And what, you ask, about the public use of English in Ukraine? Is there English-language public signage to be seen on the streets of Kyiv?
Not much, compared with some other eastern European countries. And what there is tends to be masked by being written in Cyrillic.
Here’s part of a photo I took from a window in the Linguistic University. It’s a dealership for Jaguar cars. As you can see, the Jaguar logo, with the word in English, appears on the right; to the left, the Cyrillic writing says ЯГУАР СЕРВІС, i.e. ‘Jaguar service’. (I don’t know whether they would pronounce ягуар with ɦ or with ɡ.) The word сервіс ‘service’ presumably qualifies as a loanword rather than a word in a foreign language (English). The same is true for my hotel’s trilingual notice about ‘room service’. (The English version is not actually correct, since we don’t write ‘room service’ with a hyphen.)
And ‘smartphone’ has certainly been adopted as a loanword. Here it is with a Ukrainian plural ending (and a discount). Here is the ‘price list’ (прайс лист, prajs ɫɪst) offered by a Міні Хауз кафе (cf blog, 2 June 2011).
My familiarity with the Cyrillic alphabet is sufficient that if I see a sign saying РЕСТОРАН I read it to myself as restoran. But people who don’t know Cyrillic see something quite different. They see Latin letters, and read it to themselves as ˈpektəʊpɑː. Or so they tell me. What a funny word for a restaurant!
In Kyiv I saw a small political demonstration on the streets. I’m not sure what it was about, but the protesters were carrying signs reading (I thought, unthinkingly) Hi!.
Who were they greeting so warmly? Who were they saying hello to? It was only after doing a double take that I realized that the signs actually said НІ!, which is pronounced nʲi and is the Ukrainian for “no!”. No, no, no!
Unfortunately I didn’t take a photograph of this, but on the internet I found one that will perhaps do instead. If you look very carefully you will see a tiny dot on the I, which is a hint that the letter is not Latin I but Cyrillic І.
In Ukraine I also noticed several advertisements for Baxi fires. Baxi is a British manufacturer, based in Preston, and (I quote) “one of Europe’s biggest manufacturers and distributors of domestic and commercial water and space heating systems”. The name is based on the surname of the founder, one Richard Baxendale. In English, of course, we pronounce it ˈbæksi. I can’t help wondering whether Ukrainians would read it as ˈvaxʲi, since in Cyrillic B stands for the labiodental v and X for the voiceless velar fricative. Or do they recognize it as English and say ˈbeksi? There’s more here.