Ukrainian language teaching initiatives are on the rise in Japan


Amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, efforts to stimulate people’s interest in the Ukrainian language are spreading online in Japan.

Nataliya Gudziy, Ukrainian musician in Tokyo who plays bandagea folk instrument, has been posting daily about the language on Twitter since March 22, about a month after the invasion began on February 24.

Use #勝手にウクライナ語会話 (katteni Ukurainago kaiwa) or “Ukrainian conversation lessons on my own,” Gudziy, 42, tweets everyday Ukrainian phrases such as dyakuyu and laska bud, which mean “thank you” and “you’re welcome”, respectively. Sentences are transliterated into Japanese katakana characters.

According to his office, Gudziy, who wants the Japanese to feel closer to Ukraine, posted between training sessions.

The operator of language-learning app Duolingo released an introductory guide to the Ukrainian language online in mid-March. The guide includes unique pronunciation and grammatical features compared to Russian, a similar language.

The move comes as the number of people in Japan willing to learn Ukrainian through the app increased after the start of the Russian invasion. These users increased eighteenfold in late March, when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave a speech online to Japan’s parliament, according to Duolingo Inc.

Learning Ukrainian “would be helpful in communicating with evacuees from Ukraine,” said Sho Mizutani, 33, Duolingo’s Japanese operations manager. “I hope it will be used to help generate interest (in Ukraine).”

At the same time, efforts are also being made to support Japanese language education for Ukrainians who have fled to the East Asian country.

Japan Overseas Educational Services, a public benefit organization, published a Japanese-Ukrainian dictionary on its website on April 5. With children in Ukraine in mind, the dictionary includes everyday phrases and vocabulary with illustrations.

“It’s very stressful living in an environment where you don’t understand the language,” said a JOES official. “Hope this helps the kids.”

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