I know that Kyiv is both Ukrainian and Russian speaking city, but if I talk to people in Ukrainian, will they respond in Ukrainian as well?

I know the written language quite well, but I need to improve my speaking skills, so is it possible to do it on the streets of Kyiv?

  • 1
    Japanese teacher about his experience of learning Ukrainian in Kyiv: У розмові зі мною кияни переходять на українську
    – Artemix
    Feb 21, 2017 at 17:30
  • @P. Vovk Прошу змінити прийняту відповідь. Вважаю що моя відповідь більш арґументовна, дивіться деталі у самій відповіді
    – piznajko
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:48
  • @piznajko as you see, I wasn't interested in any city located in the Western Ukraine. I'm fully aware that they're much more Ukrainian speaking than Kyiv. What I needed was the answer to my question, not a story about the other city. Why do you point out Lviv? Why not Ternopil, Frankivsk, or any other city in the Western Ukraine. As far as I know, Lviv is much more Russian speaking right now than T or F. I was interested if it would be possible to practice Ukrainian in Kyiv and Kyiv only, and s0nata gave me a good answer. I have already checked it. She was absolutely right about this city.
    – P. Vowk
    Oct 4, 2017 at 22:29

6 Answers 6


According to the last census (2001, data for the Kyiv city (in Ukrainian only), data for the Kyiv region (in English)) you have roughly 70% chance to be answered in Ukrainian, which is 2 out every 3 persons you talk to.

You can always maximize the probability of talking to a Ukrainian-speaking person by going to some cultural places and events, like presentations and public discussions in bookshops. Transit places (metro, railways) and markets are more oriented to a multi-language public so hearing Russian there is quite common. From personal experience, locations close to the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy are frequently visited by its students, who mostly speak Ukrainian.


It is very important to distinguish between the concepts of "native language" and "language, one prefers to speak in everyday life". The other answer to the stated question, used native language percentage as the source of their claims - that's deceiving, since many people who consider a language their monther tongue don't necessarily use it in everyday life (both at work and outside of work). Therefore, the answer I'm providing is based on socialogical survey of Kyiv residents that provides data on the "language, one prefers to speak in everyday life".

Considering the data I've seen (both academic papers based on sociological surveys and my personal obervation of Ukrainians in everyday life), I would dissuade you from going to Kyiv to learn Ukrainian and would encourage to go to Lviv instead. Lviv has roughly ~90% Ukrainian speakers (a 2001 paper published in an an influential "Ji" magazine using a sociological survey of Lviv residents in 2000 stated that 89% of Lviv city dwellers preffered to use Ukrainian in everyday life; source in Ukrainian) and you would hear Ukrainian spoken everywhere - thus giving you plenty of opportunities to pick up Ukrainian. Kyiv, on the contrary, is highly russified (a 2013 paper from the The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine stated that among Kyivan dwellers, 32,43% percent use Russian as a language they are compfortable to use in everyday life while 17,57% percent use Ukrainian as a language they are compfortable to use in everyday life (with the rest being indifferent between the two, which knowing Ukrainian realities means they are most likely to prefer Russian language in everyday life); source in Ukrainian). Thus you will have considerably less opportunities to learn Ukrainian in Kyiv (since fewer Kyiv dwellers prefer to use Ukrainian than Russian in everyday life) compared to Lviv.

Lastly, as Yuri Shevchuk (associate professor at Columbia University who routinely teaches Ukrainian language courses there) pointed out in one of his interviews, when some of his Ukrainian courses' students travel to Ukraine looking to practice their spoken Ukrainian, he warns them that they will find it hard to practice Ukrainian in Kyiv, Kharkiv or Odesa (source in Ukrainian).


You'll definitely be able to improve your Ukrainian-speaking skills at Kyiv. You can easily go throughout the day speaking only Ukrainian. Anyone who knows Ukrainian will answer you in that language, the rest will understand you even if they will answer in Russian.

The only difficulty I can take into consideration - if one will understand that, suppose, your Russian is better, they automatically will switch to Russian if they can. But this is not something specific to Kyiv - pretty much the same will happen if you will try to speak Dutch in, say, Amsterdam but it will turn out your English is better.


In my experience, people in Kyiv tend to reply in the language which they were addressed in. Vast majority is bilingual and they switch easily from Russian to Ukrainian and back. So it rather depends on yourself: if during the conversation you keep using Ukrainian, your vis-a-vis most probably will talk back in Ukrainian too. If you know Russian better than Ukrainian and you will switch to that, so will do the interlocutor. Be prepared that many Kyivans would be excited to gain some practice of English, so they will try hard to make you communicate to them in English :).


It is possible, better on market places, like on Zhyniy rynok (Podil) or Obolon rynok (Obolon)


Раджу відвідати оці заходи, там збираються майже винятково україномовні, заодно і танцям можна повчитись, або просто поспілкуватись:

Сам я раніше відвідував варіант від Божичів, то збиралось 20-50 людей щоразу. Не знаю як зараз. Наразі більшість моїх україномовних друзів звідти.

Також можна сходити на виступ якогось україномовного гурту і там завести знайомства.

Ще як варіант почати дописувати до україномовного розділу Вікіпедії і затоваришувати з кимось там. Ось список людей, які позначили, що вони з Києва.

Зрештою, можна написати тут у чаті і знайдеться людина, яка проведе екскурсію Києвом і поспілкується українською;)

  • This question was asked in English from the perspective of non-native speaker, so answers that do not contain English section are useless. Apr 5, 2018 at 5:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.