KYIV - While members of the Ukrainian parliament are fighting over the status of the Russian language in Ukraine, English is becoming more popular in the country - without any government directive. Market forces - in which supply dictates demand - as well as the Euro 2012 football (soccer) championship, co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, are having an impact on Ukrainians becoming trilingual.
Euro 2012 has changed Ukrainians’ daily routine, especially those who live in the host-cities. The championship has attracted many tourists to the country, who remind Ukrainians that while the national parliament struggles to decide which language they should speak - Russian or Ukrainian - more and more people around the world are turning to English, especially in international business.
With that in mind, some Ukrainians, on their own, have begun speaking and running their businesses using several languages.
“We organize many tours with English-speaking guides, but most of them are still ordered by some self-organized travel groups that are coming here to Kyiv," said Arseniy Finberg, project coordinator for Interesting Kyiv.
The Ukrainian capital is also switching to English. The names of subway stations are now announced in Ukrainian and English, and all the signs are in both languages. And restaurant owners have added a few extra menus in English to those they already have.
“Last year when I was here, everything was in Ukrainian. Now everywhere, in the subway for example, all the signs are in English, and also the speaker voice is in Ukrainian and in English," said Swedish tourist Katerina. "And you can really tell that the town has prepared to welcome the tourists because now all the signs are in two languages and so on.”
Ukrainians are sometimes surprised by how well soccer fans from abroad speak English - even though it is not their national language. Those who have had a chance to take part in Euro 2012, have seen that market forces are in effect, with those knowing at least three languages in demand among employers.
“English language is a must these days," said Euro 2012 volunteer Tetiana. "It doesn’t matter in which field you work, you can find it connected with English."
“The quantity of people speaking English is increasing with a speed of a sound. I know people who don’t speak English they start attending language schools. Almost everyone now speaks English," said Kateryna, another Euro 2012 volunteer.
With the flow of tourists to Kyiv, local residents are seeing the important role the English language plays - even in the course of watching soccer games in their home country. As a result, Ukrainians are finding they are going back to their school years, trying to come up with a few English phrases - if only to explain to foreign fans why the Ukrainian team they are cheering for will win.