and writers were arrested and executed, namely the so-called Розстріляне відродження, or Rosstriljane widrodzhennja, “executed rebirth.”

Language policy was relaxed in the 1980s. After Ukraine became an independent country in 1991, the measures were again reversed.

what language is spoken in ukraine

New President Zelenskyy does not speak perfect Ukrainian himself.

The Ukrainian parliament passed this law just days after the sovereign election victory of ex-comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a native Russian speaker who does not have a perfect command of Ukrainian. “Ukrainian is the only official language in the country; there can be no compromises here,” comments Zelenskyj, who promises in-depth analysis of the law. “But we have to make decisions that unite the people and not the other way around.”

what language ukraine

Ukrainian Dialects

Dialects of the Ukrainian language are territorial varieties, traditionally combined into three dialects – southeastern, southwestern and northern. The southeastern dialect, which formed the basis of the modern literary Ukrainian language, is the most homogeneous among the others. His dialects are standard in the central, eastern, and southern parts of Ukraine, as well as in many regions of Russia and Kazakhstan.

The southwestern dialect, characterized by a relatively large dialect fragmentation, occupies the western and southwestern parts of Ukraine; its dialectal features prevail in the speech of the descendants of Ukrainian emigrants in the USA, Canada, and other countries and are also noted (along with Slovak) in the Pannonian-Rusyn language (in Vojvodina).

The northern, or Polissya, dialect occupies the territories of the north of Ukraine and is connected by transitional dialects with the Belarusian language; Western Polissya dialects gravitate towards the northern dialect (in the southwest of the Brest region in Belarus).

Dialectal differences oppose Ukrainian dialects to varying degrees: in phonetics, the southeastern and partially southwestern dialects are the closest, and at the grammatical level, the northern and southeastern dialects are the most similar.

Dialects also differ in time of formation: the north and southwestern dialects, located in areas that least affected the processes of migration of the Slavic population, are opposed to the southeastern dialect, which was formed relatively late, mainly as a result of the migration of Ukrainians from the north and west.

Ten interesting facts about the Ukrainian language

Fact 1: Ukrainian is one of the most melodic languages ​​in the world. In 1934 in Paris, at a linguistic congress, leading experts recognized the Ukrainian language as the third among all languages ​​(after French and Farsi) in terms of melodiousness, lexical and seemingly well-established phraseological richness, huge word-shaped possibilities, and syntactic flexibility. At a similar forum of linguists in Switzerland, where the primary evaluation criteria were the euphonic system of the language, its melodiousness, and sonority, the Ukrainian language was named second after Italian.

Fact 2: The longest word in Ukrainian is “dichlorodiphenyltrichloromethylmethane” (a chemical used to control pests). This word has 30 letters.

Fact 3: Unlike other East Slavic languages, Ukrainian has a noun case.

Fact 4: The modern Ukrainian language has about 256 thousand words.

Fact 5: In the Ukrainian language, the most significant number of words begin with the letter “P.” The least used letter in the Ukrainian alphabet is the letter “Ф.”

Fact 6: Outside of Europe, the Ukrainian language has semi-official status in the United States (Cook County, Illinois). Cook County in Illinois is the 16th largest local government in the world. About 5.5 million people live in this district; the district includes the city of Chicago along with the suburbs. And the Ukrainian language was chosen as one of the most commonly used languages ​​in the area.

Fact 7: Scientist Kobilyukh proved that the Ukrainian language was formed in the X-IV millennium BC. Therefore, the origin of the most important Ukrainian words should be sought precisely in Sanskrit and not in Russian, German, Turkish, Greek, and other languages ​​that arose much later.

Fact 8: According to the publication “A Concise Dictionary of Synonyms of the Ukrainian Language,” 4279 synonymic series have been developed, and the word “beat” has the most significant number of synonyms – 45 synonyms.

Fact 9: The names of baby animals in Ukrainian are neuter.

Fact 10: It is officially considered that after the publication of Ivan Kotlyarevsky’s Aeneid, the Ukrainian language was equated with the literary language. Ivan Kotlyarevsky is rightfully considered the founder of the new Ukrainian language.


Do Ukrainians automatically speak Russian?

No, even if the majority of Ukrainians also speak Russian, this does not mean that on can automatically speak the other language in addition to their native Ukrainian language. The differences are too significant for that. Likewise, many members of the Russian nationality who do not speak Ukrainian live on Ukrainian soil, especially in the east and south-east. And there is even a not inconsiderable proportion of Ukrainians whose mother tongue is Russian. So, to be very clear: Ukrainian is not a Russian dialect.

How many people in total speak Ukrainian?

After Russian and Polish, Ukrainian is the Slavic language with the third highest number of speakers. There are around 32 million people who speak Ukrainian as their first language. Most of them live in the territory of Ukraine. For comparison: Russian is spoken by approximately 150 million people as their mother tongue, i.e., by almost five times as many.

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