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Young Ukrainian developing app to help evacuees learn Japanese

Maksym Haichenko is developing a Japanese-language-learning app to help fellow Ukrainians who fled Russia’s invasion and are now living in Japan.

Haichenko, 19, who had taught himself Japanese in Ukraine and can easily converse in the language, is designing the app based on what he finds difficult in his daily life in Japan.

The app teaches Ukrainians how to write hiragana, katakana and kanji, and it contains answers to up to 5,000 questions about Japanese.

One teaching topic is when to say “itadakimasu.”

“No other languages have so many expressions to refer to the same things,” he said. “The diversity in Japanese is complicated but elegant.”

Haichenko was 17 years old and studying cybersecurity at a university in Kyiv when Russian troops stormed Ukraine in February 2022.

The teenager decided to leave his homeland, and part-time colleagues at a store held a farewell party for him.

“I want you to obtain a range of knowledge across this vast world on behalf of us all,” the business’s owner said, according to Haichenko.

The owner then headed for the front lines to fight.

Haichenko arrived in Japan alone three months later. He picked Japan because he loves anime.

With his fluency in Japanese and information technology expertise, he landed a job at Tokyo-based educational IT start-up Monoxer Inc., which was developing a learning app for the Ukrainian evacuees.

Haichenko is now tasked with extending support to the evacuees, including through the learning app, while engaging in public relations.

Up to 300 people have registered on the app, and 17 of them have passed the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

Some people call the app “Max school” based on his nickname in honor of his excellent teaching skills.

The app is compatible with various languages.

“The app will certainly prove helpful for children in Ukraine after the war ends,” Haichenko said. “My dream is delivering it to them at some point.”