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President Nazarbayev on language policy and Ukraine

President Nazarbayev. Turar Kazangapov © President Nazarbayev. Turar Kazangapov ©

Kazakhstan might follow Ukraine’s scenario should it ban all the languages other than Kazakh, the country’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev believes.

“The Government has been doing its best to ensure development of Kazakh language. In line with the country’s Constitution, Kazakh language is declared to be the official language of Kazakhstan. There is not a single person who might be prevented from speaking the language. I do admit writers and public figures are still grieving over inadequacy of the language [as it wasn’t developing throughout the Soviet era]”, he said in an interview for Kazakhstan’s Khabar TV Channel.

“However, if we introduce limitations on use of other languages, we will be another Ukraine (…) Language policy is something that calls for caution”, he added.

Among other things, he criticized the way new words emerge in Kazakh language. “We try to come up with new words for a lot of things that have had similarly sounding names in a lot of languages for ages. We falsely think that we need to drift away from Russian language and for this reason borrow certain words from Turkish, Arabic, Persian languages, however less precise they may be (…) as a nation, we need to enrich the language as it has a bright future here in Kazakhstan”, he said.

President reminded that there is a whole range of about 6000 languages in the world, with around 70% of the global population resorting to English as a language of education, science, medicine, Internet, media, and culture.

“If we fail to speak English, we miss out on a lot of things. How can we join the club of 30 most developed nations of the world if the young don’t speak the global language? After gaining independence India abandoned English, but returned to the language 5-6 years later. Singapore and Malaysia saw the same scenario. Developing all the three languages [Kazakh, Russian and English] is the optimal option”, he said.

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