К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009
Автор: Свиридов Е. Г.
For people language fulfills one basic
function – communication. For a state it also serves as a means of office work
and becomes another symbol of the state, along with flag, coats of arms and
hymn. The official language of Kazakhstan is Kazakh, and the situation seems
rather preposterous, living in Kazakhstan and having Kazakh language as
official we speak about, and work on transfer of office work into Kazakh. The
problem has roots both in history and in modern times, when educational policy
failed to satisfy needs of teaching Kazakh to non-titular ethic groups.
Let’s start with a short review of history
of the Kazakh language, and more specifically, factors which led to current
state of affairs. The first period which had certain influence was the colonial
period. The period started in 1731, the year when Abulkhair Khan, the head of
one of the three Kazakh tribal unions (zhuzes), accepted the terms of joining Russia. It lasted till the end of the third quarter of the 19th century, when the 150-
year-long process of annexation was completed and most of the colonial
administrative apparatus was put into place.
This period is characterized by diglossia.
Diglossia is a situation where, in a given society, there are two (often
closely-related) languages, one of high prestige, which is generally used by
the government and in formal texts, and one of low prestige, which is usually
the spoken vernacular (native language of a country or a locality) tongue. The
high-prestige language tends to be the more formalized, and its forms and
vocabulary often 'filter down' into the vernacular, though often in a changed
The relative stability lasted for only
about 25 years, during which Russians were building a line of military forts
and cities all along the border of the steppe. Towards the end of the first
period, the increase of military presence changed the balance of power between
Russians and Kazakhs. This change allowed the czarist administration to
continue expansion, acting against the interests of the indigenous population
by imposing official restrictions on the use of lands by Kazakhs and
persecuting any attempts of Kazakhs not to comply .
During the second half of the first period,
incipient diglossia moved from the potential into a consciously actualized
state. This situation happened primarily because of the increase in
interference of czarism into in-ternal affairs of Kazakhs, resulting in Russian
assuming some functions previously fulfilled by Kazakh in the sphere of
administrative communication. In addition, the colonial authorities became more
suspicious of Tatar translators, who pursued their own purposes in the steppe,
proselytizing for Islam, which was now perceived as alienating Kazakhs from Russia. The concerned czarist administration started to make some efforts in nurturing a
class of native nobility, devoted to the colonial system and acculturated in-to
As a consequence, Russian was being
increasingly used not only for documentation, but also for oral political
debate, since both Russian and designated Kazakh participants could speak the
language. Bilingualism still remained at the individual level, although now
there were more bilingual indigenous interpreters. Towards the end of the first
period, diglossia, al-though restricted, became more widely spread with Russian
being increasingly used in the sphere of official communication.
You can see that Russian officials were not
interested in development of Kazakh as an official language in the colony as it
could give a certain feeling of independence, and thus, prevent effective
colonization. Actions were made to create a stratum of bilingual nobility to
rule the territory executing imperial decrees. And such state of affairs
couldn’t help but influence the natural development of Kazakh language from
being a means of communication into a language of state, possessing all
necessary terms to satisfy the goal of governing.
Next came the soviet period (1917-1991). Even
before the revolution, Bolsheviks stated the equality in the form of two
program principles: the principle of full equality and self-determination of
nations (including the right to secede) and the principle of full freedom and
equality of languages (including abolition of the required state language),
both were further included into the “Declaration and Treaty on the Formation of
the U.S.S.R.” (December 30, 1922) and the subsequent U.S.S.R. Constitutions
(1924, 1936, and 1977).
But in reality we could see policy of so
called Rusification, summoned to create a supra-national identity. Reason was
to retain and, later, unify multiethnic society. To achieve this, it was
decided to make Russian a dominant language in the society. The situation
became the same as it was during the colonial period. In early 1950-th Kazakh
was removed from school and university curriculum. It remained only as a means
of interpersonal communication, mainly in rural areas, where traditional Kazakh
lifestyle was still strong, despite the attempts of the government. Russian was
language of science, government, it was dominant in culture. As a result teaching
methods was not developed, scientific terms were not introduced. And language remained
at the level it was in the beginning of the 20th century .
Thus, when Kazakhstan gained independence
it was natural to claim Kazakh the official language, it gained the status de
jure, but de facto it was far from it. There were several obstacles, and one of
them is that only 7% of urban population could speak Kazakh. Russian at that
time really was a language of science and government. During the soviet period,
a whole generation of officials, belonging to Kazakh ethnic group, was brought
up. And they were working with documents using Russian.
Recognition of the fact in the middle of
1990-th motivated government to concrete actions. For example in 1994 state
terminological committee was formed which translated terms from Russian into
Kazakh, new textbooks and dictionaries were published. But the abundance of
newly introduced terms, numerous editions of dictionaries, changes in the
structure of the language in such a short period made classic (official) Kazakh
élite, not very understandable for majority of Kazakhs. It is difficult
to use for office work, in writing, in public life, and Russian is still an
intermediary in communication.
According to the 1999 census in East Kazakhstan 55.4% of population new Kazakh. The numbers are approximately the same for
central and northern regions of Kazakhstan, where Russian ethnic component is
traditionally strong. (North Kazakhstan – 36.4%, Pavlodarskaya oblast – 46.4%,
Kostanayskaya oblast 39.3%, Karagandinskaya oblast – 46.4%, Akmolinskaya oblast
Investigation made by the Center of Sociological
Monitoring and Prognostication of SSU after Shakarim showed that in the beginning
of 21-st century Kazakh was already spread among Russians and other ethnic
groups. Though the sphere of its use was not mentioned and we should also
consider the fact that that investigation was made in Semey region, where
Kazakh was initially more widespread.
Russian speaking people were and are well
aware of the fact that they should know Kazakh. Let’s consider the results of
sociolinguistic public opinion poll made by research center “Dana” in 2002. In East Kazakhstan number of respondents who didn’t study Kazakh prevailed over the number of
those who did.
During the analysis of ethnoliguistic
situation, several social groups were specified according to the presence or
absence of tendency to study Kazakh.
1) First group, those people who knew
Kazakh very well - 13% of respondents.
2) Second group, those people who took
steps to study Kazakh – only 8% of respondents.
3) Third group, those who were willing to
study – 9%. Among them 3% of people claimed that the main obstacle is absence
of qualified teachers.
4) Fourth group, those who stated that
there is no need to study Kazakh – 7% of respondents.
This poll was made in Ust-Kamenogorsk.
Others, who are not in the groups, abstained from the answer. Now let’s
consider social distribution of population according to the knowledge of the
• Kazakhs aged 44-49, educated specialists
- knew Kazakh.
• Russians aged 8-29, students, teachers,
intellectuals – studied Kazakh.
• Russians aged 30-39, technical and
engineering employees – had intentions to study the language.
• Willing to study but had no opportunities
– mainly Ukranians aged 18-29.
• Russians aged 40-49, salespeople, willing
to study but did not due to absence of qualified teachers.
• Russians aged 60 and older, retirees, saw
no need to study Kazakh.
This is the situation as it was in the beginning
of 21st century. Unwilling-ness of middle and older age groups to study
language may be explained by the fact that these people have already taken
certain place in society, mastered a profession mainly in the period when
knowledge of language was not a priority. In majority of cases, due to age and
position they ceased to be mobile. And it takes time to master any language,
therefore young generation brought up in post soviet time, is more mobile and
interested in study of Kazakh .
Main institutions where Kazakh is taught
are schools and universities. It is significant that in 1990-th number of
Kazakh school was growing, while in 2000-th combined schools were opened. In East Kazakhstan 57 combined schools were opened in 2002. It indicates on shift of education
from primarily national into combined Eurasian. We are aware of the fact that
if we want our graduates to be able to stand the competition, especially on
inter-national level, they are to be proficient in several languages, Russian
and English primarily. But we shouldn’t forget that living in Kazakhstan we are to know official language – Kazakh.
Now let’s sum up the problems existing in
teaching and learning Kazakh, and try to find possible solutions.
First and the foremost, the problem stated
by many, is the absence of qualified teachers, mainly in schools. The fact is
that in early years after Kazakhstan gained independence, Kazakh was restored
in school and University curriculum and great necessity in teachers arose. But,
the problem is that during Soviet times they didn’t train teachers of Kazakh,
and alongside with necessity a shortage arose. But teaching process was still
to be con-ducted, children and students taught. That is why many people who had
no pedagogical education, but knew the language were accepted to teach. This
extreme measure was appropriate at that time but the tendency is to be
The question is where we can get so many
qualified teachers in a short period of time. Of course there is a specialty in
universities where teachers of Kazakh are educated. But, taking into account
requirements for enrollment, only graduates from Kazakh schools have possibility
to study. And that seems reasonable, if one wants to teach, his or her level of
knowledge should be considerably high. But the fact is that amount of graduates
from the specialty in universities can’t satisfy the growing need in teachers.
A way out exists. It is to teach Russians
to be teachers of Kazakh. Of course Kazakh is taught during the first year in
University. But, unfortunately attitude to study is very poor. Students are
unwilling to learn and teachers are unwilling to teach such students. It’s a
shame, but not all young people are motivated to learn.
Yet another specialty present in many non-technical
universities is specialty called “Foreign language: to foreign languages”.
Graduates are given bachelor degree and right to work as teacher of two foreign
languages. During first year of study, only one foreign language is taught,
alongside with other subjects. It is called “basic language”, English or
German. In the very beginning of second year students choose second language.
English major can choose German, French, Spanish, Korean and Turkish. German
major can also choose English.
Level of teaching is high, at 4th year
students have internship in both languages. Major language internship is in
schools, second language is schools or university. This fact shows that
graduates are proficient to teach their second language, at least at levels A1
and A2. And that is much, taking into account that they had studied the
language for years only. Before that students were not trained in the language.
Now, why can’t we introduce Kazakh into the
curriculum? A fact is that very few graduates find a job where they can apply
their second language if it was Spanish or Korean. We are to consider reality
of our country and that Kazakh is highly required in society. And universities
have possibilities to teach students. Department of Kazakh philology or Department
of Practical course of Kazakh language can provide teachers and material required
for successful education. Thus in 3 years we’ll get a cohort of teachers proficient
in language and methods of teaching, and able to be educators in schools, at
various language courses and even at the same department they have graduated
What’s more interesting is that such thing
existed already. In East Kazakhstan State University students were taught
Kazakh as a second language for a succession of years, up until 2004. And the
only reason it was cancelled lies in definition of the specialty. It is called
“Foreign language: two foreign languages” and Kazakh, as it was stated, is not
a foreign language. That is more than an ill-considered step, because the language
was required, students were taught. Even after it was cancelled some students
wanted to study Kazakh as their second, but were not allowed.
It is up to you to decide on the reasons of
the people, who cancelled Kazakh from the curriculum of the specialty. But it
seems like an ill term play. Of course Kazakh is not a foreign language for our
country, it is an official language of state and native for more than half of
population. But that doesn’t change anything concerning its teaching and
studying for Russian speaking population. Because people still have to learn
it, to memorize vocabulary, acquire grammar structures; get used to sentence
structures different from the native language. So, the process of learning Kazakh
is the same as the process of learning, for example, Spanish. The only thing
that makes it easier is the fact that we, basically, live in the language
environment, where everyone learning Kazakh can practice it with his or her
friends, co-workers etc.
For a beginner the best teacher is not a
native-speaker, but a person who had learned the language him\herself. It is
particularly good when a teacher and a student have the same native language. Such
teacher went through the same stages students are to, and is able to foresee
and eliminate difficulties beforehand. What seems obvious for a native speaker
is not for learners, and teacher who has already mastered the language is able
to ex-plain better. Having the same native language with students is a good
thing for explanation of complex material and can help to eliminate
interference of native language into the learning, pinpoint positive
Another advantage for non-Kazakh teacher is
motivational factor. When students see in front of them a teacher who is not a
native speaker they see a person who has mastered a language they are studying,
they see that it is possible. The latter is very important because at some
stage learners are frustrated, feeling as if they can’t but fail.
Second problem is lack of adequate
learners’ material: textbooks, audio and visual material etc. Many times
quality of modern textbooks has been discussed and very often it was considered
poor. But if we agree that Kazakh is like foreign for people learning it, then
why can’t we adapt methods used in teaching foreign language? Many contemporary
textbooks are effectively used to teach English as a foreign language, or
German. Methods used in the textbooks can be easily adapted for teaching
Kazakh. And again, graduates from department of foreign languages will have an
advantage because this department is reputed to have very strong school of
methods of teaching foreign languages.
And last, but not least, is motivation,
which plays extremely important role while learning. And it is especially
important to motivate middle-aged to learn Kazakh. Youth nowadays are well
aware of the fact that they need to know the language to be successful in life,
but those who have found their vocation already, very often see no need to
learn Kazakh. And repressive measures are not the best solution because they
can easily lead to unrest in society and provoke conflicts. Measures are to be
Study of the past gives an explanation of
the current situation in our country. But we shouldn’t stop just at the point
of explanation, we are to find solutions. The latest decree of government and
president Nazarbayev is tri-unity of languages: Kazakh, Russian and English.
That is why goal of making all people of Kazakhstan proficient in these
languages becomes primary. Solution given here is not the only possible, it may
not be the best but it can be easily realized. And as someone said “It is
better to light one small candle, that to curse the darkness”. So let us light
our small candles together to chase the darkness away.
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К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2009