The influence of English on the Russian language

Posted by on May 17, 2010

Our first Russian English guest post is from Yuliya Melnyk, an ESL teacher and journalist originally from the Ukraine. After more than 10 years of teaching English at the Kirovohrad State Vynnychenko Pedagogical University, Kirovohrad, Ukraine, Yulia enrolled into a grad school in journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA. She started her career in journalism in North America and currently, she works as a freelance journalist and Russian/Ukrainian translator.

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Ukrainian is the official language in my home country, Ukraine, but many regions of the country still prefer Russian as the main means of communication. Unfortunately, languages are too often used in political games, but we, linguists, educators, teachers and students understand the value of language, first of all, as a unique phenomenon which must be respected, learned and appreciated.

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, changes in the post-Soviet societies and their languages took place in front of our eyes. We got access to authentic US press, to Western books and original movies, and native English speakers came to teach English at our universities. The influence of English became obvious.

Of course, there were English words in Russian in the Soviet period: we pronounced girlfriend, boyfriend, weekend and happy end almost in the same way as they are pronounced in English. However, nowadays we see a completely different type of influence; it is very strong and new words from English are becoming ubiquitous. Many of them are connected with the field of computing. Some of them are used without changes, e.g. upgrade, browser, e-mail, mailbox, provider, hacker, chat, user, etc. Many new words in Russian come from the field of economics too, e.g. coupon, voucher, broker, etc. Post-Soviet countries opened their borders and became a part of a global economy.

Many words are produced in Russian slang every day; they have English roots and Russian affixes, e.g.: mastdait, which means ‘criticize’, comes from English must die and smailik from smile (as in smiley, the sigh used in e-mails and text messages).

Sometimes we use a common Russian word with a new meaning. For example, mylo means ‘soap’ in Russian, but we say mylo in spoken Russian meaning ‘e-mail’, because mylo and e-mail sound similar. Young people’s speech is full of English borrowings, including Wow!, cool, dance and others.
Large Russian-speaking communities are spread all over the world and their members speak Russian mixed with borrowings. Newcomers usually borrow words which refer to food, accommodation, jobs, etc. Even those people who have only recently arrived in the USA start using many English words in their Russian speech, e.g. landlord, porch, backyard, deposit, rent, insurance, workshop, cheesecake and others.

It is great that we have an open society and can visit different countries, communicate with different people and read many books. But as a linguist and teacher I would like my Slavic people to value their mother tongue and avoid unnecessary borrowings.

Comments (1)
  • Totally agree but our teens have one little problem- they dont like to read.

    Posted by AllaSobirova on 26th May, 2010
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