Ukrainian Language Refresher

Peace Corps Ukraine offers two big in-service trainings (ISTs) each year for language-learning. These, as you may have already guessed, are called Language Refreshers. I did not attend last summer’s LangRef for various reasons, so looked forward to this one in January.

Running Tuesday afternoon through Friday morning, the LangRef schedule was packed with small-group lessons, choice lessons, clubs, and focus groups. I chose to take a few interesting- and useful-looking classes: complex sentences, verbal prefixes, reading texts, Ukrainian idioms, and verbs of motion. Most were, indeed, interesting and useful.

One of my favorite classes was idioms — I regularly introduce English idioms to my adult English Club but hadn’t yet learned and remembered and Ukrainian ones. Here are a few that I hope to begin using on a regular basis:

  • [Ukrainiantransliteration — direct translation — English equivalent]
  • молоти язикомmoloty yazykom — to hammer the tongue — “motor-mouth,” to blab
  • викинути з головиvykynuty z holovy — to think away — to clear your mind
  • бити байдикиbyty baidyky — [no direct translation] — to twiddle one’s thumbs; do nothing
  • взяти себе в рукиvzyaty sebe v rukyto pull oneself together
  • наламати дровnalamaty drov — to chop wood — to make a mess of things
  • сушити головуsushyty holovu — to dry the head — to wrack one’s brains
  • бачити наскрізьbachyty nazkriz — to see through — to read someone like a book; see right through someone

In addition to lessons, I attended music club — at which I was the only one, so Serhiy taught me a couple popular Ukrainian pop-rock songs and played along on his guitar while we sang — and cooking club. At the latter, Tamila taught us how to make кутя (kutya), a traditional Ukrainian Christmas dish made from wheat, poppyseeds, walnuts, honey, and raisins. Yum! (I can send along the recipe if anyone is interested.)

I also took another Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), my first one since the end of PST. (On the first one I scored at the Intermediate-Mid level, according to the evaluation criteria). Serhiy asked me lots of questions and I talked a lot and felt pretty good about it. However, I didn’t give him as clear comparisons as he’d have liked, so he awarded me Intermediate-High. I was this close to Advanced-level speaking. But because of the botched comparisons and underwhelming story-telling, he wouldn’t give it to me. To be honest, I’m bummed, as I feel like my Ukrainian has improved much more than just one level since Training. But it seems like the second time around the interviewers are much tougher and look more for specific skills than just an ability to speak without pause. (Wish I would’ve known that going in…) At least Serhiy said my grammar/tenses are pretty solid and my description skills are excellent. Now I know what to work on so I can get Advanced-something in my next LPI.

Overall, LangRef was fun and useful and got me more excited about Ukrainian. The staff were great and it was fun to catch up with some PCVs I hadn’t seen in a while. I’m disappointed the language interview didn’t place me where I’d have liked, but I still have 10-11 months to work that part out.

8 thoughts on “Ukrainian Language Refresher

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  2. Kate

    Thanks for sharing the idioms, I copied/pasted them on my sticky notes so I can learn them and impress Olha (and potentially Slavic, haha). Sounds like Language Refresher was useful! I’m sorry to hear about the Intermediate-High, but that’s exactly what happened to me in the summer! The same comments and everything- he said I needed to have a story prepared to show off my “ease in storytelling” and that I needed better comparisons. I remember one of the questions he asked was to compare Arabic culture with Ukrainian culture and my brain went “kapietz…” lol. But to my mind (hahaha), you’re stellar and super advanced. And we know Kate’s score is much more useful than PC’s 😉 I hope you enjoyed music time with sexy Serhiy… know that I’m jealous 😉

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