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Japanese group handing out Ukrainian conversation guides to foster interactions

The conversation guide sheet created by the nonprofit Terra People Association is seen in this photo taken on Nov. 16, 2022. (Mainichi/Takeshi Saito)

SAGA -- A nonprofit group working as the secretariat for the Saga Prefectural Government, local municipalities and private groups accepting Ukrainian evacuees has created a helpful guide sheet for Japanese speakers to have simple conversations in Ukrainian.

    The nonprofit Terra People Association has made 20,000 copies of the conversation sheet which lists simple phrases in Ukrainian to help local residents and Ukrainian evacuees interact with each other.

    Twenty-eight Ukrainians in 13 groups evacuated to Saga Prefecture in the wake of the Russian invasion, and a total of 25 currently live in the prefecture. However, the language barrier has prevented Saga locals and Ukrainians from getting to know one another. Hoping that the guide sheet will encourage Japanese residents to talk to the evacuees, the nonprofit group tapped Nippon Foundation funding for the project.

    On the sheet, which can be folded down to the size of a business card, Ukrainian phrases are written in the Ukrainian alphabet with Japanese phonetic katakana to help with pronunciation, and their corresponding Japanese terms. They include simple greetings, such as "dobryi den" meaning "hello," and "vybachte," which means "sorry" or "excuse me." It also shows how to say things like "I want to go to --" and "I want to eat --" in Ukrainian.

    The group's YouTube channel offers a video to check the pronunciation based on the sheet. The group says inquiries for the guide sheets are increasing from support organizations outside Saga, including in Kanagawa, Osaka and Oita prefectures, and there are about 8,000 copies left.

    The guide sheets have been distributed to all elementary and junior high schools in the city of Saga, and the group hands them out free of charge to those who ask for them.

    The Terra People Association's Kenzo Yamaji told the Mainichi Shimbun, "It's a business card-size sheet, so you can put it in your wallet or other belongings, and I hope people (use it) to causally talk to Ukrainians when they see them." For more information, contact the Terra People Association at 0952-24-3334 (in Japanese).

    (Japanese original by Takeshi Saito, Saga Bureau)

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