Online language tools: A personal journey to learn Ukrainian after Russia’s second invasion began
I began to learn Ukrainian in the early spring of 2022, shortly after the start of Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine. For me, languages are an important way of making sense of the world and creating connections. At that time, more than anything, I wanted to feel connected to my Ukrainian friends and colleagues. I also wanted to work or volunteer to support Ukrainians, and I knew that having some knowledge of Ukrainian would be helpful.
I wanted to share the resources that I found helpful in my language learning journey. Perhaps other learners will find them useful. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it is heavily influenced by the languages I already speak (English and Russian), as well as my personal preferences.
Like many learners of Ukrainian, I started with Duolingo. I found it to be a great way to learn some new words and figure out which aspects of the language I needed to focus on. However, I found Duolingo to be of limited use for learning to speak or mastering grammar, so I started looking for other resources.
Most language learners find speaking the most challenging part of learning a language. This is also true for me, especially when it comes to making mistakes in front of others. I still remember how, when I went to the United States as a teenager, I refused to speak English at school for the first three months, passing notes to my (very patient) classroom teacher instead.
For this reason, my approach to learning Ukrainian centers heavily on conversational practice. I feel very fortunate because early on in my learning I met Iryna, a Ukrainian conversation partner from NaTakallam, a social enterprise that creates opportunities for refugees and displaced persons to work as language tutors or translators.
In addition to structured weekly conversation practice, I use Anki flashcards to remember words and phrases. I focus on those phrases that I am likely to need in actual conversations or where I tend to make mistakes.
In addition to these, I am also a huge fan of the Ukrainian Language Podcast. It is a fun way to learn the language, and every episode teaches me something about Ukrainian life and culture, in addition to idioms and useful phrases. The creator of the podcast, Anna Ohoiko, also created the Ukrainian Learners Group on Facebook. It is a great place to ask questions and connect with other learners, as well as speakers of Ukrainian.
Ukrainian and other languages
Speaking another Slavic language (in my case, Russian) definitely gave me a head start on learning Ukrainian. I could already read Cyrillic, and some vocabulary and grammar were already familiar to me. At the same time, there are considerable differences between the two languages, and I have to be very careful not to accidentally mix the two languages when speaking or writing Ukrainian
When it comes to multilingual resources, I find Global Voices stories in Ukrainian to be very helpful when learning a language. I usually read a story in Ukrainian and refer to the English text to check my understanding. This helps me build my reading ability without being overwhelmed by unknown words and phrases.
Here are some other resources for learning Ukrainian that I collected in the course of my language learning journey. Some of these resources are available only in Ukrainian, while others are accessible to speakers of English or Russian.
One star indicates that the resource is suitable for beginners, while three stars are for advanced learners.
I would love to know what resources and methods other learners of Ukrainian found helpful. Please let us know in the comments!
Textbooks and courses
Є-мова/E-Mova ★ to ★★★
Online courses for Russian speakers, including courses for beginners and intermediate learners, and two courses on language use in professional contexts.
Лайфхаки з української мови/Ukrainian language lifehacks ★★ to ★★★
A course designed to help learners understand Ukrainian grammar, spelling, and phonetics (in Ukrainian).
Українська мова для іноземців. Крок за кроком. / Ukrainian Language for Foreigners. Step by Step. ★ to ★★
This is an offline textbook that can be purchased as a paper book or an ebook on various online stores. The book is entirely in Ukrainian, so complete beginners may want to work on this book with a teacher.
Ukrainian Lessons Podcast ★ to ★★★
A podcast in Ukrainian highlighting various topics of interest and useful phrases. Free, with an optional premium subscription that includes episode transcripts, additional explanations, and vocabulary flashcards.
5 хвилин українською/5-minute Ukrainian ★ to ★★
Short podcast episodes by the author of the Ukrainian Language Podcast covering a range of everyday interactions with explanations in English.
Аудіокниги українською/Audiobooks in Ukrainian ★★ to ★★★
Many classics and contemporary fiction and non-fiction, as well as children’s books.
Ukrainian Youtube channels for language learners ★★ to ★★★
Compiled by the author of the Ukrainian Language Podcast.
Про поході/About Hiking ★★ to ★★★
This YouTube channel about the outdoors and hiking (especially in the Carpathian Mountains) can be a great resource if, like me, you are interested in hiking, camping, and the outdoors. The videos are clear and fairly easy to understand, in addition to being fun and informative.
Лайфхак українською/Lifehack in Ukrainian ★★ to ★★★
A YouTube playlist from UA:Перший TV that covers some common conversational situations in Ukrainian, as well as Ukrainian pronunciation.
Global Voices українською/Global Voices in Ukrainian
All stories are also available in English and other languages, to help to check your understanding of the Ukrainian text.
Гаррі Поттер/Harry Potter in Ukrainian
The books in Ukrainian are available for free on the publisher’s site
nagolos.online ★ to ★★★
Knowing where to put the stress (наголос) in a word can be a particular challenge. This website allows you to enter a word or a phrase and see which syllables must be stressed.
Горох/Horokh ★ to ★★★
Ukrainian dictionaries, including Ukrainian-English, Ukrainian-Russian, word definitions (in Ukrainian), etymology, and more.
Офіційний сайт Української мови/The Official Ukrainian Language Website ★★ to ★★★
Includes grammatical and spelling resources, style guides, dictionaries, and school textbooks.
Слова, що нас збагачуют/Words that Enrich Us ★★ to ★★★
A Facebook page with words and expressions to help with Ukrainian fluency with a special focus on errors typically made by Russian speakers.
Ukrainian translations of loan words. Here you can find the best way to say how to “like” a social media post or how to say “deadline” in Ukrainian without “borrowing” words from English.
DeepL Translate ★ to ★★★
(Android/iOS/Web) An online translator that recently added Ukrainian to its languages, DeepL tends to be more accurate than Google translate and often offers more translation variants.
LanguageTool ★ to ★★★
(iOS/Mac/Windows/Web) An app that will check your Ukrainian grammar and punctuation, highlight any errors, and offer suggestions. The free version allows you to check text up to 20,000 characters in length. The app can also be installed as a browser extension.
(iOS) A fun word game that you can play against a bot or with other players.
Тренажер з правопису української мови/Ukrainian Spelling Trainer ★★★
(Web) An app to test your Ukrainian spelling and orthography.
(Android/iOS) Interesting Ukrainian words with examples and word etymology (Android and iOS).
Vіtаlіі Vodolаzskyі and Tіppа Pаtt
Originally published under CC BY 3.0 on GlobalVoices as My journey to learning Ukrainian and the online language tools that took me there