Bridges from L1 to L2 & L3

Bridges from Russian to Ukrainian to English

It is important to note that most people in the country can speak both Russian & Ukrainian, although regions in the south and east – and some in the center – are predominantly Russian-speaking. It will be interesting to track in the future if there is a shift as some Ukrainians denounce the language as a tie to their oppressor. Others feel that Russians do not “own” the language and will not be driven from their linguistic tradition, despite being pro-independence.*

*For further reading on this topic, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/12/ukrainians-abandon-russian-language/

Since we are specifically looking at Russian speakers in Ukraine, it is helpful to note that many people will combine Russian & Ukrainian languages at times into a mixed language called, surzhyk, so it is helpful to listen to both.

Language #1 – Russian

Let’s listen to President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking in his native tongue, Russian, compare it to him speaking Ukrainian immediately below & then listen briefly to a rare speech of his in English from March 24, 2022. As you watch & listen, consider what prominent features, or bridges, you hear from language to language.*
*Zelensky has been President of Ukraine since 2019 when he defeated incumbent Petro Poroshenko, polling especially well in areas of the country where Russian speakers make up large parts of the population. He was actually criticized for his spoken Ukrainian by his opponent in the 2019 run for President. Originally from Kryviv Rig, the President is 44 years old & has a wife and two children. Respected as an honorable leader in Ukraine & now across the world, Zelensky made headlines when he remained in Kyiv to confront the oppressor rather than fleeing to safety as many encouraged him to do. Zelensky is also a former actor & comedian.

Language #2 – Ukrainian

Here is a snippet of President Zelensky reading a speech in Ukrainian.

Language #3 – English

Now let’s listen to President Zelensky make a rare speech in English.
Here is a tiny casual pre-interview exchange between Zelensky and Jake Tapper.

Do you hear any bridges from language to language?

Be curious about YOUR OWN observations, but here are some of mine:

  • Fricatives and plosives stand out to me – consonants feel energetic & precise.
  • Tongue and lips are highly engaged.
  • Alternates from super forward, front of mouth sounds to more rounded and back in feel.
  • Devoicing at ends of sentences or phrases.
  • Some nasality.


Additional References

To hear a comparison between the languages again from an additional speaker, here is Viktoriia, who we heard speak in English earlier, speaking both Russian & Ukrainian.

If intrigued in the differences between Russian & Ukrainian: A comparison of Russian & Ukrainian pronunciation of the words “President” & “Russia”

*Videos of Zelensky speaking Russian & Ukrainian were sourced from fabulous YouTuber, polĂ˝MATHY – like & subscribe & listen to entire video for more!


Audio above is extended interview with Viktoriia.

Audio above is interesting thoughts from Taya on a common Eastern European stereotype for which to be on the lookout.

More information about Ukraine from Taya!

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