KYIV: Fans planning on heading to Ukraine for the Euro 2012 finals can help themselves in advance by learning the Cyrillic alphabet and some essential local phrases writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Homework will be particularly helpful in and around stadia and city centres because police officers struggled in the English language classes organised for the country’s public service personnel.

Local media reports claim that transport, medical and security staff have made good progress but not the police. Worse, they have little knowledge of their own capital city.

Olha Nytenko, head of the foreign languages department at the National Police Academy, said: “We need to teach them how to give directions to cathedrals and other places of interest around the city. But the problem is very few of them have any idea about these prominent places of Kyiv at all and their locations.”

Lack of motivation is another problem. Nytenko said: “We asked the Interior Ministry to send us people who really want to learn or to come up with motivational tools, like raising salaries for those who do learn.”

Fans will have a better chance of beating the language barrier at the Boryspil International Airport and the central railway station. Transport staff, according to their teachers, were the most diligent students.

The police will have some help. All those assigned to city centre duty during the finals will be armed with pocket phrasebooks and electronic voice translators.

Host cities hope to compensate for the lack of English knowledge among state employees with thousands of volunteers, many of them students.

Interior Ministry spokesman Volodymyr Polishchuk said fans should not expect too much from police officers in a country where most people struggle with foreign languages.

He said: “Learning takes time and one should not expect quick results. But we are slowly getting there. Just last week we started English in my own department of information. We have already learned the alphabet.”