I was born in 1982 and it was the last decades of the Soviet Union. Therefore, as a many others family I was growing in the bilingual environment: Kazakh and Russian. In that time, Russian language was the first language which was the official state language and was used in everywhere in the USSR. Our small town, in the North of country, had only one Kazakh school and approximately seven Russian. I went to Russian school because it was very prestigious. We were too small but we understood how it important to speak in Russian. Ramanathan mentioned that this process can be call as a “linguistic imperialism” (2013, p.292). I and my friends saw some discrimination around pupils who studied in Kazakh school because all competitions, all sport and music activities were provided by local government had only Russian instructions. Of course we had Kazakh language subject but the quality of teaching was so poor. For example, the book of this subject was soft cover and had only 100 pages without colors pictures and in comparison with Russian there were a big gap because here we used 2 or 3 books which divided on writing and reading.
However, I was growing in a family where parents, grandparents could speak Kazakh. They taught me and my sisters to speak the native language. But, unfortunately it was only everyday language which didn’t help us to be more confident in Kazakh environment. This process can be described as a “diglossia” when people use two languages for different purposes (de Jong, Ester J., 2011, p.27). We communicated in Russian at the school and around it and spoke our native language only at home.
The situation was changed after the USSR collapsing. My family moved to the South of Kazakhstan where people spoke mostly Kazakh. Kazakh became a state language and local government, organization started to implement new language policy. Nevertheless, Russian hadn’t loose their popularity. For example, all my new neighbors were from Kazakh schools but they tried to speak Russian with me. In that point of view, I think there was the situation of “circumstantial bilingualism” when people think that is necessary to know Russian for convenient living in society (de Jong, Ester J., 2011, p.29).
I would like to know Kazakh and Russian in an advance level but it was so difficult when you lean Russian as the first language. On the other hand, I have met people who tried to change their instruction language. They studied at primary Russian school, then secondary Kazakh school. Though, it was not useful because students didn’t show a good proficiency in both languages. “Semilingualism or imperfect learning” (de Jong, Ester J., 2011, p.52) was the common situation in the post-Soviet period. In my point of view, it better when you can learn more than one language, but if it difficult, you should study only one or give additional attention for first of it.
Nowadays, many Kazakh don’t know their native language and they became as marginals in the own country. Our society don’t respect them but in the same time it easy to find a job if you know Russian or English. Kazakh is not obligatorily yet. I hope in the future our country will have a real multilingual society where Kazakh will become the first language for everybody.
Ramanathan, V. (2013) Review of research in education. from http://rre.sagepub.com
De Jong, Ester J. (2011) Foundations for Multilingualism in Education from Principles to Practice. Caslon Publishing.