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Ukraine's prime minister urges nation to learn English ahead of EU talks, reconstruction

Ukraine's prime minister launching a national drive to learn English. (Photo by government of Ukraine)

The Ukrainian government launched a nationwide push to persuade citizens to learn English as the country prepares to start talks on joining the European Union and recruit international help to rebuild the country.

The government will offer all citizens free access to English language training and push legislation to establish it as "the language of international communication in Ukraine," Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a speech announcing a nationwide language-learning plan.

“It all starts with the civil servants. Currently, in Ukraine, English is only mandatory for category A civil servants. However, the need of the hour is for all managers to have at least a B2 level of English. This has a direct impact on the quality of governance and the success of any reforms,” said Denys Shmyhal.

A 2022 survey by international language education company Education First placed Ukrainians 26th among 35 European countries in terms of English proficiency. The same survey, though, indicated Ukrainians were studying hard - English knowledge was spreading at the third fastest pace in Europe as Ukraine tightens ties with the West.

In a study completed in January of this year by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 51% of Ukrainians indicated that they know some English, but detailed analysis shows only 23% can read, write and communicate in this language at everyday levels.

The country's hopes to start talks soon to join the European Union, plus its tightening ties with the West amid its conflict with Russia, and the expected inflow of foreign companies and capital in the eventual reconstruction of the country, mean the nation must urgently improve its English, the prime minister said.

Shmyhal said better English skills will "take interaction with foreign partners to a qualitatively new level, as well as simplify the harmonization of standards, norms and regulations with the EU."

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