Ukrainian as foreign: Exclamations!
There is an interesting phenomenon we keep observing in classes of Ukrainian as foreign. A student will master grammar and lexicon, even near a native speaker in pronunciation, and yet the language does not sound natural. Why does that happen? Exclamations! A topic neglected by students and coursebook authors alike. However, exclamations are specific to every language and have a significant part in conveying emotions and attitudes. Moreover, even among exclamations you can come across “false friends of a translator”, so, as you can imagine, hilariousity ensues.
Without further ado, let’s investigate the case of exclamations in Ukrainian.
The first category would be emotional exclamations:
You can show your surprise by saying “овва!” [ov:a]. Did you accidentally spill some tea? Instead of the English “oops!” you might say “ой” [oj] or a highly multifunctional “отакої!” [o-ta-ko-jee]. The latter is mostly used to express negative surprise.
If you regret a missed opportunity or your many misfortunes, sigh “ех” [eh:], “ох” [oh:], “на жаль” [na zhal’] or “шкода” [shkodA]. A long “aaa...” will suggest you just remembered or realized something. (For native speakers of German: not “achja”, which in some Ukrainian dialects means “yes”.)
Say “еге ж” [eghezh] to a friend you agree with completely or a slightly more emotional and ironical “так отож!” [tak otozh]. To get someone's attention, give a shout: “агов!” [aghov].
Of course, exclamations are a very colloquial part of a language and not to be used in formal situations. That goes especially to expressing strong negative opinions, in other words – swearing. While international curse words gradually take over Ukrainian, authentic mild ones can still be heard:
You can describe an unacceptably chaotic situation as “це казна-що!” [tse kazna shcho]. To wish an ill-doer to get all sorts of unwelcomed things in life, say “хай йому всячина” [haj jo-moo vs’a-chy-na] or “трясця” [tr’a-sts’a].
As for onomatopoeia (google it!) things might seem a bit weird here too:
The sound of knocking on a door we imitate as “тук-тук” [took-took]. Ukrainian dogs say “гав-гав”[gav-gav], cats – “мяу-мяу” [m’aoo-m’aoo]. To call a cat, say “киць-киць-киць” [kyts’-kyts’-kyts’] (though it rarely works :)). And in Ukrainian villages people wake up to a “кукуріку” [kookoor’eekoo] of a rooster.
The list is endless, and you will enrich your exclamations vocabulary (if that is your goal) bit by bit through immersing yourself into Ukrainian literature as well as everyday communication.