Kazakhs much more assertive at promoting their own language

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Қазақстан (Қазақстан Республикасы) — Еуразия құрылығының қақ ортасында орналасқан мемлекет.

Here are two articles on the subject from November and also from last week.

Quoth the first article:

U.S. oil group Chevron, developing Kazakhstan's biggest oil deposit, said on Friday it had received a note from the authorities accusing it of neglecting Kazakh as a language of business communication.

The accusation is part of a broader trend in the resource-rich nation to revive Kazakh -- a Turkic language spoken in most parts of Central Asia -- as a symbol of the country's independence from Moscow's rule.

Chevron said it disagreed with the assertion.

"(We) developed a Kazakh language plan many years ago and we are proud to say that a significant portion of our most critical business is done in all three languages," Chevron's local unit said in a statement written in English, Russian and Kazakh.

I'd be curious what the view of the authorities would be of a company (but not a Turkish company) attempting to use Turkish as a means of communication - whether it would be welcomed as another Turkic language, or whether it would be even more offensive in possibly coming across as assuming Kazakh to be a dialect instead of an independent language.

And from the second:
Whereas government documents were once produced in Russian only, now they are written in both languages.

Officials have had to take lessons in Kazakh, while in schools the hours spent teaching the language have increased.

“I was speaking Russian and my teacher said, ‘Why are you speaking this? Where’s your honour?’” said Almas Moldakozha, 18, an ethnic Kazakh student in Almaty, the country’s largest city and former capital. His experience reflects how sensitive a subject language is in a country where many were forced to learn Russian during the Soviet era.

The efforts to promote Kazakh are part of the Strategy Kazakhstan 2030, devised by the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The aim is for Kazakhstan, helped by its Caspian Sea oil wealth, to turn itself into a developed country where Kazakh, Russian and English are widely spoken by 2030.
I remember reading a blog this year written by a guy in the Peace Corps who is spending a year (or years, can't remember) in Kazakhstan, and as he's white people are constantly surprised that he only speaks English and Kazakh, and keep on trying to talk to him in Russian even though he can't understand a word of it. I would be pretty much in the same boat there if I had to make a trip in the near future.


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