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University offers Ukrainian class to those working with evacuees

  • May 11, 2022
  • , The Asahi Shimbun , 7:30 a.m.
  • English Press

By HAJIME UENO/ Staff Writer


At the beginning of a Ukrainian-for-beginners class at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Hidehiko Nakazawa briefed participants on the purpose of the program.


“Though Ukraine is a treasure trove of intellectual and material products, as well as human and natural resources, few people know much about it in Japan,” said Nakazawa, a professor emeritus of Slavic language studies at the university, in front of a camera for his students.


“This constitutes a huge loss for us, and I am looking to break through this unfortunate situation.”


The university began a free Ukrainian language class for beginners in the hopes that municipal and corporate officials can better accommodate evacuees fleeing the Russian invasion.


The online education program started on April 22 exclusively for those from local governments and groups that accept Ukrainian evacuees.


One student said his workplace was to accept its fifth evacuee on April 23.


“I applied for the program because saying words like ‘thank you’ (in Ukrainian) may help evacuees relax and socialize with us,” he said.


A woman taking the course said she would like to speak “even one or two phrases in Ukrainian and communicate” with the evacuees.


There were 96 applicants from municipalities, companies and other private organizations, with 72 attending the first class online.


Students said they wanted to understand evacuees’ feelings as much as possible and help alleviate some of the anxiety Ukrainians may have about their lives in a country far from their homeland.


As the course’s teacher, Nakazawa pledged that “finishing this program will mean you have mastered basic elements in Ukrainian.”


He then displayed Ukrainian for “hello” and “thank you” on a screen, and demonstrated how to pronounce them.


In the program, comprising six 90-minute classes that will continue through May 20, the professor will present greetings and other expressions often used in daily life, along with descriptions of local culture. 


“I will show how to exchange greetings and other easy-to-use phrases,” Nakazawa said about future classes. “We will then go on to fundamental factors involving grammar and nouns. I will portray historical and cultural aspects as well.”

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