Thursday, May 26, 2005

Got a textbook at last

It's been a while since my last post -- I've been insanely busy with my translations and the important interpreting job that I had today. I'm also leaving for Naryn on Monday, so I thought it would be a good idea to post an update while I still have time.

On Monday I got the "Кыргыз тилин уйронобуз" textbook (mentioned in the Books section) from the university library. The librarian said they don't have the CD that comes with the book, and this makes things rather difficult for I have no idea how to pronounce words correctly. Somebody at the library said that it doesn't matter because "you just pronounce it as if it were Russian". Yeah, and end up with a terrible accent. :) Besides, from what I've read some consonants are pronounced differently depending on the vowels around them. So I really need to find somebody to help me with pronunciation and also to answer my questions (and I already have a million questions even after reading the first few pages!).

I will write about what I have learned in more detail once I'm finished with my assignments this week. Meanwhile, here is a new link to an article on the Kyrgyz alphabet.

Monday, May 23, 2005

On agglutinative languages

Here is a lovely short introduction to the concepts of synthetic and analytic, fusional and agglutinative (oh, I love this word!) languages.

Agglutinative comes from the Latin word agglutinare, which means to glue to or fasten to a thing. The Russian equivalent is a real tongue-twister: агглютинативный.

This Wikipedia article gives a more detailed, yet understandible, definition of the term.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

How I learned 4 languages in 4 years (website review)

Despite what its title might suggest, this website is not trying to sell anything language-related. The other name of the site is Luigi's Language Advice, and it contains some valuable advice indeed.

The author is a Hungarian man who shares some of his ideas on language learning. On the first page he says:

Don't expect somebody else to teach you! Learn and have fun doing so!

And he continues to explain how this pro-active approach helped him pass proficiency exams for four different languages in a very short time.

It is easy to overlook the things he talks about precisely because of their simplicity. But these are actually great methods that address some of the most common concerns of language learners. There are many websites on the subject, but this one is a good common-sense introduction to learning a foreign language.

If you put in 2×2 hours a week, it will really take you 4-8 years to learn. It means that you struggle for years and you still can't speak. Why don't you put in some more time for a few months and enjoy your knowledge for the rest of your life?

Personally, I like this approach a lot more than consistently studying a language for years. I seem to lose the motivation after a year or so and end up putting as much effort into encouraging myself to continue learning as into the actual learning process. This may not work for everyone, but I enjoy the thrill of making quick progress, especially in the beginning, which makes it much easier to continue with the study of a language.

Luigi's language advice

Some background

I think it would be a good idea to share some of my background as some of you may be wondering how I ended up learning Kyrgyz and why I am putting all this effort into this blog and especially its list of resources. :)

The primary reason for learning Kyrgyz (or, for that matter, any other foreign language I have ever attempted to learn) is simple - I am fascinated by languages. This explains why a little over four years ago I quit my job at a newspaper and started working as a translator. As if my daily encounters with all sorts of linguistic wonders weren't enough, I spent a fair share of my free time studying a couple of other foreign languages.

I also got interested in the very concept of language learning and language acquisition, which I researched quite extensively last year. I tried a variety of methods and techniques, some of them quite successfully. I will discuss these in more detail in my future postings.

If I were asked to pinpoint the first time I experienced the beauty of the Kyrgyz language, I would say it was in April last year at a concert of Central Asian ethnic music in Bishkek. I'd been to Bishkek about a dozen times before that but it was only then that I fell in love with the language. Yet it never occurred to me to study it.

Well, it so happened that I moved to Kyrgyzstan early this year. And it so happened that in a recent conversation a colleague of mine suggested we learn the language, especially since I'll be staying here for months to come. I liked the challenge (and I assure you that learning a Turkic language is a real challenge for a person with a Western mindset!) and so here I am, struggling to get my bearings in this new linguistic environment.

I am a bit of a technology addict, which explains why I created this blog in the first place. This also means that I will probably make heavy use of computer in my studies. I have already wept when I realized there are no comprehensive Kyrgyz-English (or Kyrgyz-Russian) online dictionaries out there. I guess I'll have to live with that. Or create one myself. Hm...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Textbooks in Bishkek

So far, I've found two Kyrgyz textbooks that I can borrow. Not bad, but I was determined to buy one. Ha! This is not as easy as I thought it would be.

It seems that I've been to every single major bookstore in Bishkek looking for Kyrgyz textbooks. The only one that I've been able to find is a blue hard-cover book (comes with two audio tapes which have to be purchased separately) with no explanations whatsoever and it's all in Kyrgyz. With my vocabulary of 10 words or so, I wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of it.

This book is on sale at Raritet (on Pushkina) and at ZUM (3rd floor). Today I went to the big bookstore on Manas, between Chui and Kievskaya, - not a single Kyrgyz textbook in sight!

Now this is something I don't understand. I really expected to find much more than just this uninspiring blue textbook, which is of no use to a beginner like me. Last night I talked to a friend who admitted that she was determined to learn Kyrgyz when she came here, but soon her enthusiasm waned. Lack of textbooks and other resources was a major factor in this.

All the people I talked to suggest that I hire a tutor. However in my studies of other languages I found that for me independent study supplemented by occasional sessions with somebody who is able to answer my questions is the most effective approach.

I better create some workable plan next week, while my motivation is still strong. And yes, I am really looking forward to studying a Turkic language. There is a different kind of logic and a different kind of beauty behind it. Could it be that learning new languages is a way of staying open-minded?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Pronouncing "Kyrgyzstan"

Stumbled across this explainer on Kyrgyz pronunciation. Quite interesting, though I didn't care that much to see these revolutionary faces again. :(

I learned a new phrase while reading that story - labial harmony. Certainly, after all these years of lessons in Kazakh I knew what this harmony was, but now I know how it's called in English. Does that count as my Kyrgyz lesson for today? he-he

Thursday, May 19, 2005

List of regularly updated resources

1. Kyrgyz alphabet and pronunciation

2. Kyrgyz dictionaries

3. Books: Kyrgyz language and Kyrgyzstan

5. Kyrgyz software and downloads

6. Reading in Kyrgyz

7. Kyrgyz audio and music

9. Other Kyrgyz language resources

10. Language learning

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Language learning

Foreign language learning resources

Other Kyrgyz language resources

Background information from

About the Kyrgyz language
Including some useful words & phrases.
I found this link through the Mithridates blog. (See Kyrgyz part 1 and part 2)

Kyrgyz language
A short article on the Kyrgyz language in Wikipedia

Kyrgyz audio and music

BBC in Kyrgyz
News in Kyrgyz, including streaming audio

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Kyrgyz news; recordings of some programs and live audio broadcasts

Global Recordings Network
Download the audio of The Sacrifice, a Christian evangelism recording. The speech is quite clear and easy to follow. Total duration: about 1 hour (two MP3 files).
Scripts in the English language are available.

The Jesus film
Watch the film in Kyrgyz (streaming video).

Kyrgyz songs
Streaming audio
Probably the largest resource on Kyrgyz music. Features an overview of instrumental and vocal music and biographies of several Kyrgyz composers. Some recordings are available for download in MP3 format.

Reading in Kyrgyz

Wikipedia in Kyrgyz
Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, now has a Kyrgyz version! It's still very small - there were only 7 articles when I last visited (21 May 2005).

Elmira Kochumkulkizi's website
Includes Kyrgyz proverbs with English translations, Kyrgyz folktales in English, and a variety of songs (most of the song links lead to empty pages however).

The Lord's Prayer
"Our Father" in Kyrgyz from the Convent of Pater Noster. Two translations of the prayer are featured (1870 and 1982).

News in Kyrgyz

(Also see Kyrgyz audio resources)

Vechernij Bishkek
Bishkek's most popular newspaper in Kyrgyz

Zaman Kyrgyzstan
A local newspaper

Kyrgyz software and downloads


  • a text editor with a Kyrgyz spelling checker
  • a spell-checking add-on for MS Word (works on 97 and 2000, I haven't tried it yet on later versions)
  • Kyrgyz fonts and keyboard layout
  • a hyphenation module for Windows

Kyrgyz fonts

Five different Kyrgyz fonts (four are PT154-compatible) and two keyboard layouts

Books: Kyrgyz language and Kyrgyzstan

Books in English

Kyrgyz Language Course Book
Peace Corps, Kyrgyz Republic, 2004.
This textbook has been recommended by many Kyrgyz language learners. I use it in my studies as well. The 1997 edition of this textbook can be downloaded via the ERIC Database.

Kirghiz Language Competencies for Peace Corps Volunteers in Kirghizstan.
This textbook is designed for use by Peace Corps volunteers learning Kirghiz in preparation for serving in Kirghizstan. It takes a competency-based approach to language learning, focusing on specific tasks the learner will need to accomplish through language.
(For a complete description and a downloadable version of this book please check the ERIC database).

Kirghiz Manual (Uralic and Altaic Series vol. 33)
by Raymond Hebert
A reference grammar intended for those wanting to learn how to read modern Kyrgyz (Kirghiz).

A Kirghiz Reader (Indiana University Uralic and Altaic Series, V. 154)
This reader contains a selection of materials, which range in time from the pre-literary language to contemporary items from newspapers. It includes examples taken from the literary language under Soviet rule and as Kyrgyz (Kirghiz) is used in the West and in China. The book is designed to present the reader with an understanding of both the variety of materials available in Kyrgyz and with the internal structure of the language.

Books in Russian

Кыргыз тилин үйрөнөбүз. Мы изучаем кыргызский язык
Ч.К. Дыйканова, Л.С. Сулайманова, Э.Т. Толокова.
Бишкек: Фонд "Сорос-Кыргызстан", 1997. -280 с.: цв.ил.
A great feature of this colorful Kyrgyz textbook published by Soros-Kyrgyzstan is that it comes with a CD.

Изучаем кыргызский язык. Кыргыз тилин үйрөнөбүз
Б. Касымова, К. Токтоналиев, А. Карыбаев.
Фрунзе: Мектеп, 1991. -222 с.
Not to be confused with the book published by Soros Foundation (see above).

Краткий самоучитель киргизского языка
Д.И. Исаев, В.Н. Шнейдман.
Фрунзе: Мектеп, 1984. -144 с.
I would not recommend this book because the vocabulary used in the lessons is strongly influenced by Russian. I like the way they explain Kyrgyz grammar though.

About Kyrgyzstan

Lonely Planet Central Asia
Probably the most popular guide to Central Asia.

Kyrgyz Republic (Odyssey Illustrated Guide)

Kyrgyz dictionaries

Kyrgyz-English/English-Kyrgyz Concise Dictionary
by Karl Krippes
A good dictionary for a beginner in Kyrgyz

Dictionary of Turkic Languages
English : Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Turkish, Turkmen, Uighur, Uzbek
The dictionary covers all eight major Turkic languages in their alphabets and in a roman transliteration. 2000 headwords.

English-Russian-Kyrgyz Dictionary
A fairly recent dictionary published by the Soros Foundation in Kyrgyzstan. As far as I know, this is the first serious dictionary to incorporate all three languages.

Kyrgyz-English Dictionary
An excellent, if somewhat pricey, resource for the serious learner of Kyrgyz. Each dictionary entry contains examples of word usage.

Kyrgyz-Russian online dictionary
An online dictionary done by the students of International Slavic Institute. The paper dictionary that was used as the source was published in 1953, so some words may be outdated.

Kyrgyz-Russian and Russian-Kyrgyz online dictionary
An IREX-sponsored project. Latin alphabet is used throughout for Kyrgyz.

Kyrgyz monolingual dictionary
A small portion of a Kyrgyz monolingual dictionary. Apparently, the full version was somewhere out there on the Web, but the link to it is now dead.

Russian-Kyrgyz dictionary of modern words

Meanings of Kyrgyz names
In Russian

Kyrgyz alphabet and pronunciation

Kyrgyz alphabet
In Russian

Brief history of the Kyrgyz language
In Russian