We are living in an increasingly globalised and interconnected world. Advancements in technology and transportation have made the planet smaller, making it easier for people from all corners of the world to engage and communicate with each other over great distances.
The spread of the English language, which has essentially become a global language, has also made communication easier among countries from different continents. Indeed, in today’s world it is essential for any nation that wants to prosper to promote the use of certain languages and alphabets.
Latin is the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world. It is used by approximately 70 percent of all countries, making it an essential part of communicating across the globe, especially in terms of technology, business, science and education. Currently many databases and software programmes don’t support the Cyrillic text, making it very difficult for IT and technology experts. On a practical level, those of us who use the Latin alphabet to type on smartphones will know how less cumbersome it is to use than Cyrillic.
The timing seemed right for President Nursultan Nazarbayev to publish an article in a state newspaper on April 12, renewing his earlier pledge of a switchover of the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet by 2025. It followed considerable discussions about switching to the Latin alphabet that have been ongoing in Kazakhstan ever since the country became independent in 1991. Indeed, according to a recent Newsweek report, the assessment of Camilla Hagelund of risk analytics firm Verisk Maplecroft, was that the initiative “reflects the public mood” in the country.
Earlier this year, President Nazarbayev announced the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan, which involves creating a new model of economic growth that will ensure the country’s global competitiveness and help Kazakhstan join the top 30 most-developed countries by 2050. The President stated that these large-scale reforms should be complemented with advanced modernisation of Kazakhstan’s national identity, which will provide the core for political and economic development.
It is, therefore, logical that the President has decided that now is the right time to begin the process of switching the Kazakh language from Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet. There is a strong case to be made that this switch will bring more economic development to the country and help consolidate Kazakhstan’s integration into the global economy.
This is essential in today’s world. International businesses and financial exchanges take place using the Latin alphabet. It is, therefore, completely understandable that Kazakhstan, a country that is keen to enhance its international business and investment reputation, is looking to adopt measures that ensure its modernisation and competitiveness.
This move should be welcomed by businesspeople and investors, both in Kazakhstan and globally. Switching to the Latin alphabet will undoubtedly lead to more commercial cooperation between Kazakhstan and other nations. Looking regionally, the change will also bring Kazakh in line with other Turkic languages, such as those spoken in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, which all use the Latin alphabet. It is also expected to make it easier for international investors to do business in Kazakhstan, which will contribute to the overall development of the nation and increase the standard of living of its citizens.
Switching to the Latin alphabet also facilitates President Nazarbayev’s initiative to promote the English language in Kazakhstan, especially among the younger generation, to ensure that they can compete globally. Proficiency in this language is growing quickly. The most recent census data indicated that 1.9 million Kazakhs understand English, with around half of those speaking it. It’s a good start but to enhance Kazakhstan’s competiveness in the global market even further, this number will need to increase.
It should also be noted that Kazakhstan previously used the Latin alphabet between 1929 and 1940. Nevertheless, it is understandable that some people in Kazakhstan, especially the older generation, are anxious about how switching back to the Latin alphabet will affect their day-to-day lives. It is, therefore, the right decision that the switch will be a gradual process to ensure that everyone is able to adapt to the changes at a steady pace and inter-generational connections are not lost. As per President Nazarbayev’s suggestion, help will be given by specialists to those who do not yet use the Latin alphabet. In addition, a working group with the participation of experts in the field of linguistics has been set up by the Ministry of Education to ensure that the transition runs smoothly until 2025. To reflect its popularity of use, the Russian language will remain one of the official languages in Kazakhstan, as noted by the Kazakh leader recently.
Kazakhstan has always championed increased regional and global integration. Enhanced cooperation in the fields of commerce, business and diplomacy will contribute to creating a stable and prospering world where everyone benefits. Switching to the Latin alphabet is an important step in this direction for Kazakhstan.