Our guide for translating Ukrainian

After successful reforms, Ukraine has become an attractive destination for investors around the globe. In 2020, the country now ranks 64 out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.

Even with the pandemic happening, investment in the IT industry in Ukraine in 2020 increased to $571 million. Ukraine is a new technological center of the world, a breadbasket of Europe with fertile lands and potential in tourism and investment.

I. The importance of Ukrainian translation

Ukrainian (украї́нська мо́ва, Ukrayins’ka mova) is a language of the Slavic family and the official language of Ukraine. It is also used by immigrant communities in Canada, the U.SArgentina, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and Slovakia 

Linguists divide the Ukrainian language into three dialects that differ in pronunciation and vocabulary but are mutually intelligible:

  • Northern
  • Southwestern
  • Southeastern

II. 4 problems when translating Ukrainian

1. Word endings 

Do you know that the same Ukrainian word may have from dozens to even hundreds of variations? Now you know that.

This complexity causes much frustration and misunderstandings for translators and Ukrainian learners. In English sentences, words are linked by prepositions in a strict structure. In Ukrainian, it’s not the case. You can arrange words in any sequence, since every word has a specific ending that preserves the meaning. 

In English, nouns have singular and plural forms, verbs have 5 variations, whereas Ukrainian nouns have 14 variations and verbs have… well it’s hard to even count! Because the ending depends on verb tense, gender, mood, and number.

For example, these sentences “I singing in the bathroom like” or “Like singing I in the bathroom” are grammatically wrong and meaningless, instead you have to say “I like singing in the bathroom”. However, all these three variations in Ukrainian are valid.

2. Word order

As mentioned above, word order in Ukrainian can be very flexible unlike in English. But although changing word order won’t break grammar rules, it can change the text’s mood and tone by swapping two words.

Therefore, it is very risky to break sentences and translate each part separately. Translators must sometimes turn sentences inside out to make them feel natural. 

3. Context

When you look up a word in a dictionary, do you notice that each case contains not just one but a bunch of words in another language. Without knowing the context, you have to guess, and there is a great chance you will be wrong.

For example, “Email” in Ukrainian includes:

  • The label on a button to send email (Надіслати листа)
  • A communication technology (Електронна пошта)
  • Email address (Адреса електронної пошти)

…and many other meanings…

When the translators don’t have enough context, they have to select the least risky and most probable translation. To ensure that your material does not contain blind translation mistakes, please provide proper context of the text. It is even more important in the Ukrainian language with huge variations in word endings.

4. Punctuation

Rules applied in using commas, colons, periods, question marks, quotes, etc. are very different from other languages. For instance, we don’t see many chevrons («») in English, but in Ukrainian, it is used similarly to single or double quotation marks (‘’ and “”) of English.

There are many other examples: titles can never end with a colon in Ukrainian; dashes and colons are used in different ways; dollar sign ($) is put after numbers and must be separated with a space, i.e. 100 $, not $100 and so on.

That’s why you must be careful when choosing translation partners since you may get a translation adapted to a very specific region of Ukraine only, and it is dangerous because it might frustrate the rest of the country.

If you need to translate into Ukrainian, give us a call today!

Facts about Ukrainian language

  • The letter “o” is the letter used most frequently throughout words overall
  • The least used letters are “ф” and “г”.
  • Ukrainian won a Parisian linguistic competition held in 1934 as the top three of the world’s most beautiful languages in the world, alongside French and Persian.
  • ​The longest word in Ukrainian consists of 31 characters and means “рентгеноелектрокардіографічного“