A recent New York Times Magazine profile of the Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov (The Pen and the Sword, May 26, 2022) mentioned that he speaks six languages (including Russian, which is his native language, and presumably Ukrainian); however, it doesn't specify which ones. Which languages does he speak (other than Ukrainian and Russian), and how did he come to know so many?

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Andrey Kurkov studied foreign languages at the Kyiv National Linguistic University (Wikipedia lists him among the university's notable alumni) and knows the following languages:

  1. Russian: he was born in Leningrad (Gnauck, 2013); Russian is his native language and the language of this novels;
  2. Ukrainian: he currently mainly posts in Ukrainian; before the Russian invasion, he had published non-fiction in Ukrainian (Wegerhoff, 2022);
  3. German: he reads from his work in German (Schuster, 2007) and has guided German readers to locations in Kiev that he used in his novels (Gnauck, 2013);
  4. Japanese: he has translated from Japanese (Schuster, 2007; Gnauck, 2013);
  5. English: his wife Elisabeth is British and teaches English in Kiev (Gnauck, 2013);
  6. Polish: he gives lectures or readings in this language (Schuster, 2007);
  7. French: he gives lectures or readings in this language (Schuster, 2007).

He used to know Romanian because he used it in the 1980s but has lost his knowledge of that language. He also used to know Danish and Dutch. (Schuster, 2007)

According to the short bio published by the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin in 2011 or 2014, Kurkov knows seven languages without specifying which ones. According to the short introduction by BULAC, he even speaks nine languages.

According to an article by Ours Magazine from December 2019,

Selon ses dires, il sait très bien parler au moins six langues : russe, ukrainien, français, anglais, allemand et polonais. De plus, il maîtrise bien le géorgien, le danois, le roumain et le japonais.


He says he speaks at least six languages very well: Russian, Ukrainian, French, English and Polish. In addition, he also knows Georgian, Danish, Romanian and Japanese.

This is in contradiction with an earlier admission that he used to know Romanian and Danish (but has forgotten those languages). It also adds Georgian to the list, which had not been mentioned before. One wonders whether Kurkov mentions different languages in different interviews.


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