Jim Dingley and Olena Bekh. Ukrainian Phrasebook. Lonely Planet Language Survival Kit. Hawthorne, Australia: Lonely Planet Publications, 1996. 221 pp. Illustrations. Index. $6.95, paper. Olesj P. Benyukh and Raisa I. Galushko. Ukrainian Phrasebook and Dictionary. Hippocrene Language Studies. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1998. Third printing. 205 pp. $18.50, paper.
The development of Ukrainian materials and resourses at all levels of the proficiency spectrum is an urgent task facing specialists of Ukrainian in the Western world. One of the ultimate goals of students pursuing the language for professional reasons is to master it as a conversational tool. For their purposes various kinds of phrasebooks are helpful and beneficial. At the beginning of the 1990s English-Ukrainian phrasebooks began to apppear like mushrooms in Ukraine, but their quality was not always acceptable.
The Phrasebook by Dingley and Bekh includes the following sections: Introduction; Pronunciation; Grammar; Greetings and Civilities; Small Talk; Getting Around; Accommodation; Around Town; In the Country; Food; Shopping; Health; Time; Dates & Festivals; Numbers & Amounts; Vocabulary; Emergencies; and an Index. The phrasebook is not flawless, but the authors’ approach is serious and their tips are useful. I hope there will be other editions which will improve on this one.
Dingley’s and Bekh’s Introduction claims that “[Ukrainian] is spoken by about 50 million people in Ukraine…” This figure represents wishful thinking. In fact, only approximately 33 million speak the language. Some people whose first language is Russian do speak Ukrainian, but not very often and this causes one of the biggest problems for the proper functioning of the Ukrainian language in Ukraine.
Equally incorrect is the claim that “[t]he Ukrainian used in this book is the standard language spoken in the capital, Kyiv (Kiev), and other major centres” (p. 7). But, in fact, it is the standard literary language, which is taught at school, universities, etc., and spoken by intelligentsia and educated Ukrainians living in the West.
There is a slight problem with transliteration. Dingley and Bekh prefer to use the clumsy ee for the Ukrainian sound і, in contradiction to universally accepted systems of transliteration. Their choice is graphically inconvenient. Moreover, Dingley and Bekh do not always follow their own rule. For example, they transliterate Ukrainian імена as imena, rather than eemena. But ім’я is transliterated as eemya (p. 15), whereas ostanniy (p. 49) is used for останній аnd shnitsel’ for шніцель (p. 114). Needless to say, such inconsistency is very confusing.
The information on the back cover of the book contradicts what is stated on page 16. The former reads: “Cyrillic script is included throughout as well as detailed grammar and pronunciation guides”. But the latter indicates that: “ [n]o attempt is going to be made here to list all the cases and their endings…” In fact, only three cases are explained – the Nominative, Accusative and Dative. Why exactly these three were chosen and not the others? In our opinion it would be better to explain all cases or to omit this information altogether. The tendency towards selectivity continues when, while explaining demonstrative pronouns in Ukrainian (p. 18), the authors provide only the pronoun це without mentioning те and their masculine, feminine and plural counterparts – цей / той, ця / та and ці / ті. It would not have taken much space to do so.
Dingley and Bekh fail to indicate the position of Ukrainian stresses (accents), even though they are extremely useful for the beginning language learner. For example, there is a serious difference between замóк (‘lock’, which appears unstressed on p. 191) and зáмок (‘castle’). On page 36 the transliteration of the acronym U.S.A. and its Ukrainian form are not presented. Some of the nouns connoting female professionals in literary Ukrainian do not end in –ка (e.g., лікарка [p. 38] is merely a colloquial form of лікар, the Ukrainian word for both male and female ‘doctor’). The noun священик (‘priest’) should be written with one н, and not two, as it appears on pp. 38 and 200. Some preposition + noun combinations are incorrect, e.g., Скільки коштує прокат у день? Скільки платити в тиждень? (p. 70). Here the correct combinations are, respectively, на день and на (за) тиждень. The sentence У який день ви будете у Києві? (p.158) should be rendered as Якого дня ви будете в Києві? Тhese are not insignificant details for the beginning-language learner. On p. 160 the English sentence It’s 13 July is translated as Тридцяте липня. Inconsistency in using capital letters also appears in the expressions: Вітаю вас з днем народження… and Я бажаю Вам (p.164). The word ‘robbery’ is better translated as грабіж or грабування, rather than пограб (p. 202). Moreover, there are several misprints in the book as well as other forms that could be better expressed.
The phrasebook by Benyukh and Galushko [sic] begins with a false statistics. In “A Few Words about This Book”, it is stated that “[Ukraine’s] population is over 55 million people”. However, the highest number ever fixed was close to 52 million. Today, Ukraine’s population is less than 46 million people; the decrease resulting from the Chornobyl disaster, low birth rate, and the economic crisis and emigration.
The first most important inadequacy of this phrasebook is its “Transliteration Guide”, which renders the Ukrainian г, as if it were a Russian grapheme, i.e., as English ‘g’ rather than ‘h’. On the other hand, the Ukrainian grapheme ґ (і.е., the equivalent of English ‘g’), which was officially re-introduced into the Ukrainian alphabet after the declaration of independence, is omitted by Benyukh and Galushko. Even after the third printing of their book, they, seemingly unaware of changes taking place in Ukraine, continue the Soviet practice of ignoring the phonetic qualities of Slavic languages other than Russian when transliterating into English. (One wonders whether Halushko truly pronounces her surname in the Russian fashion with an initial ‘g.’) The error in the transliteration of г аnd the omission of ґ gives rise to incorrect explanations of the name (and pronunciation) of the consonant Г/г (“geh”, p. 2). Thus, to cite only one of numerous examples, the pronunciation of Гаразд іs rendered as “gahRAHzd” (p. 5), rather than hahRAHzd.
The influence of Russian (or a type of Russo-Ukrainian surzhyk) is evident everywhere. For example, the authors recommend adding the Russian ending
–ovich (p. 6), rather than the Ukrainian –ovych, to form masculine patronymics. They also give the Russian diminutive form Vasya (p. 6) for Vasyl’, whereas the correct Ukrainian diminutive is Vasyl’ko (Vasyl’ku in the vocative). The Ukrainian form for ‘English’ (m/f) is англієць / англійка, and not англічанин / англічанка. Тhe authors, moreover, confuse ‘British‘and ‘English’ (pp. 8 and 172). Their use of the preposition по follows the Russian pattern, i.e., по справах, по професії (p. 8). In Ukrainian, however, other prepositions are required in these contexts: у справах, за професією. The noun ‘customs’ should be translated as митниця, and not as таможня, which is Russian (pp. 11, 13, 78, 151, and 169). The adjective таможений (p. 11) and the noun таможеник (pp. 12, 151, and 169) are Russian, not Ukrainian! The verb for ‘declaring’ (at customs) is not об’явити (p. 12) but задекларувати. The Ukrainian noun for ‘hare’ is заєць, not заяць (pp. 35, 177; cf., Russian form заяц). The noun ‘apples’ in Ukrainian is яблука, not яблоки (p. 36); consequently the arising masculine adjective in the genitive casse should be яблучного, not яблочного (p. 38). ‘Jelly’ is желе, not желє (p. 37). ‘Cherry-flavored vodka’ is вишнівкa, not вишньовкa (p. 39), зі льдом should be spelled з льодом! Such errors might be explained by the fact that, in the former USSR, Olesj [sic, rather than Oles’, as recommended by all known transliteration systems] Benyukh was known as the author of a popular Russian-English and English-Russian Pocket Dictionary. It is very probable that Russian is the language in which he continues to function.
There are numerous Russian lexical items: on p. 87 протизачаточні засоби should be протизаплідні засоби (“means of contraception”); таблетки (p. 94) should be пілюлі; ножиці / лак для ногтей (p. 88) should be для нігтів; влагалище (pp. 90, 118 and 202-3) should be піхва, etc.
Benyukh and Galushko are completely wrong when they state that women are addressed as ‘пани’(p. 7), i.e., ‘gentlemen’. The correct form is пані, i.e., ‘ladies’! Total cultural misunderstanding and stereotypes prevail in this book. The authors refer to the polite forms пан and пані as “prerevolutionary terms, … never used when addressing citizens (except West Ukraine, where this old Polish tradition is still alive” (p. 7). And yet, these forms did reappear on the eve of independence and increasingly are being used throughout Ukraine, even when addressing officials. Witness, for example, the use of пане Президенте (Mr. President) and пане / пані Голово (Мister / Madam Chair). It would appear from this that the authors have not visited Ukraine recently. In this context, it is worth pointing out that the list of toasts provided in this book (p. 39) is rather poor. For example, ‘To peace and friendship!’ (За мир і дружбу!, p. 39) evokes Communist times and is hardly ever used among contemporary Ukrainians. The form of address телефоністка (‘Operator, please get me this number,’ p. 45) is not the best choice. A more polite form calls for the combination of пані + the
name of the profession in the vocative – e.g., пані телефоністко! would be better. Іt looks like Soviet patterns led the authors to prematurely reject пан and пані without finding a suitable replacement.
Some of Benyuk’s and Galushko’s explanations are appalling. When explaining the construction – Я … (‘I am…’), they state: “Ukrainian does not have articles (a, the), nor does it have a present tense form of the verb “to be”(p. 7). Even students taking Beginners’ Ukrainian know that є – the present form of the verb бути (“to be”) – is omitted in phrases of the type ‘I am…’, etc. There is a clear difference between omission and inexistence!
The section “At the Restaurant” (pp. 22-23) is well developed and enumerates in detail various types of establishments. This is useful information for the traveler. However, the section on “Telling Time” is to a great degree misleading. ‘Five past three’ should be п’ять хвилин на четверту and not п’ять хвилин четвертої (p. 104). The remaining examples use the same construction and, therefore, are also wrong: десять хвилин сьомої, п’ятнадцять хвилин п’ятої, etc. A related problem occurs in the expression в п’ять хвилин четвертої (p. 105), which should be о третій годині п’ять хвилин, and the expression в десять хвилин третьої (p. 105), which should be о другій годині десять хвилин.
Christmas (Різдво) and Easter (Великдень) are not even included in the list of contemporary Ukrainian National Holidays (p. 106). The word for ‘God’ must be written with a capital letter, Бог, not a small one, аs the authors have it in anachronistic Soviet fashion.
The list of errors goes on and on: водопроводчик (p. 118) should be водопровідник; дефицит (pp. 122, 169) should be дефіцит; джінси (p. 122) should be джинси; дура (p. 123) should be дурепа; килім (p.129) should be килим; компютер (p. 130) should be комп’ютер; законний is better than легальний (p. 132); мозг (p. 134) should be мозок; мотоцикил (p. 135) should be мотоцикл; насморк (p. 136) should be нежить; серги (p. 148) should be сережки; спиціальність (p. 150) should be спеціальність; алергия (p. 159) should be алергія; американский (p. 160) should be американський; бджілка
(not бджола, p. 162) is the diminutive of бджола (‘bee’). It would be rather boring and cumbersome to list all of the publication’s problems here.
Among spelling or typographical errors are the following words: перекар (p. 177) should be перукар; человік (p. 179) should be чоловік; оранжовий (p. 187) should be оранжевий; шкарпертки (p. 196) should be шкарпетки; помидор (p. 200) should be помідор; перкладач (p. 201) should be перекладач. Other errors include недосягаємий (p. 201) and жилєт (p. 203). The use in English-speaking countries of phrasebooks such as this one will lead to the dissemination of a Russified variant of Ukrainian!
Benyukh and Galushko claim that “this area [i.e., Ukraine ] once part of the former Soviet Union has a culture and language that is quite different from Russian” (see back cover of the Dictionary). They fail to prove the latter point through abundant use of Russian and/or Russified forms in this, the third (!) edition of their work.
Situational phrases are always helpful, but they are much more helpful without mistakes. Hippocrene Books, Inc., specializes in all kinds of dictionaries and phrasebooks in many world languages. It appears, however, that they need to introduce higher standards of quality control. The Benyukh and Galushko Phrasebook and Dictionary is not Hippocrene’s first embarrassing failure. Beginners’ Ukrainian by Poulard, which was issued in 1996, also holds no water. Among other works being advertised by Hippocrene is Olesj Benyukh’s Ukrainian-English / English-Ukrainian Standard Dictionary, which is featured by the publishers as “the most modern and comprehensive bi-directional Ukrainian / English dictionary on the market…” (p. 207). It is more than likely that this publication is also fraught with problems and serious mistakes.
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