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5 October, 2018

One year, two languages, thousands of reasons

The passage of the German-Ukrainian Year of Languages

Bormaschyna (Bohrmaschine or drill), wunderkindschukhliada (Schublade or drawer), drushliak (Dürchschlag or sieve), and vinshuvate (Wünschen or to wish) are just some of the words that connect millions of Ukrainians to the German language. In addition, more than 700,000 Ukrainians know what the expressions “Dankeschön” and “Herzlich Willkommen” mean, simply because they are already studying German and using it as a foreign language. This number alone puts Ukraine in an impressive 5th place in the world.

“Take the next step!” This is the slogan we used to promote the German language over the last year. We (the German Embassy and Goethe Institut) together with the German Academic Exchange Service and the Central Administration for Education Abroad, have been able not just to reach those who are already studying German, but also to acquaint thousands of Ukrainians with it and get their interest.

After all there are many important reasons why people learn it: learning German means preparing for a trip to Germany, as a tourist, a pupil or student, an employee, or an entrepreneur. Learning German means diving into the world of over 100 million native speakers in Europe. Learning German means the opportunity to take a German language course many Ukrainian schools and universities, to relish the rich cultural palette in German films, literature and music, or to dig into the information provided in journals, gazettes, internet sites and specialized literature. Last, but not least, learning German opens considerable professional prospects, from working as a translator to being a German-language tour guide, from a medic to a lawyer, from a political scientist to an engineer, in Germany, in German-speaking countries, or even in one of the nearly 1,000 German companies in Ukraine.

More than a symbolic achievement. During the German-Ukrainian Year of Languages, nearly 100 events were held in 30 Ukrainian cities and towns.


The German-Ukrainian Year of Languages was announced jointly by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin and Germany’s then-Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier in the fall of 12016 in Berlin. In honor of 25 years of partnerly relations between the two countries, language should also play a significant role, it should be learned and knowledge of it deepened. After all, cooperation in education and learning foreign languages is a natural component of cooperation at the political and economic levels.

True cooperation has never been a one-way street: just as we used the Year of Languages in Ukraine to promote German, our colleagues at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and foreign missions in Germany promoted the mellifluousness of the Ukrainian language and the prospects for learning it. Ukrainian is already offered in many universities in Germany and we hope that, thanks to the German-Ukrainian Year of Languages, it will become even more popular.

“Take the next step!” is how we appealed, together with our Ukrainian partners not only those who are studying German in Ukraine but also those studying Ukrainian in Germany.

Motivation.With the help of tablets in four Ukrainian cities — Zhytomyr, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv and Sumy — the Goethe Institute invited people to learn 10 phrases in German while walking or running through the park.


Looking back at the German-Ukrainian Year of Languages, we can point to many results, starting with more than 100 events in more than 30 towns and cities in Ukraine, and a myriad of events for those who are studying Ukrainian in Germany. In addition to this, we organized 12 months of live debates between Germans and Ukrainians, between older people and youth, between artists and their gallery owners, between writers and their translators, in German and in Ukrainian, synchronized or consecutive translations—and some times even without the assistance of a translator. This is exactly how we hoped, from the very start, that the idea of a German-Ukrainian Year of Languages might turn out.

Liudmyla Kovalenko-Schneider, Director, Wiederstrahl German Cultural Center:

I first heard German when I was about 8-10, when my great-grandfather sang me some German songs. At the time, German sounded very easy and melodious and when I got into 5thGrade, I began to study it at school.

Yelyzaveta Styranko, student:

I began to study German out of sheer interest: we had two of my grandmother’s books at home that no one in the family could read. I kept looking at the pictures and the umlauts and I thought the language was enchanting. I like to speak German because it’s a very beautiful language — the language of Goethe and Schiller. I love reading German poetry in the original.

Maria Karapata, journalist:

Every language is a living organism. Those who learn languages need to always think about this aspect. Try to simply feel and develop an affection for the German language — and you will open up much more than just “unattractive” words like Schmetterling [butterfly] and Kugelschreiber [ballpoint pen].

By Ernst Reichel, Ambassador of Germany to Ukraine, and Beate Köhler, Director of Goethe Institut Ukraine



Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj

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