US Students Learn Kazakh Culture Through Abai’s Works

ASTANA – The Jibek Joly TV channel published news about U.S. students who visited Astana to explore the Kazakh language, culture and traditions in July.

Screenshot from the Jibek Joly TV channel video

Screenshot from the Jibek Joly TV channel video

Mason Maltby, a student at the University of Arizona, once read works written by prominent Kazakh poet Abai and has had keen interest in Kazakhstan since then. He now dreams of reading the works of other Kazakh writers in the original language.

“I want to learn Kazakh because many people in the United States do not know about Kazakhstan or Central Asia. I would like to become a literary translator specializing in Central Asia. If Western people read literature from Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic, they would want to know more about these cultures and countries,” said Maltby.

Another university student, Juan Valenzuela, is convinced that language is the basis for people’s culture. He has shown a great interest in learning Kazakh since his first lessons.


“So far, I speak very slowly in the Kazakh language,” Valenzuela said.

Specialists at the Gumilyov Eurasian National University developed a unique study program focused on country studies for the University of Arizona students. Aizhan Maibalayeva, a university lecturer, discussed the special course for the U.S. students. 

“Our program aims to introduce them to the realities of Kazakhstan. We use texts about Kazakhstan and excerpts from the works of Kazakh writers. Students in my group are familiar with two of Abai’s words of edification,” noted Maibalayeva.

The curriculum also includes extra classes for the study of national culture. As part of the educational tours of the capital’s sights, international students visited the National Museum of Kazakhstan, where they learned about valuable artifacts and samples of the country’s culture. They also took part in a food tour.

“I liked it in Astana. The culture differs from the U.S. in many ways, but this difference in culture is fascinating and important and the cuisine here is much healthier than in the United States. We tried beshbarmak [a Kazakh national dish]. We can see some fusion of the former Soviet and Asian history and Turkic culture, and it all intertwines excitingly and becomes a unique culture,” said Brian Belakovskiy, a student from the University of Arizona. 

According to the students, Kazakh history, culture, language, and traditions are so rich that more than six weeks are needed to learn everything. The students hope to have a chance to return to Kazakhstan in the future.

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