Why don’t Kazakhs speak in Kazakh as the native language?


One of the global thought-provoking issues is the interconnection of language with an identity. Some people think that language is the identifier of the individual’s nationality, his attachment to the specific ethnic group. Others believe that language is not always the tool to determine cultural background, especially if the person is multilingual. Kazakhstan one of the multicultural and multilingual country with the postcolonial history. After 25 years of getting independence from Soviet communism Kazakhs still speak predominantly in Russian. Foreigners from different countries puzzle when they realize that there are some Kazakhs who understand but don’t speak in their native language. Is that mean that Kazakhs assimilated to Russians in their own hometown?

History. Kazakhs used to live in the nomadic lifestyle, however, in the XIX century, the territory of Kazakhs started to be under the control of Tsarist Russia. First of all, the colonizer forced Kazakhs to live in sedentary lifestyle and the new way of living influenced negatively on the survival of the nation. Second, the Russian language was introduced in all schools and governmental organizations among Central Asia. And the next step of settlers was the immigration of 400 000 Russians and around 1 million of other nationalities to the Kazakh territory. Kazakhs attempted to defend their homeland, culture and traditions, but Russian authority suppressed the repression. The massive immigration and hunger in Kazakhstan led to the decrease of native population, which entailed the empowerment of influence on Kazakh identity. Russian was the language of intercultural communication and it still keeps this position.

Literacy. In most cases, educational textbooks, literature was translated from Russian to the Kazakh language. Some students prefer to read the original version in the Russian language for deeper understanding the subject. Therefore, most of them are well-read in both languages equally. The issue of trans languaging pushes Kazakh speakers to turn to Russian group. Parents who graduated Russian classes afraid to educate their children in Kazakh because they won’t be able to support children to do home works.  Today government is aimed to maintain Kazakh language and support educators who are willing to create and ameliorate Kazakh libraries with qualified and interesting Kazakh literature.

Intergenerational heritage. Since Russian became a language of education and future, Kazakh perceived as the language for intergenerational communication. It lost the stance in society and different domains. Today’s grandmothers and grandfathers are the graduates of Soviet education and they have the identity of Soviet communism. It changed the influence of traditional and cultural values on Kazakh families. Most of the traditional events stopped transmission from generation to generation and in the way towards vanishing.

History, literacy, family heritage are the main factors of forming the identity of the individual. Many Kazakhs who don’t speak Kazakh pose themselves as Kazakhs and don’t think that the language they talk identifies their nationality. According to the historical background, Kazakhs were forced to assimilate and Russian hegemony was the reason of changing in roots. However, as Kazakhstan is the independent country there are different ways to promote Kazakh language and revitalize Kazakh identity again. Here is the post about successful attempts to do so http://www.edgekz.com/relearning-native-tongue-bringing-kazakh-language-back-steppe/

5 thoughts on “Why don’t Kazakhs speak in Kazakh as the native language?

  1. Dear assema001, Your blog touches a very important issue for all Kazakhstani citizens. This issue has long been discussed and debated. There were many debates how to revitalize Kazakh language. Having read your linked article I formulated my personal view to this issue: Each Kazakhstani citizen should feel the importance of speaking Kazakh from deep inside and start from themselves. As you mentioned in your blog that there are different ways to promote Kazakh language and revitalize Kazakh identity again, what way would you offer to perform this operation?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear, Dumankhan! I am glad you got insights from my post! I think that it is the complex process that should be thought as in top-down level so in bottom-up. First of all, I am concerned about literacy of youth in Kazakh language. That’s why it will be worthwhile investment to produce interesting imaginated literature in Kazakh. The second is the modernization of the language, which is necessary for using it in real daily social situations by having enough terminology and words. The next is the intergenerational communication, which is the foundation of transmitting heritage. These are former steps for maintaining Kazakh language and giving chance to own the majority of speakers.


  2. Well done, Assem. (4.5/5) This post is on a popular theme this week. Be sure to check out the other posts on this topic from your peers and past authors. I have two recommendations: 1) include a citation for all images you use, and 2) proofread again for some important grammar issues:
    “Why Kazakhs don’t speak in Kazakh as the native language?” (Word order)
    Kazakhs used to live in the nomadic lifestyle, however, in the XIX century, the territory of Kazakhs started to be under the control of Tsarist Russia. (comma splice)
    In most cases, educational textbooks, literature was translated from Russian to the Kazakh language. (Commas, and, subject-verb agreement)
    Kazakh perceived as the language… (Active/passive)


  3. Dear Assem, thanks for your post) As far as I understood the main reasons of not speaking in their native language are rooted in history. Nowadays even some other nationalities speak Kazakh fluently that are great examples for us. Personally, I can speak Kazakh but not so fluently and what always makes me surprising is how people react starting to criticize my speech. Our society seems not to support Kazakhs who willing to interact with others in their native language but demotivate. No one could become a fluent speaker without practice that is why I think people should be more careful before judging someone.


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