Friday, August 11, 2017

Kazakhstan Promoting English-Language Instruction to Reduce Dependence on Russian, Scholar Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 11 – In an interview to the Kazakh-language newspaper Zhas Alash that is certain to raise hackles in Moscow, Erden Kazhybek, the director of Kazakhstan’s Institute of Linguistics, says that his country is doing away with the notion of “Russian” schools and promoting English to lessen the country’s dependence on Russian sources.

            The scholar says that in Kazakhstan all schools must be “Kazakh” on an analogy with other countries, including the Russian. And he adds that the move to Latin script will affect only the Kazakh language and not Chinese or Russian (

                But that doesn’t mean that those studying in schools where Russian or Chinese remains the language of instruction won’t be affected by Latinization, Kazhybek says. The government plans to require that students in them study certain subjects in Kazakh and thus in the Latin script.

            Kazakhstan must “stop dividing schools of the country by language” as it has done since Soviet times. Instead, and the government has agreed, from this fall there will be only “Kazakh schools,” even if there is “deepened instruction” in one of the foreign languages be it Russian, Chinese, or English.

            “There should not be a term ‘Russian school’” any longer, the scholar says, because “in Russia there are no Russian schools just as there are no English schools in England or Chinese in China. All schools of Kazakhstan must be Kazakh schools.”

            Doing otherwise is “an archaism,” a survival of the past. “Today, the Kazakh language is not only the language of the Kazakh nation: it is the language of the entire state. And likewise, Kazakh culture is the achievement not only of the Kazakh people but the culture of this state. It is time to recognize that we are the state-forming nation.”

            At present, he says, Kazakhstan is promoting instruction in English above all. The reason is simple: “90 percent of the information coming to us via Russia is simply a translation from English. And why shouldn’t we get it from the original source? We are thus introducing English in order to reduce the influence of Russian.”

            “We lose nothing from this; on the contrary, we gain a broader access to advanced information and new technologies,” Kazhybek says.

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