Must or should?


Nowadays Kazakhstan is on the way of developing and integrating the multilingual society through the implementation of the cultural project “Trinity of languages” proposed by the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Despite all the benefits and advantages, this kind of initiative triggered some hotly debated issues in our society, particularly it concerns the role and the status of the Kazakh language. In this sense, some people believe that the development of the Kazakh language can only be achieved by an assertive way, while others think that it should be done carefully and gradually. On account of this issue, I decided to make the discourse analysis of the interviews given by the main government officials, such as: the President, Vice-prime minister and Vice-minister of Education and Science of Kazakhstan.

First and foremost, Kazakhstan is a socially diverse country with a wisely thought-out language policy, which promotes multilingualism. However, unfortunately, this kind of “promotion” does not always consider the civic rights of an individual. For instance, the interview given by the Vice-prime minister of Kazakhstan, Karim Massimov, in 2011, depicts the whole picture of Kazakhstani language policy:

“Regardless of nationality, young people must learn the Kazakh language, this is natural,” PM said. “There are enough methods (for learning Kazakh). It is possible to at least to learn the spoken language. Who wants to learn will learn it.”

From this excerpt Massimov makes the point that the learning of the Kazakh language should be done in an assertive way (must learn). Additionally, his phrases, as:  learning methods, at least the spoken language and who wants to learn will learn implies that there could not be an excuse for the poor proficiency of the Kazakh language of every Kazakhstani citizen, regardless of nationality.

Secondly, in addition to the point of Massimov, the Vice-minister of Education and Science, Makhmetgali Sarybekov, highlights the importance of fluency in the Kazakh language setting an “optimistic” goal for school graduates:

“100 percent of Kazakhstani school graduates should speak the Kazakh language by 2020, this is a strategic goal. This is the key leverage to solving the language issue and a responsible task for the education sector”

According to Sarybekov, the 100 percent fluency of school graduates in the Kazakh language, is the main (key leverage) solution for the language issues of Kazakhstan, and at the same time crucial aspect for the field of education (responsible task for the education sector). Then he also notes the importance of development of other languages:

“Russian, English and languages of other Kazakhstan’s ethnic groups will be developed as well”

Nevertheless, the tone of the sentence gives an expression that Sarybekov puts the other languages on a secondary plan (will be developed as well), implying more priority to the Kazakh language.

Thirdly, the speech of the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, given in 2013, is like a negative counter-response for the above mentioned government officials who specifically give a priority only for the Kazakh language. He claims;

“… let them speak Russian freely and arrange synchronized translation. Printed media should also provide translations. People shouldn’t be discriminated against in terms of language”

From this speech, it is clear that Nazarbayev defines the civic rights (let them speak more freely, provide translations) more importantly rather than the social and linguistic background (not to discriminate in terms of language). Moreover, he highlights more acceptable ways of development the Kazakh language, than the ones which were proposed by the above mentioned officials:

“Development and spread of the Kazakh language should be gradual. The task is to arrange language courses so that people could master the everyday language”

To conclude, the balance between the languages within the multinational state as Kazakhstan is very important for sustaining the well-functioning position of a country. Therefore, I believe that the government officials should avoid defining the hierarchy of languages while setting the language policy.


[Online image]. Retrieved  from

1 thought on “Must or should?

  1. Thanks, Makha (5/5). I appreciate the way you systematically analyzed the rhetoric of the political leadership.

    I have one comment about grammar: save colons for dividing a list from a preceding independent clause. Your sentence above would be better this way:

    Additionally, his phrases like “learning methods,” “at least the spoken language,” and “who wants to learn will learn” imply that there could not be an excuse for the poor proficiency of the Kazakh language of every Kazakhstani citizen, regardless of nationality.


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