Social and Cultural Adaptation: Linguistic Aspects

Zorjana Kunch (1), Yaryna Turchyn (2)

Lviv Polytechnic National University, Lviv, Ukraine

Background. Students from most of the eastern regions of Ukraine and the Crimean region have involuntarily become “hostages” of the obscene language policy of previous periods, starting from the early 1930s, when the total Russification of the Ukrainian population was carried out (Dziuba, 1998), hiding behind the brand of “internationalism”, and ending with modern legislative acts targeted at protecting the languages of national minorities. However, this did not provide proper support to the Ukrainian language. The social change caused by the Revolution of Dignity and the hybrid war has contributed to the fact that a significant part of Ukrainian society begins to feel the need for communication in the national language, including everyday communication.

Decreasing the number of first-year students of Lviv Polytechnic having come from Ukrainian-speaking families and increasing the number of freshmen from bilingual or Russian-speaking families is an objective process, having recently acquired a stable trend. Every year the situation keeps changing in the direction of reducing the share of Lviv residents and representatives of western Ukraine and increasing the number of first-year students - incomers from the central and eastern regions of the country. There is a need for research to analyze the impressions, feelings and, in general, the psychological state of the first-year student, adjusting to the Ukrainian language environment and school life.

Purpose. The study aims to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the student’s linguistic adaptation as an important component of socio-cultural adaptation of an individual in modern conditions, and outline measures for a higher educational establishment to offer to improve the process efficiency.

Language adaptation is considered to be an aspect of socio-psychological adaptation, which corresponds to the definition provided by Tarasiuk in the article “Language adaptation as a kind of socio-cultural adaptation of migrants to a foreign language environment” (Tarasiuk, 2011). While staying in a new language environment, the person mobilizes his/her inner potential for active interaction with the outside world. If the new environment also contributes to the process, it makes it smoother and breaks certain disintegration influences. There is the need to strengthen intellectual education of the youth as a precondition for social adaptation and transformation of the individual in the updated society (Puzyrnyi, 2017, pp.52-56). Based on these studies, we are targeted at analyzing the attitude of Russian-speaking students to the adaptive process and finding out the value of educational activities to improve language adaptation.

Methods. To achieve the purpose, we used a set of techniques to study the psycho-emotional state of the student and his/her subjective vision of the linguistic behavior peculiarities. The main diagnostic tool was a survey conducted among first year students of Lviv Polytechnic. The research sample was a group of 171 students of the first year of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, including 34 boys and 137 girls. The questionnaire contained questions grouped in the three sections: “My Origin”, “Studying at the University”, and “My Feelings”. The intent was to reveal patterns associated with the student’s previous experience, the realities of his/her modern life and the emotions the individual experiences with regard to linguistic issues.

The analysis of the previous survey indicates that communication in family settings of 92 local citizens of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivs’k, Volyn’ and Ternopil’ regions occurs in Ukrainian, which is 93%, although an alternative is not only Russian, but also English, Italian and Arabic. On the other hand, the response of people from the central and eastern regions of Ukraine (Chernihiv, Sumy, Odesa, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipro, Donetsk, Cherkasy, Vinnytsa, Kropyvnytskyi, Kyiv, and Zhytomyr regions) indicates that in their families they speak the following languages: 8 people – Ukrainian (25.8 %), 12 – only Russian (38.7   %), 5 – Ukrainian and Russian (16.1 %), and 5 – the Ukrainian-Russian mixed language (16.1 %). The data prove that first-year students know the official language, irrespective of the region of their origin.

Studying at Lviv Polytechnic provides support to students in adjusting their linguistic behavior. All respondents are unanimous in answering the question "In what language do you communicate during training sessions?": "Ukrainian" (100%). For communication with friends in Lviv 64.5% use the Ukrainian language, Ukrainian and Russian – 16.1%, and Russian only – 19.3% of incomers from the southern, central and eastern regions. On the other hand, 94.9% of representatives of the western regions communicate with their friends in Lviv in the Ukrainian language. The youth who moved to Lviv from Russian-speaking regions continue communicating with friends from their native city or village in Russian (51.6 % of respondents). However, individuals from Odesa, Cherkasy, Vinnytsia, and Kropyvnytskyi regions switched in their communication with school friends to the Ukrainian language – 12.9%. It should also be noted that the attitude of young Ukrainians towards the state language is improving, with respect to bilingual and Russian-speaking students specifically.  

We believe that the main principle of working with Russian-speaking young people is "to maintain the balance between a person and the environment, understanding that the environment can become both a factor of stress and maladaptation, and a resource in problem solving" (Shkoliar, 2017, p. 63). In our view, the strategy of language adaptation for students should be based on various educational factors.

The main factor creating the highest effect of socio-psychological support is the delivery of the normative academic course “The Ukrainian language for professional purposes" and the elective course on Rhetoric for bachelor students. The sustainable effect is produced mainly due to the methods of interactive learning. E.g., in the course of a business game, students learn how to behave properly in a business meeting, which also establishes the grounds for their applying skills of competent communication in Ukrainian. The student group environment per se is favorable for the student’s language improvement.

In the conditions of the language and psychological instability of students finding themselves in an unusual linguistic environment, the task of providing young people with a sense of responsibility for their own state, understanding that the national language constitutes the most important attribute of the statehood, promoting students’ love for their mother tongue and spreading the environment of its functioning is of primary importance. Here various educational approaches are applied, i.e., visiting theaters, cinemas and concerts; organizing language and literature quizzes; students demonstrating their own talents during students’ festivals, concerts; visiting museums, exhibitions, historical places, etc.  Participation in cultural events makes a young person feel his/her own responsibility for the quality of conveying ideas to people around, which brings them together.

Consequently, the above factors of soft influence promote students’ gaining the habit of using the state language in all communicative situations and asserting it in all spheres. The approaches being applied are neither radical or coercive, causing no active resistance and/or aggression.

Conclusion: The findings indicate that the attitude of young Ukrainians, bilingual and Russian-speaking students specifically, towards the state language is improving, and their language adaptation happens smoothly. This is supported by the delivery of the Ukrainian language academic courses, motivational teaching, interactive learning, students’ social participation and involvement in cultural events.

Keywords: eastern and Crimean regions, hybrid war, social change, national language, student, adjustment to school life, research, teaching Ukrainian, cultural event, social participation


Dziuba, I., (1998). Internationalism or Russification? URL:

Puzyrnyi, V., (2017). Intellectual development and socialization of the individual. Physician issues, 7, 52-56.

Tarasiuk, I., (2011). Language adaptation as a kind of socio-cultural adaptation of migrants to a foreign environment. URL:

Shkoliar, M., (2017). The opportunities of social work in the community in the process of including internally displaced persons into new territorial communities. Physician issues, 7, 63-68.

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