Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Language policy

Here is a recent post from the Golden Road to Samarquand blog on language policy in Kyrgyzstan. Reflecting on other Central Asian countries the author writes that "Kazakhstan seems to be rather unconcerned about the switch [to the Kazakh language]". Although I no longer live there, my impression is that the Kazakh language is quite high on the agenda in the neighboring republic. All official paperwork is soon to be done in Kazakh only, television and radio programs in Kazakh abound, and efforts to encourage people to learn the language are underway.

The good thing is that, unlike in Kyrgyzstan, people wishing to learn the language now have plenty of resources at their disposal. I am not trying to idealize the situation—apparently, there are many downsides to the promotion of the official language—but some of the developments are good indeed.

On a different note, we are in the news again. Some locals call it the post-March syndrome, referring to the events of March 24 this year. It looks like a new tradition: if you don't agree with something, get a couple of hundred of supporters and set up yurts in front of some government building.

Meanwhile, I'm still fighting the bad cold that I got nearly two weeks ago. I had to put in a day of simultaneous interpreting last week, which only made things worse. So I'm staying home, meaning more time to study Kyrgyz, right? :)


Blogger Amira said...

I mostly meant that a Russian speaker is going to be fine in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan. KZ hasn't forced Kazakh on Russians the way Uzbekistan has promoted Uzbek so strongly.


Blogger MK said...

That's true. I may be mistaken about this, but during the Soviet times the Uzbek language was used widely throughout Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, after it gained independence, had to deal with the fact that many educated Kazakhs (those who lived in the cities) were not fluent in Kazakh. So this may have something to do with the language policies of these countries.

When I visited Uzbekistan in 2000 I was surprised to find out that many ethnic Russians spoke some Uzbek - something that would be very unusual in Kazakhstan. I suppose now, five years later, the use of Uzbek is even more widespread.

I agree that Russian-speakers would be fine in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, unless they go to some of the more remote areas. I found that even in bigger towns like Naryn some people had trouble making themselves understood in Russian and needed a Kyrgyz interpreter to communicate with us.


Anonymous Nathan Hamm said...

Kazakh-only documents? Are you sure about that? That flies entirely in the face of the policy of encouraging Kazakhstani (as opposed to Kazakh) nationalism and keeping the significant Russian population on the border happy and calm. The government certainly is interested in promoting Kazakh, but has been wary about being perceived to be doing so at the expense of Russian.


Blogger MK said...

I am very sure about the government's intention to have all official paperwork done in Kazakh. You see it in the news all the time. The Almaty Mayor's Office, for example, is planning to complete the transition by the end of 2006.

Russian remains what they call 'the language of interethnic communication'. Some do talk about 'linguistic pressure' on Russian-speakers, especially in the northern parts of the country.

By the way, in the media a 50% Kazakh language broadcasting quota was introduced several years ago. (http://www.gazeta.kz/art.asp?aid=12802)

So this remains a very controversial issue, but it is very unlikely that the officials will change their mind about the current policy.


Anonymous Nathan said...

Hmmm... Interesting. I knew about the promotion efforts and I knew the president had to know it. I just never heard they were switching the paperwork over to Kazakh only.


Blogger From French to Japanese said...

Your blog is great! We want to learn more about this language and we will be sure to link here!

Judy and Harold


Blogger Lapa said...

mais um



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