Kazakh Language to Use Latin Alphabet by 2025, President Says

ASTANA –The Kazakh language will switch to the Latin alphabet by 2025 rather than the current Cyrillic one, President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced in his annual state of the nation address in December 2012.

The president announced a new policy of the state towards the development of the Kazakh language.

“By 2025, the Kazakh alphabet should be switched into Latin and the work in this direction should be done now,” he said.

President Nazarbayev said that giving children first hand familiarity with the Latin alphabet used around the world was essential to modernize the Kazakh language and to give the coming generation of young people greater opportunities in the global economy.

“For the future of our children, we have to make that decision, which will create the conditions for our integration into the world. For our children it will assist in a better learning of English, and most importantly, it will give impetus to the modernization of the Kazakh language,” the president said.

The new alphabet policy follows the introduction of “tri-lingualism” in the nation’s schools in September 2012. In the future, in addition to the Kazakh and Russian languages, certain subjects of the school curriculum will be taught in English.

In his annual state of the nation address entitled “Strategy Kazakhstan-2050: The New Political Course of the Established State,” President Nazarbayev also proposed drawing up a list of hundreds of modern books written in modern languages and have them translated into the Kazakh language.

Kazakhstan’s Foliant Publishing Company has already signed a contract with Macaw Books, a British publisher of children’s books to translate the British Children’s Encyclopedia into Kazakh, Minister of Culture and Information Darkhan Mynbay said.

Mynbay said other books to be translated into Kazakh included 10 encyclopedias, 13 books in the series “Walt Disney’s Golden Classics” and works included in the “Cultural Heritage – Library of World Literature” state programme.

Since 2011, the Ministry of Culture and Information has organized a vote on its website to assess popular demand for children’s books to be translated in the Kazakh language. The winner by a wide margin was the “Harry Potter” fantasy series of children’s novels by British writer J.K. Rowling. The list also included other British fantasy children’s classics, such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis.

The translation programme has the goal of familiarizing Kazakh children with world cultural values and classic texts, as well as preserving their own national traditions and language. This remains a national priority.

The government is also fostering the translation of major Kazakh writers into English, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, and other languages to promote the national literature by expanding its potential global readership. In 2010, the “Book of Words” by Abay Qunanbaiuly, the great 19th century Kazakh poet and philosopher, was simultaneously published in Kazakh, Russian and English. It was translated into English by the American prominent poet Richard McCann, who spent two years on the project. Other classic Kazakh texts including the epic sagas “Kambar Batyr,” “Koblandy Batyr,” “Alpamys Batyr,” “Kozy-Korpesh – Bayan Sulu,” “Er Targyn” and “Kyz Zhibek” have also been translated into English.

The Ministry of Culture and Information also published 12 works in 2012 by Kazakh writers living abroad in a series called “Works by Foreign Kazakhs” to increase access to Kazakh culture for Kazakhs living and working around the world. The Ministry of Education is also now publishing Kazakh language textbooks using the Latin alphabet to help them learn the Kazakh language more easily.

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