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More Fakes Than Truth: What Is Being Said About The Language Law

4 February 2021
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The Commissioner for Protection of the State Language received 407 complaints and appeals from the citizens during two weeks of the effect of the language law in the sphere of services. But it does not mean that the language ombudsman immediately fines 407 entrepreneurs. Moreover, it does not even mean that at least one of them will be fined.

The law stipulates that Ukrainian language should become the main in public communication. It will be implanted step by step. According to the law, the fine is the last and most severe sanction. Prior to that, there is a warning from the language commissioner.

According to the poll conducted by KIIS from January, 27 till February, 1, i.e. after the norm introduction about the service in the Ukrainian language, more than 60% of Ukrainians support it.

However, thanks to pro-Russian propagandists, a number of myths have grown around the language law. We kept an eye on what was said about the language law, how it worked and how the new rules were implemented. And we are ready to tell what has changed for business and customers.

Myth one: Language patrols will check everyone

This is one of the pro-Russian propagandists’ popular thesis. Mythical patrols were described both by TV presenters and their political guests. But none of these statements is true.

The language law does not provide for any centralised reviews. Everything it relies on is the responsibility of the service suppliers and their customers.

The Commissioner for Protection of the State Language received 407 complaints and appeals from the citizens during two weeks of the effect of the language law in the sphere of services, from January, 16 till February, 1. More than half of them were from Kyiv and the region, 28 complaints were from the Lviv region, 22 were from Odesa region, 15 were from the Kharkiv region. All the rest were a few appeals from a region. Taras Kremin, the language commissioner, told there were no more than a dozen of “loud violations” during that time. About a hundred people called the ombudsman for advice.

The ombudsman asks Ukrainians to solve such situations peacefully all by themselves. If you were not served by the national language from the very beginning, first ask the employee to speak Ukrainian, try to contact his management or the company’s hotline. If this does not help, you need to record violations, such as making a video or audio recording or saving a screenshot if it is a communication with an online store.

You can register a complaint with a physical letter to the Secretariat, by e-mail or even by phone. Detailed instructions are available on the language ombudsman’s website.

Thus, the propagandists can call “the language patrol” just Taras Kremin’s walk to the shops with journalists.

Myth two: A common saleswoman will be immediately fined 7,000 for “Hello”!

In addition to the stories about “forced Ukrainization”, the state language law opponents “cry poor mouth”. How should a common sales assistant pay a few thousand fine if she greeted in Russian? Inhuman conditions! For example, a similar situation was modelled by Maksym Buzhanskyi, People’s Deputy of the Servant of the People, on-air of NASH TV channel: 

“Imagine a small barbershop, two women work, moms. And then Kremin comes and fines each of them 6,800. Just imagine what they will do to him. ”

But this is a lie. 

First of all, the complaint, which will be the reason for the inspection of the company, is recommended to be written only after you have been refused to be served by the state language. The greeting is at the very beginning of the communication, often before the client says something. So the language ombudsman proposes to enter into a dialogue first, i.e. to fight only with the employees’ refusal to speak Ukrainian after a clear-cut request from the client to abide by the law.

Secondly, 6800 is the maximum possible fine. And it can be imposed only after the repeated violation by the same entity within a year. That is, not the employee is formally fined, but the institution where he works. This is the employer’s decision to levy fine from the employee or not.

Third, if the entrepreneur disagrees with the fine, he will be able to appeal it in court.

Therefore, the imposition of a fine requires: (1) the first recorded complaint; (2) the second recorded complaint during the year; (3) a decision of the language ombudsman’s office about a fine that the business owner may appeal in a court.

For the first time, there can be a warning for refusing to speak Ukrainian.

Myth three: I will be forbidden to speak Russian

This is also a fiction. Pro-Russian channels often broadcast theses about the “genocide of Russian-speakers” or the “ban on the Russian language”, but this is not true. You can speak any language in everyday life, and speak any acceptable language to the visitor and service provider in the sphere of services. If both of them would like to speak the Russian language – you are welcome.

By the way, a similar thesis about the ban on communication in Russian was also promoted by Illia Kyva, the deputy from OPFL. Yes, the one Kiva, who before joining the OPFL, promised to raise children in the hatred of all the Russian things. In his video that was shot in the gym during the lockdown, Kyva stressed that from now on, he should also ask his coach to speak Russian to him. However, the coach replied that it was not a problem for him to speak neither Ukrainian nor Russian if the law requires it. 

Instead of a conclusion

The law about the Ukrainian language had so many names in the pro-Russian circles. Both forced Ukrainization and discrimination against the Russian-speakers. It was often emphasised that the law was unconstitutional. However, the law just confirms the right of Ukrainians to receive services in the Ukrainian language. For example, like Poles have the right to receive services in Polish, the relevant law has been in force there since 1999.

By the way, the applicants for positions in public authorities or local governments will have to pass an exam to confirm their knowledge of the state language in summer 2021. So VoxCheck analysts will be keenly waiting for a new round of fakes about language. 

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