Saturday, February 16, 2019

Kazakhstan Must Shift from Kazakh-Russian Bilingualism to Kazakh-English Variety, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 15 – Most discussions about language in Kazakhstan focus on the need to promote knowledge and use of Kazakh by all residents of the country. That would solve many of the country’s problems, they continue, but making Kazakh the only language of national concern could create others, including increasing its isolation from the world.

            Instead, two Kazakh experts tell Kenzhe Tatliya of Astana’s Central Asian Monitor that the country should instead promote a transition from Kazakh-Russian bilingualism to Kazakh-English variant, thus detaching itself from a fading power and linking itself more fully with the international language of the present and future (

            Marat Tolibayev, a Kazakh blogger, says that as of now, Kazakh language sources do not have the amount of information which exists in Russian ones; but Russian ones have far less than English sources – and that is likely to continue to be the case for some time.  That means that the country should be promoting not just a shift from Russian to Kazakh.

            Instead, he argues, Kazakhstan should adopt a new “bilingualism,” one in which “English serves as the basis for acquiring international knowlege and Kazakh for national self-identification Every Kazakhstan resident will harmoniously and to perfection master these two languages.”

            Dzhanibek Suleyev, an Internet publisher, agrees. “Today,” he says, “all world knowledge is being created in English.” Scholars working in other languages can participate in this process only if they secure the publication of their works in English and if they keep up with English-language materials. Kazakhs need to be able to do both.

            Retaining Russian as a bridge is no longer sufficient, Suleyev says. “We then in essence are mere branch of dying Russian science.”  Remaining in that state is to condemn Kazakhstan to remaining a backward “province” and to open the way for the appearance of a new “archaic” consciousness among its people.  That is something the country can’t afford.

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