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The Influence of English on Russian and Ukrainian

Yuliya Melnyk
Photo from Yuliya Melnyk
As a linguist and a teacher I would like my Slavic people not to forget their own languages and not use borrowings when it is not really necessary.

 

Yuliya Melnyk from Ukraine

I am a teacher of EFL at Kirovohrad Pedagogical University (Ukraine). I have two native languages: Ukrainian and Russian (both are Eastern Slavic languages). Ukrainian is the official language in my home country, but for many people Russian still remains not only the native language, but also the main means of communication.

Since my country became independent we have not been a closed society anymore. We can read any Western newspapers, books, watch original movies and in general we experience more and more communication with Western countries. In this way, the influence of English is becoming more obvious.

Of course, there were English words in Russian and Ukrainian in the Soviet period (we pronounced "girl friend", "boy-friend", "weekend", "face", "happy end" almost in the same way as they are pronounced in English").

But now we see a completely different influence: it is very strong and new words from English are ubiquitous. The majority of them are connected with computing. Some of them are used without changes: "upgrade", "browser", " e-mail", " mailbox", " provider", " "hacker", " chat", " user", etc. Many words are produced in Russian every day; they have English roots and Russian affixes ("mastdait" means "critisize" - from "must die", "smailik" from "smile" - as a sign in " e-mail, "otfardit" means "send forward", etc).

Sometimes we use a common Russian word with a new meaning. For example, "mylo" in Russian means "soap", but we say "mylo" in spoken Russian meaning "e-mail", because "mylo" and "e-mail" are similar in pronunciation.

The speech of young people is full of English words. Both Russian and Ukrainian speakers use the words "cool", "dance", "free love", etc. Very often English words are used in the press, although there are Russian or Ukrainian words with the same meaning, for example, the word "building".

Many new words in our Slavic languages are connected with the field of economics ("coupon", "vaucher", "broker", etc). The economy is changing a lot and many English words are becoming necessary. One more interesting fact is that we can observe such changes in Slavic languages not only in the countries where they are state languages, but also in the countries where they are "minority" languages. For example, there are huge Russian and Ukrainian-speaking communities in the USA and Canada.

They are not homogenous, because there were several completely different waves of immigration from the Slavic world across the Atlantic. In Canada we can observe so-called "Ukish" - the language of Ukrainian descendents who create sentences according to Ukrainian grammar rules, but the majority of the words are English. Even the people who arrive in the US for a short time begin to use many English words ("deductible", "landlord", "porch", backyard", "deposit", "rent", "insurance", "workshop", "chicken", "cottage cheese", etc).

But the borrowings of Russian/Ukrainian people in their home countries and in the USA are different. In the USA Slavic people begin to use new words mostly because there are many new items for them. For example, we do not have “deductibles” in Ukraine. If I translated I would need 3-5 words.

Why do many of us say "cottage cheese" instead of "tvorog" (Russian) or "syr" (Ukrainian)? We have completely different recipes for this product both in Russia and Ukraine. We cannot connect American “cottage cheese” with “tvorog” or “syr”. So, we use two English words instead of one Russian. Of course, it is possible to say "American" + our own word, but being in the U.S. it is easier to use English words.

It is great that we now have an open democratic society and can visit different countries, communicate with different people and read many books. But as a linguist and a teacher I would like my Slavic people not to forget their own languages and not use borrowings when it is not really necessary.


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