Do Great Britain and the USA speak the same English? Do Quebec and France speak the same French? And what about Russia and Ukraine? Is Russian language spoken in these countries the same? Let’s find out.
To get the answer to our question, we would need to analyze the following: grammar (phonetics, morphology, syntax), lexicon, and orthography.
Let’s start from smaller to bigger.
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies the sounds of human speech.
When we meet a person for the first time, we rarely have to wonder if he or she is from the same city, region or country that we are. We just hear it. When introductions are made, we just hear the sounds that are different from ours.
Does Russian sound the same in Russia and Ukraine? The answer is … “No!”
In Ukraine, vowels are shorter and the tempo of speech is faster. In Russia, the speech is slower and the vowels are longer. For example, the sound “a” is prolonged in Moscow dialect, and it is significantly longer than in the other regional dialects of Russia. Under the influence of Ukrainian language, Russian sound “г” [g] is pronounced as a mixture of “г” [g] and “х” [h].
So, is there a difference in pronunciation between Russian language in Russia and in Ukraine? Yes, there is.
Morphology is a branch of linguistics that studies the structure of words and how words interact with other words of the same language.
Good news is that both Russia and Ukraine stick to the same rules when it comes to formation of words, their coordination and paradigms.
So, is there a difference in morphological structure of words in Russian language in Russia and in Ukraine? No, there is not.
Syntax is a set of rules that governs the structure of sentences in a given language, specifically word order (definition by Wikipedia).
Syntactic rules are the same in Russia and Ukraine.
So, is there a difference in syntax of Russian language in Russia and in Ukraine? No, there is not.
Lexicon is a vocabulary of a language.
Do Russian speakers in Russia and Russian speakers in Ukraine use the same words to describe the same things? Let’s see.
How do you call a curb in Russian? Preferred word in Ukraine is “бордюр” [bordyur], but some regions of Russia call it “поребрик” [porebrik]. For example, in Saint-Petersburg buckwheat is called “греча” [grecha], while in Ukraine and some other regions of Russia it is called “гречка” [grechka]. In Ukraine, you’ll never hear the word “парадная” [paradnaya] to denote entrance to a section of a residential building. This word is characteristic of Saint-Petersburg dialect. In Moscow dialect and in Ukraine, it would be called “подъезд” [podyezd].
Marigolds, flowers as common as dirt in the northern hemisphere, are called “чернобривцы” [chernobrivtsy] in Ukraine, but “бархатцы” [barkhatsy] in Russia.
When I carried out a research for this article, I stumbled upon a curious word. According to the Moscow – Saint-Petersburg dictionary (it appears people from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg have trouble understanding each other), a word “бадлон” [badlon] (SPb) is “водолазка” [vodolazka] (Moscow). Both of them are translated as polo neck (UK), turtleneck (USA) or skivvy (Australia). Being a Ukrainian, I’ve never heard the word “бадлон” before.
Both Moscow and Saint-Petersburg dialects constitute standard Russian language. Judging by the language spoken in my region (Mykolaivska Oblast, Ukraine), the Russian language in southern Ukraine is closer to the Moscow dialect rather than Saint-Petersburg dialect.
So, is there a difference in lexicon used by Russian speakers in Russia and in Ukraine? Yes, there is, but the words that are different are few and far between. How often do you talk about marigolds anyway?
Orthography is a set of rules that decide the correct spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.
If anyone asked you what the difference between British English and American English is, the first thing that would come to your mind would probably be spelling. Am I standing in the “centre” or in the “center” of the square? Green is a “colour” or “color”?
That is definitely not the case for Russian. No matter where you are, all words are spelled the same way. Rules are the same for everyone.
So, is there a difference in orthography between Russian language in Russia and in Ukraine? No, there is not.
Importance for translation
It goes without saying that when one orders a translation, one should know into which language the translation should be done. Nevertheless, there are cases when not everything is black and white. For example, I have an article I want to be available in Spanish. I shall decide who my target audience is and which language variant should be used. Do I want my article to be appropriate for Europe, for Latin America or for everyone?
The same is true for Russian language. During the Soviet Union times, Russian language was official language in 15 countries. The USSR existed for 70 years, and 70 years is a life time. Its domination in 15 countries was long enough to leave a trace and spread the language. Nowadays, there are a lot of Russian speakers around the globe, and, when a translation is prepared, a language variant should be taken into account.
There is no difference in spelling, syntax or morphology, but different regions prefer different words. For example, a medical term “adverse events” is translated as “нежелательные явления” [nezhelatelnye yavleniya] and “побочные явления” [pobochnye yavleniya] in Russia and Ukraine, respectively. Both terms mean the same thing, and it is the preference that’s different. Such deviations are minor and rare, but they are still there.
The difference between Russian language in Russia and Russian language in Ukraine becomes glaringly obvious when people start talking. Nothing can ever hide the accent.
Which language variant to choose
Choosing the right language variant is not as difficult as it seems. There are very few words that are used differently between the two language variants, so it doesn’t matter if you hire a translator from Russia or from Ukraine as long as you make it clear which market you target. Being specialists in a specific field of translation, translators are usually aware of the differences in preferred terms for specific countries.
On the other hand, if you are looking for dubbing or voice-over services the choice of a language service provider is crucial. Ukrainian market might tolerate the advertisement dubbed into Russian for Russia, but for Russian market an advertisement dubbed with Ukrainian accent won’t be commercially viable. What is invisible in writing will be noticeable at the first sound.
After having analyzed the notions outlined above, we can conclude that the difference between the Russian language spoken in Russia and the Russian language spoken in Ukraine is mainly of phonetical nature. There are minor differences in lexicon, but they are few and far between. Rules of written Russian language are the same all around the globe.
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And if you need a translation from English or French into Ukrainian or Russian (for Russia or for Ukraine), please don’t hesitate to contact me.