Long story short, I’ll be off in 6 days to the deep west of Ukraine to visit the girlfriend’s family. This is very short notice, in fact I only got the offer to visit yesterday. Although ill be in Ukraine, I’ve been told everyone speaks Russian, and pretty much no one speaks English. Great time to practice Russian etc etc.
I’ve done hardly any speaking at all in the last few months. University and hospital placements (I’m Radiography student) had taken over my life, all my time was going on Radiography as I had exams and patients.
If you had 6 days to prepare yourself for two weeks in a country that was using your current target language, how would you do it? These will be family interactions, dinners together, walks, maybe drinks. I can’t help but feel under prepared.
Just like to add, I literally have 6 whole days of free time to go crazy and do as much as I can.
You may be better off learning some Ukrainian - that part of the country speaks a lot less Russian than others. Regarding preparing for Russian, I’d spend as much time possible conversing.
I would trust the fact that my preparation has been worth it and just ride with the punches. Your Russian level can only improve. I would expect that most people will speak Russian to you but it might be worth your while to learn a few expressions in Ukrainian. You will probably hear a lot of it in Western Ukraine. I look forward to hearing your impressions. I would love to visit myself.
It’ll be fine.
My experience in Russia has mostly proven Steve’s view that listening is the most important language skill to be true. I’ve lived here for 7 months starting with zero Russian knowledge. If you can say a few words that’ll impress the family-in-law. They will, especially the older relatives, begin to assume you understand everything they say, even if you said very little in Russian. Be prepared for long diatribes from family members (if they like you). Relax if you don’t understand everything. Just view it as another opportunity for input. My strategy with my still low level of Russian is to just keep quiet, smile, and listen. A tangent: the idea that Russians (and I guess Ukrainians) don’t smile as much as us is an utter lie, and it’s really a useful communication tool.
Just relax and do the studying that you normally do for the next few days.
Personally i would spend it trying to use as much of my relevant input as possible. Lots of talking, lots of writing.
Also, don’t forget to buy some Adidas tracksuits and practice your squatting.
Because of low toilet seats?
Just google ‘Slavs squatting’. I don’t understand it either.
I would practice a bit of Ukrainian reading before leaving. I have a friend in Ukraine and from I’ve heard, I’m under the impression a lot of the signs are in Ukrainian.
Or Gopnik, whichever comes first.
I’m quite happy to learn some Ukrainian along the way, but I didn’t think I would be able to learn enough in this short space of time to be of any use. I’m going to make sure I can talk about certain subjects well, maybe right out some answers.
I actually feel less prepared than when went to Russia. Its one thing buying a plane ticket, ordering food, buying train tickets, small chats with people at hostels about what you are doing etc. Its quite another to live with people and talk with them everyday.
It was an amazing trip, which included 2 days in Kiev, 2 days in Ivano Frankivsk, and ten days living my with girlfriend’s extended family in a village deep in the mountains called Kosmach. The Ukrainian people are friendly and hospitable. Spent a lot of time meeting people, even got a lift on the back of a big old soviet truck to the top of a mountain and spent a few hours picking mushrooms. Tried to get to know the culture of the people around me and even got to try on some traditional dress!
Language wise, everyone speaks Ukrainian and Russian, I didn’t meet anyone that didn’t. Interestedly “Surzhyk”, a mix of Ukrainian and Russian is used frequently too. This made comprehension difficult as sometimes a sentence started in Russian but ended in Ukrainian, with me just sat there constantly asking the girlfriend - “what language is this?”. There seem to be various dialects of Ukrainian. My girlfriend conversed in a dialect of Ukrainian spoken by the village she visited a lot as a child, and so had no problems in this village, however in Kiev she actually had some problems finding the correct words in certain situations.
I myself had a hard time understanding people who spoke Russian, they just had a way of pronouncing things I wasn’t used to, and so couldn’t comprehend as much as I would have liked. I was told at the start of my trip, that if I couldn’t ask in Ukrainian and wanted to speak Russian, the polite thing to do was ask if speaking Russian together was ok. This went down well the entire trip. Reading street signs and the like was also not too bad, the spellings seemed to be very similar for most things you would need as a tourist.
So yeah, go visit Ukraine. Just be really careful on the roads, driving and crossing them. I saw more near misses than I would have liked.
I am glad you were happy with your trip to Ukraine. I’m sure you were also happy if you could whenever go to Russia.
Very informative post. Thank you so much for sharing and congratulations on a nice trip.