Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, told a March 9 “Ukraine 30” forum on culture, media, and tourism that nationwide fluency in the English language needs to be achieved for Ukraine’s national security and to displace centuries of Russification in which the Russian language dominated.
“Unfortunately, the heritage of the Soviet past which we received came in the form of the Russian language because of Russification,” according to an English-language translation of the live-streamed event. “We have not yet identified the Ukrainian language as the primary and fundamental language of our independence. We have not yet identified the importance of the English language, which should become the second language of our country so that we will stay safe from the threats of the Russian Federation.”
Danilov blamed politicians during Ukraine’s nearly 30 years of national independence for “playing games with the Russian language,” forcing Ukraine to keep “digging a hole for ourselves” when it came to de-Russification and connecting to the larger, English-speaking world.
“Now we have found ourselves deep in that hole and it’s being used 100 percent by the Russian Federation,” which has even justified its military invasion of Ukraine as defending Russian-language speakers.
“When the youth is fluent in English, that’s the precondition for the independence of this country,” Danilov said. “The English language should be used from kindergarten to the end of secondary schools.” He lamented that the nation has so few fluent English speakers.
The linguistic war will be won when Ukrainian is the main language of the country followed by English, he said. “We have been closing our eyes and have been blind to that,” he said.
As “classical TV” gets replaced by the internet, which is happening at “crazy breakneck speed,” Ukrainians will find there is not much Ukrainian-language content in cyberspace and will have to choose languages.
“So we should make ourselves safe in the future. We should recognize that the English language is the fundamental precondition for the safety of the nation,” he said, noting that the nation’s upcoming information security strategy will address the importance of the Ukrainian and English languages.
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