Do most Ukrainians speak Russian?

Ukraine is a big country with rich history. For a long time it was in the middle of fight between Warsaw and Moscow, this long-termed division of the country is the main reason why Ukrainians speak Russian and Ukrainian at the same time.

Mostly Ukrainians are bilingual – they can speak and understand both of the languages, it is not difficult, because they are similar to each other. They have a lot of common words and phrases, the same letters and almost similar pronunciation. Nevertheless, the interesting fact is that the people from Russia can hardly understand Ukrainian language.

What language Ukrainians speak depends on which part of the country they are living in.  Ukrainians mainly speak Ukrainian language on west (97,2%) and south-west (91,6%). In the central part of the country you will hear Ukrainian language more often too, but on east most part of Ukrainians speaks Russian. It is always surprising for foreigners, but it has the historical roots and is connected with the close border of Russia.

There are certain countries with several official languages, but Ukraine doesn’t belong to this list. Even though a lot of Ukrainians speak Russian, the official language of the country is Ukrainian. All paperwork and education is in Ukrainian language and even if you decide to go to the cinema, you should be ready to watch the movie in Ukrainian too. But there are another situation with the television, there you can find both Ukrainian and Russian programs.

However, Ukrainian language is trending up from year to year. By a recent survey 47% of participants stated that they speak Ukrainian at home, 24% of Ukrainians speak Russian, 29% of Ukrainians speak both languages and 1% of participants use other languages.

If you decide to visit the east part of the country, for example the beautiful Kharkov where Ukrainians speak Russian, it will be useful to learn some of the most necessary phrases:

  • Привет/здравствуйте (privet/zdravstvujte) – Hi/hello
  • Доброе утро (dobroe utro) – Good morning
  • Добрый день (dobryj den’) – Good afternoon
  • Добрый вечер (dobryj vecher) – Good evening
  • Как дела? (kak dela?) – How are you?
  • Все хорошо (vsjo horosho) – I`m fine
  • Спасибо (spasibo) – Thank you
  • Пожалуйста (pozhalujsta) – Please and you are welcome
  • Извините (izvinite) – Excuse me/I’m sorry
  • Пока/до свидания (poka/do svidanija) – Bye/good-bye
  • Я не пью водку – I don`t drink vodka
  • Ты очень красивая – You are so beautiful
  • Я бы хотел попробовать борщ – I would like to try borsch

Although Ukrainians speak Russian and Ukrainian, you shouldn’t worry about being misunderstood there, because nowadays a lot of young people can speak English easily too. Welcome to Ukraine!