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Ukraine creates free online courses of Ukrainian language for foreigners

Article by: Sofia Kochmar-Tymoshenko
Edited by: Vidan Clube

Learning Ukrainian online has become easier, now that the government is offering a free online course “SpeakUkrainian.” The course is an initiative arising from the Ukrainian Ministry of Information Policy.

The front page provides this introduction: “This platform (SpeakUkrainian) is intended for everyone who needs to improve the Ukrainian language – both Ukrainian citizens and foreigners, therefore the English language is auxiliary.”

Ministry Secretary Artem Bidenko, program initiator, explains that one of the main goals of the project is to change the attitude of Ukrainians themselves to the language–to popularize Ukrainian and make it appealing to people of all ages. This is not a dull and dry learning tool–it is completely interactive and meant to be both easy and enjoyable.

Artem Bidenko presenting the course

“SpeakUkrainian” is formulated for online learning by the Association of Innovation and Digital Education. The course is hosted on Lingva.skills–an online training platform for the Ukrainian language.

Users will need to subscribe to the program online, and instructions are clearly outlined on the Lingva.skills website. A major plus is that the program does not allow external notifications, and only course material is presented to the user–no annoying pop-ups.

CEO Maria Boguslav, Association of Innovation and Digital Education, says developers hope users will be especially motivated by the elements of gameplay in the program. Users will be able to personalize the content, to make it even more fun.

The course is based on the author’s, Vitaliy Zubkov, innovative technique. Zubkov is a well-known psycholinguist and the creator of the education project Lingva.Skills. He himself has used the program to learn five foreign languages.

“Speak Ukrainian” uses an integrated method of language education. According to Zubkov, the approach is intuitive. He notes that everyone has a natural ability to guess words and, perhaps more importantly, to construe the meaning of a message when experienced within its own context. The course has been designed with four successive levels, A1-A2 and B1-B2, and has been proved effective as an introduction to common, everyday language skills.

However, the course still has room for improvement. Euromaidan Press asked an English native speaker who managed to learn Ukrainian perfectly well to review it. Jessica Pacheco-Semenyuk is an American. She learned Ukrainian to the extent that even allowed her to complete a Master’s program in Lviv.

“I love how interactive it is. But because it’s so interactive and there are a lot of moving pieces, I would have a little dotted route to help the end user navigate what comes first then next on the page.

The front page has both English and Ukrainian versions. However, the exercises are all in Ukrainian only. Jessica’s first impression was related actually to English.

“The English is not the best and it’s very obvious to me that a non-native English speaker wrote it.”

She went on pointing at other difficulties users of the course might meet.

“When I clicked the ‘start learning’ button, it immediately navigated me within the site to a new page. You might want that to pop out as an entirely new web page rather so as not to encourage end users to bounce at this point. Lots of folks won’t click back and will just click out. Make it easier for them,” explained Ukrainian-speaking American Jessica Pacheco-Semenyuk.

Diplomats, media, and representatives of the international community have been among the first to use the course. Originally launched on 1 March, within a week 1,000 users had been registered and close to 5,000 exercises had been completed.

“The Ukrainian language is interesting for many foreigners; including students in Ukrainian universities, foreign diplomats and international tourists,” says Artem Bidenko.

According to Bidenko, the program is definitely worth a try–its early success has made that obvious. You can find (SpeakUkrainian) at the Lingva.skills website.

Sofia Kochmar-Tymoshenko is a journalist based in Kyiv. In 2014, Sofia started working as a TV-journalist and fixer for international media. Her professional interest is religious freedom and human rights.

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Edited by: Vidan Clube
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