Kazakhstan is a bilingual nation where both Kazakh and Russian are spoken widely in the country. Kazakhstan's Constitution gives Kazakh an official status and stipulates that the President of Kazakhstan should be a speaker of Kazakh. There are over 130 nationalities in the nation, making Kazakhstan a multilingual country. Language loss, however, is a real concern in the nation. The number of languages identified in 1999, for example, was 126 which is nine less than the current 117.
The Official Language Of Kazakhstan: Kazakh
Kazakh is a Turkic language in the Kipchak branch. It bears similarities with Karakalpak, Nogai, and Kyrgyz. The language is used by 64.4% of Kazakhstan's population which is about 5,290,000 speakers. It is also used by thousands of ethnic Kazakhs residing in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Iran. In Kazakhstan, the language is written in Cyrillic script. President Nazarbayev, however, instructed the authorities to shift to Latin by the end of 2017. Kazakh is spoken in three dialects namely Southern, Western, and Northeastern. Since the Kazakhs have intermingled with numerous communities over time, Kazakh features words from Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Mongolian, Tatar, Persian, and Uzbek languages.
Russian: A Popular Language Spoken In Kazakhstan
About 95% of the country's population is fluent in Russian. During the Soviet period, all Soviet Republics including Kazakhstan were expected to adopt Russian as their primary language. The 1995 Constitution recognized Russian, along with Kazakhstan, as state languages. Russian is the primary form of speech in academia, science, and business although residents should be able to pass a Kazakh language exam if they want to work in state organizations. Russian is popular in urban regions, and it enables members of various ethnicities to interact. Kazakhstan's schools use both Russian and Kazakh languages as medium of instructions, and schools emphasize one or the other. There have been efforts to eradicate Russian in the country especially after the nation achieved sovereignty in 1991, but the northern regions and Almaty Province remain Russia-speaking. There are many Kazakh and Russian publications and television and radio broadcasts to choose from in Kazakhstan.
Indigenous Languages Of Kazakhstan
The Dungan language is used among the Dungan people native to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Dungan people are related to the Hui of China. The Dungan language is classified as a Sinitic language. The Ili Turki language is one of the Turkic languages, and is native to Kazakhstan and China. Ingush, a Northeast Caucasian language, is indigenous to Kazakhstan and Russia. Plautdietsch and Sinte Romani are other native languages of Kazakhstan.
Minority Languages Of Kazakhstan
Minority languages in Kazakhstan are afforded protection by law. These languages include Ukrainian (898,000 speakers); German (958,000 speakers); Uyghur (300,000); Tatar (328,000 speakers); Uzbek; Tajiki; and Turkish.
Main Foreign Languages Spoken In Kazakhstan
English is increasingly being adopted by Kazakhstan's young generation, and its popularity grew with the end of the Soviet period. The language is popular in the tourism sector and the cities. In the 2000s, German was the language of choice as the foreign language. The schools and the government are now seeking to develop a population fluent in Russian, Kazakhstan, and English to enable the country to engage better on a global arena. Arabic and Chinese are also used in Kazakhstan.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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