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Russian or Ukrainian?

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Daren
Diglot
Newbie
Hungary
Joined 5369 days ago

10 posts - 10 votes
Speaks: Hungarian*, English
Studies: German, Russian

 
 Message 1 of 18
17 October 2007 at 4:19pm | IP Logged 
Hello, everyone!

I'm a secondary school student, I learn German at school, and I'm studying Spanish on my own. After I get to a decent level in Spanish, I'd like to learn either Russian or Ukrainian, but I need your help in choosing which one. I already have some Pros. and Cons. to both of the languages but I think you'll probably have other things to say about this.

Russian:
Pros.:

+ It's a world language spoken by many people.
+ I can use it to communicate not only with Russians, but many people in Eastern European countries.
+ I think it's quite useful in the internet, since there are many Russian web pages.
+ There are only 6 cases and 3 verb tenses.
+ There are many places here in Budapest, where I can study this language, about every second language school offers a Russian course.

Cons.:

- The Russian cyrillic alphabet is not phonetic, many things have to be pronounced differently, than they are written like.
- I'm not as interested in Russian language and culture as in Ukrainian.
- Since many people study and speak this language, it's not very exotic in my viewpoint.


Ukrainian:
Pros.:

+ According to the site where I saw some basics of Ukrainian, the Ukrainian cyrillic alphabet is totally phonetic, everything is written as it is spoken, so mastering Ukrainian orthography is easier, in fact, I already know it.
+ I'm more interested in Ukrainian culture and language than in Russian.
+ When I finish school, I'm planning to travel to South-Western Ukraine, to the Kárpátalja region and to the Carpathian Mountains, and while a Hungarian minority does live in that area, I think a knowledge of Ukrainian will certainly help.
+ I think it's more interesting to study Ukrainian, since fewer people study it and speak it, so in my viewpoint it's a more exotic language than Russian.

Cons.:

- Ukrainian has 7 cases and 5 verb tenses.
- Ukrainian isn't as widespread as Russian.
- It's not as useful on the internet as Russian. Many Ukrainian websites are in Russian.
- I'm not very sure about this statement, but I read somewhere that while in Russian you can always know a word's gender by it's ending, this is not as straightforward in Ukrainian, and you have to learn many word's gender like in German or French.
- There aren't many places where I can study this language. Even here in Budapest, the capital city, I found only two language schools, that teach Ukrainian. One of them doesn't say anything about a Ukrainian course anymore, the other one does state that it teaches Ukrainian, but it says nothing about when a Ukrainian course will start.

Both languages.:

Pros.:

+ I find the cyrillic alphabet interesting and fun to learn, since it's so easy and I'm learning a new writing system.
+ The cyrillic alphabet is so easy, that I already learned it for fun.
+ I find both Russian and Ukrainian to be very beautiful languages, they sound magical and a bit medieval for some reason.
+ I'm not scared of the case system and the verb declension system. I think it'll be interesting to learn a language, that like Hungarian, uses noun and verb declensions to express the functions of words in sentences instead of using prepositions like most Western languages.

Cons.:

- One of these languages will be my first Slavic language, so mastering it will take a considerable amount of time.
- While the cyrillic alphabet is easy, I have to practice the cursive cyrillic writing a lot, to be able to master writing quickly.
- There are some very long words in these languages, while this adds to the beauty of the language, memorizing long words are bit harder than memorizing short words.

Well this is what I know. What do you think, which language should I study?

BTW, this is the site where I saw the basics of Ukrainian.

Sorry about the long post! :)
1 person has voted this message useful



Chung
Diglot
Senior Member
Joined 6277 days ago

4228 posts - 8257 votes 
20 sounds
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 
 Message 2 of 18
17 October 2007 at 5:30pm | IP Logged 
Szia

Since you asked us for our opinion, I'll offer my humble one and deal with your points as best as I can... :-)

Daren wrote:
Hello, everyone!

I'm a secondary school student, I learn German at school, and I'm studying Spanish on my own. After I get to a decent level in Spanish, I'd like to learn either Russian or Ukrainian, but I need your help in choosing which one. I already have some Pros. and Cons. to both of the languages but I think you'll probably have other things to say about this.

Russian:
Pros.:

+ It's a world language spoken by many people.
+ I can use it to communicate not only with Russians, but many people in Eastern European countries.
+ I think it's quite useful in the internet, since there are many Russian web pages.
+ There are only 6 cases and 3 verb tenses.
+ There are many places here in Budapest, where I can study this language, about every second language school offers a Russian course.

Cons.:

- The Russian cyrillic alphabet is not phonetic, many things have to be pronounced differently, than they are written like.
- I'm not as interested in Russian language and culture as in Ukrainian.
- Since many people study and speak this language, it's not very exotic in my viewpoint.


The pro about being able to use Russian to communicate with others in Eastern Europe really depends on whom you deal with. Since you're Hungarian, you may be aware that most Hungarians still have some ambivalency towards Russian because of recent history (i.e. 1849, 1945, 1956). In my travels through Eastern Europe, most people outside the former USSR do not seem to speak much Russian and give off the impression that they'd prefer to forget about it because of the days of Soviet domination during the Cold War. Nonetheless, if you look hard enough there are people in the former Warsaw Pact countries who will gladly speak Russian or are learning it. I will say that knowing Russian will definitely help you if you want plan to learn another Slavonic language afterwards. Sometimes, a knowledge of Russian will yield a passive understanding of some snippets from other Slavonic languages. I'm not sure what you're getting at by pointing out that Russian has 6 cases and 3 tenses.

Your con about your being less interested in Russian than Ukrainian tells me that your heart wouldn't really be into studying Russian as much as Ukrainian.

Daren wrote:


Ukrainian:
Pros.:

+ According to the site where I saw some basics of Ukrainian, the Ukrainian cyrillic alphabet is totally phonetic, everything is written as it is spoken, so mastering Ukrainian orthography is easier, in fact, I already know it.
+ I'm more interested in Ukrainian culture and language than in Russian.
+ When I finish school, I'm planning to travel to South-Western Ukraine, to the Kárpátalja region and to the Carpathian Mountains, and while a Hungarian minority does live in that area, I think a knowledge of Ukrainian will certainly help.
+ I think it's more interesting to study Ukrainian, since fewer people study it and speak it, so in my viewpoint it's a more exotic language than Russian.

Cons.:

- Ukrainian has 7 cases and 5 verb tenses.
- Ukrainian isn't as widespread as Russian.
- It's not as useful on the internet as Russian. Many Ukrainian websites are in Russian.
- I'm not very sure about this statement, but I read somewhere that while in Russian you can always know a word's gender by it's ending, this is not as straightforward in Ukrainian, and you have to learn many word's gender like in German or French.
- There aren't many places where I can study this language. Even here in Budapest, the capital city, I found only two language schools, that teach Ukrainian. One of them doesn't say anything about a Ukrainian course anymore, the other one does state that it teaches Ukrainian, but it says nothing about when a Ukrainian course will start.


I'm not sure if Ukrainian is totally phonetic. The trouble with both Russian and Ukrainian is that neither alphabet marks where stress lies. This can be a problem since words in these languages sometimes distinguish cases by different placements of stress and you learn stress by constant practice and "feel". In other words, stress placement is variable unlike in Hungarian, and at first glance, it'd be difficult for a foreigner to know how to read aloud an unfamiliar Russian or Ukrainian word because of the unmarked stress. Another matter in Russian spelling is that it reflects more of the historical principle than the phonetic one (a bit like English with its unphonetic spelling). Modern Russian spelling reflects pronunciation as it was a few centuries ago, and hasn't changed as much as the way people pronounce the words nowadays. Ukrainian from what I can tell doesn't adhere as much to the historical spelling principle as Russian does, which can make Ukrainian a little easier to learn for a foreign student.

I'm not sure if it's a con (or a pro) to say that Ukrainian has 7 cases and 5 tenses, nor am I sure about that remark about gender in Ukrainian being more difficult to predict than in Russian. From what I understand, the rule of thumb for gender in most Slavonic nouns is that it can be determined from the nominative singular ending (consonant = masculine; -a = feminine; -o, -e = neuter).

Daren wrote:

Both languages.:

Pros.:

+ I find the cyrillic alphabet interesting and fun to learn, since it's so easy and I'm learning a new writing system.
+ The cyrillic alphabet is so easy, that I already learned it for fun.
+ I find both Russian and Ukrainian to be very beautiful languages, they sound magical and a bit medieval for some reason.
+ I'm not scared of the case system and the verb declension system. I think it'll be interesting to learn a language, that like Hungarian, uses noun and verb declensions to express the functions of words in sentences instead of using prepositions like most Western languages.

Cons.:

- One of these languages will be my first Slavic language, so mastering it will take a considerable amount of time.
- While the cyrillic alphabet is easy, I have to practice the cursive cyrillic writing a lot, to be able to master writing quickly.
- There are some very long words in these languages, while this adds to the beauty of the language, memorizing long words are bit harder than memorizing short words.

Well this is what I know. What do you think, which language should I study?

BTW, [URL=http://www.ukma.kiev.ua/pub/courses/UFL/]this is the site[/URL] where I saw the basics of Ukrainian.

Sorry about the long post! :)


Russian and Ukrainian do use prepositions just like Western languages. Nouns and adjectives decline depending on which case the preposition governs. A typological similarity between Hungarian and most Slavonic languages is that word order is relatively free compared to English and French. Because of the distinct declensions and verb conjugations, the relation of a word to other parts of the sentence can be deduced from the endings. While word order tends to be SVO or SOV, the relatively elaborate inflection of Slavonic languages (or agglutination in the case of Hungarian) allows for word order to vary depending on what the speaker wants to emphasize.

In the end, I believe that you should study what interests you most. I myself have been thinking about studying Ukrainian (or at least get a basic competence in it) in the future because of my background in other Slavonic languages. There are some materials in Ukrainian for English-speaking students that seem quite thorough and given your standard of English they shouldn't present a big problem for you. I suppose that the only disadvantage are that their cost can add up and these materials are from North America, meaning that there could be high shipping costs to get them to Hungary.

The courses that I have been considering are:

"Beginning Ukrainian" (produced by Critical Language Series)

"Rozmovljajmo!: A Basic Ukrainian Course with Polylogs, Grammar and Conversation Lessons" (published by Slavica)

"Ukrainian" (with textbooks, teachers' manuals, tapes and readers for each of beginning, intermediate and advanced students) (published by Ohio State University)

(**I'm really looking hard at this course from Ohio State University because it seems comprehensive. Yet I admit that the cost can become quite high if I account for the cost of a complete set of materials and then multiply by three since I'd like each set for beginning, intermediate and advanced students)

Regards,
Chung
1 person has voted this message useful



ElfoEscuro
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
cyworld.com/brahmapu
Joined 5410 days ago

408 posts - 423 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 3 of 18
17 October 2007 at 11:38pm | IP Logged 
Daren wrote:
which language should I study?

Have you ever considered studying both languages?
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furyou_gaijin
Senior Member
Japan
Joined 5507 days ago

540 posts - 631 votes 
Speaks: Latin*

 
 Message 4 of 18
18 October 2007 at 2:25am | IP Logged 
Strictly speaking, Russian has 7 cases, too...
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Captain Haddock
Diglot
Senior Member
Japan
kanjicabinet.tumblr.
Joined 5889 days ago

2282 posts - 2814 votes 
Speaks: English*, Japanese
Studies: French, Korean, Ancient Greek

 
 Message 5 of 18
18 October 2007 at 2:54am | IP Logged 
Unless you really have a thing for Ukrainian culture or want a Ukrainian wife, I suggest learning Russian first. After that, adding Ukrainian should be a breeze.
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Daren
Diglot
Newbie
Hungary
Joined 5369 days ago

10 posts - 10 votes
Speaks: Hungarian*, English
Studies: German, Russian

 
 Message 6 of 18
18 October 2007 at 10:24am | IP Logged 
Thanks for the replies and advices!

Chung wrote:
I'm not sure what you're getting at by pointing out that Russian has 6 cases and 3 tenses.


Well, in Hungarian there are only 3 tenses: Past, Present and Future , so I wouldn't have to learn additional tenses, like in English where are 12 tenses, and in Ukrainian where are 5 tenses.
I pointed out that there are only 6 cases, because Ukrainian has 7.

ElfoEscuro wrote:
Have you ever considered studying both languages?


Hmm, if they are indeed very similar languages, then I think it wouldn't be too hard to learn the other one if I know one of them, but I'm afraid that I would mix them up.

furyou_gaijin wrote:
Strictly speaking, Russian has 7 cases, too...


Are you talking about the vocative case? Because that would be the seventh case, that is used commonly in Ukrainian, but in Russian, it is only used in some older texts and religious services, when someone addresses God, no?


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Russianbear
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5896 days ago

358 posts - 422 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, Ukrainian
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 7 of 18
18 October 2007 at 11:11am | IP Logged 
Daren, it looks like you have done your research, so I guess you only need to figure out which of the pros and cons matter the most to you. Usually, you can't go wrong with studying Russian as your first Slavic language, simply of its international status and literuature and resources. Probably, Russian will probably be the more useful language in Ukraine itself, too. On the other hand, Ukrainian is often neglected, and people in Ukraine are pleasantly surprised to hear a foreigner who speaks Ukrainian, simply because it doesn't happen often.

If you know that you will definitely other slavic language later, Ukrainian may be a better choice as Ukraine is in the middle of the Slavic world and it would probably be easier to learn Polish if you know Ukrainian than if you know Russian. So if you know you want to branch out, learning Ukrainian first may be better. But if you don't or if you are not sure, it seems that if you learn Russian and decide you are done with Slavic languages, Russian makes more sense since it is more useful, the resources are easily available and Russian speakers are much easier to find pretty much anywhere in the world except Western Ukraine.

I wouldn't care so much if the two languages have 3 tenses or 5. They are about equally hard(or easy) for non-Slavic person to master. I speak both and I don't know how much tenses each one has. The 7th case the Ukrainian has is so easy to learn that I don't think one should take it into account when deciding which language to learn. Besides, Russian has the leftovers of the 7th case, too, like you seem to be aware already.

The two languages are so close, that learning one is almost like learning both. Once you get to be fluent in one, you will be able to understand a lot of things in another, once you get some more exposure to the other language. Another thing that perhaps you haven't got to in your research is that Ukrainian accent in the Russian language (which you may and probably will get if you learn Ukrainian first) is sort of frowned upon by the educated Russians. It is sometimes seen as a rural/uneducated way to speak - not unlike an American from American North East may view the Texan accent. Russian accent in Ukrainian (which you may and probably will get if you learn Russian first) is usually perfectly acceptable in Ukraine, because this is how many Ukrainians themselves speak.

Edited by Russianbear on 18 October 2007 at 11:22am

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Daren
Diglot
Newbie
Hungary
Joined 5369 days ago

10 posts - 10 votes
Speaks: Hungarian*, English
Studies: German, Russian

 
 Message 8 of 18
18 October 2007 at 11:52am | IP Logged 
What do you mean by Ukrainian accent? Do you mean that if I learn Russian after learning Ukrainian, I may accidentally pronounce Russian like Ukrainian, because Russian spelling is not as phonetic as Ukrainian?

For example.: If I accidentally pronounce the word "город" as "gorod" instead of "gorád" or if I accidentally pronounce "сестра" as "sestra" instead of "sistra"?

Did you mean this by Ukrainian accent?

Edited by Daren on 18 October 2007 at 11:55am



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