Learning Ukrainian: progress report #4

As you see from the title, this is the fourth of my weekly reports on my progress in learning Ukrainian through Duolingo. After today, I will switch to writing intermittent reports: i.e., whenever I have enough new to write about, rather than every week automatically.

Mostly things have been gradually getting harder and harder. Fortunately a lot of the vocabulary is reasonably familiar already, as so much of it is either borrowed from English or French or else is visibly cognate to words in other Indo-European languages. As for the grammar, the Indo-Europeanness is also helpful there, especially since so much Ukrainian grammar resembles that of Latin and/or Greek. But maybe that’s an artifact of Duolingo, which tries so hard to postpone complications.

Sometimes, of course, apparent cognates or borrowings can be misleading when learning vocabulary. For instance, the word for “server” or “waiter” is офіціант /oficiant/, surely cognate to English ‘officiant,’ but that’s odd because a server has no religious connotations. Semantic drift, however, is common enough, so I can see the connection.

As for grammar, verb endings are (relatively) easy because of Indo-European familiarity. For instance, in one conjugation of verbs we have these typical forms in the present tense (transliterated into the Roman alphabet for your convenience):

1st personmayumayemo
2nd personmayeshmayete
3rd personmayemayut’

With a little bit of imagination, even without much knowledge of Indo-European linguistics, you can spot some similarities to Spanish, French, or Latin, depending on what you’ve studied.

One annoying thing about Duolingo’s approach to Ukrainian is the odd mixture of simple, repetitive sample sentences with obscure and vague grammatical rules. For instance:

Vague phrases like “not strictly followed” and “some objects” are not very helpful without more examples!

Anyway, here is my official progress over the past week:

Categories: Linguistics, Teaching & Learning