Trilingual education policy in Kazakhstan creates concerns in a number of individuals whose personal viewpoints are on par with the idea that Kazakh language will definitely suffer from the influence of equally prioritized Russian and English. However, supporters of the reform continue to claim that its implementation will not bring any harm to the country’s state language. Let us analyze three quotes from popular news website “Azattyq” [Freedom] representing commonly held beliefs on the given policy:
- – In my opinion, the Kazakh language is being developed naturally. The Ministry [of Education] neither helps nor interferes this process. If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools? The people does not speak three languages. English is necessary, but studying it at the expense of Kazakh is not correct. [28.06.16. Quote from scientist mathematician – Askar Zhumadildayev] (Mukhankizy, 2016).
- – The Kazakh language – is the main guarantee of national security. Therefore, it must be one of a kind, not just one of the three languages. There is no such equation in any country. Personally, I think trilingual education is a nonsense. [27.05.16. Quote from the Head of the Department of the Kazakh language and literature of the Kazakh National University named after Abai – Janat Dauletbekova] (Mamashuly, 2016).
- – Not even one hour from the amount of hours devoted to Kazakh language will be reduced. Teaching the subjects in other languages in an elementary school is not planned. [28.06.16. Quote from the Director of Department of pre-school and secondary education of the Ministry of Education and Science – Janyl Zhontaeva] (Mukhankizy, 2016).
Excerpt (1) depicts the role of the Ministry of Education in terms of status of Kazakh language nowadays claiming that the government’s impact towards the development of Kazakh is minimal. Moreover, trilingual education is regarded as a practice not suitable for the state schools (“If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools?”), and therefore it is suggested to be implemented only in chosen range of institutions. Nevertheless, the need for mastering English is not denied (“English is necessary”), but there is also a context showing the vulnerability of Kazakh (“studying it at the expense of Kazakh is not correct”) which is obviously due to its slow pace of development (“the Kazakh language is being developed naturally”) that might be interupted if the priority of studying English will be equated to Kazakh.
The first excerpt in sum illustrates the negative attitude towards trilingualism, while excerpt(2) highlights a special status of Kazakh (“it must be one of a kind, not just one of the three languages”) for stability and national prosperity (“The Kazakh language – is the main guarantee of national security”). However, both excerpts (1) and (2) indicate the impossibility of equating Kazakh to Russian and English due to its vulnerability and significance of the former. If the excerpt (1) shows more tactful way of rejecting trilingual education (“If we want to develop three languages, why not to develop the Kazakh-Turkish high schools?”), the (2) excerpt demonstrates direct negative criticism (“I think trilingual education is a nonsense”). Such negative utterance is apparently a logical continuation of the unprecedented phenomenon of equating the state language to other two languages (“There is no such equation in any country”).
Conversely, excerpt (3) justifies the trilingual education by ensuring the security of the Kazakh language among two others (“Not even one hour from the amount of hours devoted the Kazakh language will be reduced”) in terms of the amount of hours. This excerpt illustrates rather positive regard towards trilingualism, since according to the quote, it does not disciminate Kazakh. Deliberate exaggeration of untouchability of the Kazakh language (“Not even one hour…”) shows a position of defense of the reform against negative criticism. In addition, the guarantee of safe state language acquisition is presented in excerpt (2) (“Teaching the subjects in other languages in an elementary school is not planned.”)
To sum up, first two excerpts (1) and (2) demonstrate negative attitude towards multlingual education in Kazakhstan containing a broad social multilingualism discourse in place depicting unique position of Kazakh in society in contrast to other languages, while excerpt (3) illustrates a positive regard providing the facts to reply to negative critique. Negative utterances generally position the Kazakh language as a cost for the implementation of multilingual education with equal positions on par with Russian and English. Two excerpts (1) and (2) comprise rather reasonable concerns and therefore these perspectives tend to be accepted by the majority of native Kazakh speakers. Concrning excerpt (2), this is likely to be a typical response of those holding governmental positions aimed at justification of the benefits of the trilimgual education reform. Which side of the debate do you support?
Mamashuly, A. (2016, June 29). Diskutiruya o trekh”yazychii, zayavili ob «unichtozhenii natsii» [Discussing about trilingualism, said about the “destruction of the nation”]. Retrieved from http://rus.azattyq.org/a/slushania-trekhyazychnoe-obrazovanie/27827432.html
Mukhankizy, M. (2016, May 27). Zayavleniye biznesmenov o «trekh”yazychii» vyzvalo spory [Statement of businessmen on “trilingualism” caused controversy]. Retrieved from http://rus.azattyq.org/a/kazakhstan-trekhjazychnoe-obrazovanie/27761450.html