Thoughts out loud about the language dilemma.

I grew up in a family that spoke Russian. It was an obvious choice because (1) my grandma was Russian and (2) my city, Kyiv, was pretty much always bilingual.

I went to a Ukrainian school, so for 10 years, I studied Ukrainian and spoke Ukrainian during classes. However, because I always had tough relationships with my Ukrainian language teachers (except for one), I never wanted to speak Ukrainian.

After graduating, I went to a university where most of my classes were taught in English (and a couple in Russian.) It was easy for me because starting from the age of 6, I hung out with the teams and missionaries from the US.

The language of my country was forgotten. I thought I am not going to be able to ever speak it. Nor I wanted to, because I never identified as someone who is truly Ukrainian. (Frequent questions whether I’m American didn’t help the issue.)

Last March, I discovered that I do know the language, as it turns out. It happened in a lovely city of Lviv in western Ukraine, a true cultural capital of my country. Yet I still wasn’t feeling local

It all changed in winter of 2014. The events demanded that each citizen to choose a side. No one could remain on the fence.

So I have chosen. I am proud to be Ukrainian.


I still prefer speaking Russian language. I grew up speaking it and while I can speak Ukrainian, I cannot convey my thoughts as clearly.

“It will come with practice,” some say. I agree. However, there’s a block within me. Whichever language I used to communicate with a person, that language is locked to that person from then on.

I cannot bring myself to speak Russian or Ukrainian to my American (or other English-speaking) friends.

I cannot speak English to my Russian / Ukrainian-speaking friends.

I am a terrible language teacher because of that and it feels fake to my ears whenever I try to do that.

It has been a trend to switch to Ukrainian language in my country this year. Many have switched completely, even more people started to occasionally use it (me included).

However, I don’t think I will ever be able to completely switch. In every language, it’s a different me.

I am more introverted when speaking Russian.

I am softer when speaking Ukrainian.

I am more extroverted when speaking English.

The languages demand that.

So the real question behind the language dilemma is trying to understand who I am in reality. Am I a loud, laughing extrovert who speaks English? Am I a quiet Russian-speaking introvert? Am I a romantic who prefers to convey thoughts out loud in Ukrainian?

All these personalities are a part of me. Yet they all emerge in their time.

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