We were so excited about the adoption of the Language law that it seems we failed to peruse it. Opinion has shortened the volume of the original text from almost 18 thousand words to 1500 and is ready to tell the core of it.
What is this law about?
No matter how much Russia tried to prove the opposite, this law is not about the oppression of other languages, but about the protection of the official status of the Ukrainian one. Actually, this is its main task, there is no single word about restrictions, bans or humiliation of Russian or any other language.
Similarly, there is no single word about the division or separation, on the contrary: this law should turn Ukrainian into the tool of consolidation of society, strengthening of unity and territorial integrity, statehood and national security of the country. Sure thing, for the language to perform such functions, we have to work hard, strengthening and protecting it from continuous encroachments of our neighbour.
I am used to speaking English/Russian/Spanish at home, so what’s now?
Nothing will change. The law clearly stipulates that its effect doesn’t extend to private communication and the implementation of religious rites. That’s why nobody has a right to impose what language to speak in the kitchen, moreover, no inspectors will break into your house.
What shall I do if I don’t know the language?
Most important – to assume it and to have the will to study, the rest is the state’s worry. The fifth article of the law states that the Cabinet of Ministers approves and ensures the implementation of the State Program for the promotion of the official language.
Those who plan to finally learn Ukrainian (including the foreigners and persons without citizenship) will be able to attend free Ukrainian courses and use all necessary textbooks also for free.
Or maybe, screw them, these courses?
If you are law-abiding, that’s not a good idea. After all, the sixth article begins with the words that every citizen of Ukraine is obliged to speak the official language. Moreover, if you plan to become a citizen of Ukraine, you have to brush up on Ukrainian.
Though, there are exceptions. Citizenship can be obtained by persons whose acceptance into the Ukrainian ranks is of state interest without certifying the level of official language proficiency. But the benefits are quite conditional: during the year, newly-minted Ukrainians are still obliged to learn Ukrainian at the sufficient level.
Does it mean that I have to speak only Ukrainian at work?
The law unambiguously determines the list of persons who must speak the official language and use it during their official duties. Let’s generalise: the list includes the President, the officials, civil servicemen and other representatives of authorities. Here, we also include lawyers, notaries, prosecutors, judges, officers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, police officers, heads of educational institutions, medical workers, teachers and scientists.
In two years:
Each of the “participants” of this list will have a certain level of language proficiency. What level exactly – the National Commission will decide. For some individuals from this list, this is a state certificate (similar to the one we receive when learning English: from A1 to C2), for others – a document of complete secondary education.
Do I have to take the exam?
Only in two cases: if you plan to obtain Ukrainian citizenship or to occupy government post which stipulates taking exams.
More details, please.
The law stipulates that the working language of state authorities, authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, local governments, enterprises, institutions and organizations of state and communal forms of ownership is Ukrainian.
That’s it, all meetings and other events must be held in Ukrainian. All documents, legal acts must be also drawn up in the official language. The same applies to litigation, the activities of the Armed Forces, the customs service and even the process of elections and referendums.
What about the education sector?
The language of the educational process is Ukrainian. Educational establishments should ensure that Ukrainian studies are conducted in such a way that, in the result of learning, language proficiency is sufficient to carry out professional activities. It is also envisaged to facilitate the study of languages of international communication, in particular, English. For instance, several subjects can be taught in the language of the EU.
The representatives of the national minorities and indigenous peoples are guaranteed the right to receive pre-school and elementary education along with official and native languages. And also it involves studying the native language in the institutions of general secondary education.
What about the science sector?
The language of science in Ukraine is Ukrainian.
In a year:
Scientific editions will be printed in Ukrainian or English or any other language of the EU. Holding the conferences, seminars or any other scientific events can be either in Ukrainian or in Engish. In case of preliminary notice about the English-speaking format, the translation into the official language is needless.
What’s up in the cultural sphere?
Major changes will take place in two years:
Cultural-artistic and entertaining events must be held in Ukrainian. Posters, leaflets, banners related to cultural events will be printed in the official language. The opportunity to add a foreign language remains, but its size and volume should not dominate the Ukrainian version.
Theatrical performances, in which actors don’t speak the official language, will be accompanied by a translation: subtitles, simultaneous translation via the headphones, etc.
The law will also touch the museums: registration of all forms of ownership, information about museum objects, entrance tickets and information products – everything has to be in Ukrainian. The opportunity to add the text in another language also remains, in case it doesn’t dominate the original one. The place is also important: the official language always comes to the fore.
The movies will “sound” in Ukrainian, including voice over. With a slight exception: national movies can be also screened in the Crimean-Tatar language or another language of the indigenous peoples.
The allowed amount of foreign replicas in the movie – 10%, all of them must be subtitled in Ukrainian. The law also provides for the demonstration of foreign movies in the original language, but by quota: 10% from a general number of sessions per month.
What about the TV and other media?
Broadcasting on television is carried out in the official language.
Big changes should be expected after 30 months for all-Ukrainian and regional mass media and 60 for local publications.
In particular, the media will be published in Ukrainian. Extensions in other languages will be allowed if the publisher provides the appropriate circulation in Ukrainian, keeping the same content, volume and time of release.
In the selling spots, the number of Ukrainian publications will be no less than half. Implementation of products in another language will be allowed only if there is an equivalent in Ukrainian.
These rules will not apply to publications, such as Kyiv Post, which circulate exclusively in English, Crimean Tatar or any of the EU languages.
After six months:
The advertising will be also in Ukrainian. For publications that circulate, for example, exclusively in English, the authors of the law have allowed placing ads in the same language.
What are the changes in the book publishing?
Major changes will take place in two years:
Publishers will have to print at least half of all books in Ukrainian during each calendar year. The requirement doesn’t apply to products in the Crimean Tatar language, languages of other indigenous peoples or minorities, published at the expense of the state and/or local budgets.
As with print media, bookshops should provide at least half of Ukrainian production. The rule doesn’t apply to bookshops that deal exclusively with books published in the EU languages, dictionaries in foreign languages, textbooks, or books created for the rights of indigenous peoples and national minorities.
Have they really worked something out for computer programs and websites?
All programs that are implemented in Ukraine must have a Ukrainian interface and/or version in English or other EU languages. Authorities, local self-government bodies and other state and communal institutions should use programs with interface in the official language or English, in the absence of the Ukrainian version.
In three years:
By default, all online representations (including social networking sites and mobile applications) of government, local government, state and communal agencies, and registered media should open in the Ukrainian version. Foreign language versions are allowed if they don’t prevail over content and volume. As with the print media, the rules don’t apply to the publications such as Kyiv Post.
Will be all meetings, seminars and forums in Ukrainian too?
Yes, they will. And conferences, exhibitions, courses, training, discussions, which are organized by the state or state institutions too. Communication in another language is possible, but only if there is a synchronous or sequential translation in Ukrainian if at least one of the participants of the event requires it. This doesn’t apply to events for a limited number of people or events which are organized for foreigners.
I came to the shop, which language should I be spoken to?
It will work after 18 months:
All services and product information (including online stores) should be provided in Ukrainian with the possibility of duplication in other languages. At your request, the service may be provided in another language.
Producers of products, which are sold in Ukraine, must ensure that both the composition of the cookie and the instructions for the washing machine contain an option in the official language.
What about the hospitals?
Your service in such establishments should be carried out in Ukrainian unless you yourself ask to speak another language.
A year later, all documents and acts of healthcare establishments should be filled in in the official language.
So what, even on the bus?
Yes, passenger transport services should be provided in Ukrainian, with the possibility of individual service in another language. Also, all information, messages, notes and ads must be provided in Ukrainian. English is also allowed if needed.
Where else is Ukrainian mandatory?
Similar rules extend to the field of sport: events should be conducted in the official language, as well as any announcements or tickets for certain competitions.
The sender’s and recipient’s mail and postal addresses must be written in Ukrainian. Sure thing, this doesn’t touch a conditional letter to London.
A year later, public associations, political parties and any other legal entities should speak and keep corresponding with authorities in Ukrainian, without exception.
Who will be in charge of the standards of Ukrainian?
The law envisages the creation of the National Commission on the standards of the official language. This is the body of the central executive power which activity is coordinated by the Cabinet of Ministers through the Minister of education and science.
National Commission is in charge of confirming and working out some standards of our language, in particular terminology, spelling, standards of transcribing and transliteration etc. Also, the commission will check the level of language proficiency when obtaining citizenship or taking up civil service.
So who will protect the language except for the very law?
For this purpose, the Commissioner for the Protection of the Ukrainian Language will be introduced, who will monitor the implementation of the law. Moreover, for the activities of the Commissioner, it is planned to establish a department which will deal with organizational, expert for analytical, legal, informational and logistical support of the activities of the “language protector”.
It is this person who, together with the team, will monitor the implementation of the law, accept complaints from citizens, and only six months after the appointment of the Commissioner, a violator of the language law may receive a warning and 30 days to eliminate the violation. If the requirements of the Commissioner are not fulfilled, you should expect the fine.
Thus, there will be no draconian restrictions or language watchmen who throw to jail after hearing at least a single Russian word, even when all articles of the law come to the force. Instead, we have a balanced document which is able to protect the Ukrainian language and to facilitate its popularization. This is what we really need, isn’t it?
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel
Illustrations by Nataliia Stakhnova