Regarding Kazakh terminology …

Recently the president Nursultan Nazarbayev organized a meeting with local and international mass media journalists. In the interview, the president spoke about one of the burning topic in our society– the language issue. In particular, he pointed out terms translated into Kazakh in an irrelevant quantity which have already merged into Kazakh. The president stated “Instead of enhancing Kazakh by international terms, the linguistic committee created a number of words which are not used by people, e.g. ‘procent’ is translated as ‘paiyz (procent) in Kazakh, but I do not use this word in my speech’”.

Language is the soul of the nation and spiritual identity. After gaining the independence, the Kazakh language obtained the status of state language. At that period, other ethnicities started paying attention to our mother tongue, saying “Kazakh became an individual country, the language received state language, if we do not learn Kazakh, we will not survive”. However, we could not continue this process properly. By trying to translate new words into Kazakh we made the language so complicated, that even Kazakh folks are not able to understand themselves. It is surprising to hear from graduates of Kazakh mainstream schools saying “I prefer to read in Russian to Kazakh” or “It is easier to read in Russian”. It is not difficult to notice that one of the main reasons of why we came to this adverse circumstance is the fact that huge amount of terms which are used by the whole world translated into Kazakh. Compare the following words in six different languages:

English Spanish Italian French Russian Kazakh
Passport Pasaporte Passaporto passeport Пасспорт Төлқұжат
Piano Piano Piano Piano Пианино Күйсандық
Internet Internet Internet Internet Интернет Ғаламтор
competence Competencia Competenza Competence Компетенция Құзыреттілік
Focus Foco Fuoco concentrer Фокус, концентрация Шоғырлану
Crocodile Cocodrilo Coccordillo Crocodile Крокодил Қолтыруын


In fact, words in all these languages are written and pronounced almost the same, except Kazakh. In this respect my opinion corresponds to the president’s that we should not translate all the single word into Kazakh. I assume there are two advantages of using international terminologies unchanged. First, the original meaning of a word will be preserved, i.e. the meaning of items or actions will be conveyed accurately. The equivalent of any word can be found in any language, but it cannot accomplish in accordance to modern time necessity.  For example, expertise, inauguration, document, administration -these words do not replace precise meaning of the words, thus are not used in everyday life. Secondly, terminology has enormous international power to unite world population. As our president said if 1800 words enter our language without changes, then isn’t it wealth? (Is Kazakh tongue-tied to articulate the international words?) These terminologies can also enable us to learn English, one of the most important goals in present days. Thousands of words have merged into the Russian language, but we do not see they lose something because of that.

The problem here is that we do not only make Kazakh language difficult to learn for other ethnicities, but also for ourselves. If Kazakhs do not read and understand their own language, who on Earth will learn and maintain it?




5 thoughts on “Regarding Kazakh terminology …

  1. Dear Bayan, thank you for positing your point of view regarding the issue of translation, but, here, I agree with you only partially. Notice that all the languages in your example are from the Indo-European language family, which makes it natural for them to share the words with common roots, not to mention the French, Italian and Spanish languages which belong to the same Roman family. In those three languages not only the “international” words, but the words such as “to sleep, to sing, or the adjective interesting” are quite identical. Compare: Italian dormire, cantare and interessante with French dormir, chanter, and interessant or with Spanish dormir, cantar and interesante. It is like comparing the Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar and Turkish languages. But you can’t say the same about Chinese, can you? Because in Chinese a crocodile will turn into “e-yu, 鳄鱼”and the internet will turn into “hu-zhao, 护照”. Secondly, I do not think that a child that grew up hearing the word “түлқұжат” instead of passport, will one day suddenly declare that this word does not quite convey the meaning of the document used to enter or leave the other countries, or complain saying that it was so difficult to learn. Variety of different languages is one of the things that makes the world so diverse, colorful, and interesting to explore. Of course, sometimes very “weird” translations are being suggested, but if it a beautiful translation that can be accepted by the population, why not to translate?


    1. Dear Ariya,
      Thank for your interest and opinion on this post! I understand it is a controversial topic and “there are as many opinions as there are men” (Terentius, 170–160 BC). I know the languages are from one linguistic family and may be the similarities of vocabulary make them to be learnt by a large number of people, not limited though. In this respect, another questions occurs: Is Chinese popular and learnt extensively as those languages, except by Chinese population and a few other ones? I hope you would agree that it is not and the reason for this is the complete difference of Chinese language from other languages, despite the huge economical development of this country, which can be a trigger to learn Chinese. If Kazakhs do not use those “beautiful translations” as you pointed out (piano – күйсандық, museum – мұражай, archive – мұрағат, contract – келісімшарт, expertise – сараптау etc.) themselves what is the meaning of translating them? Just to say our language is different? What about maintaining the language through the comprehensible writings in order to preserve that proportion of Kazakh people who is still able to understand their native language? When the Kazakh language in a difficult state, we should not be for diversity, but try to make it more available for everyone instead!


  2. Dear Bayan,

    Thank you for your post! It reminded me our President’s words:

    “We translate international universal words into the Kazakh language. Thinking that it is necessary to move away from the Russian language, we take words from the Turkish, from the Arabic, then from Persian. And thus we are spoiling the language. We need to enrich the Kazakh language with international terms. And there is nothing wrong and we should not be afraid of this “. Based on this, I think that the problem of corpus planning should be solved accurately. The main goal is to include new words in that way, so they are used in everyday life or perceived as normal by society. Secondly, the status of language can also be raised by including some international words, words which are “equal in meaning” in the whole world. Thirdly, the translation of every possible word will not lead to success, knowing that some years ago these words were not translated at all, but rather to a loss of energy and time.

    Thank you again!


  3. @bayanassylbek, I completely agree with you that borrowing is a great way to enrich a language. Besides, having an institution of a dozen people sitting in their offices and deciding what the rest of the country should say is a silly enterprise, to put it mildly. I think they should be doing the opposite: going around the country, listening to people speak, and then coming up with a standard. Dictionaries should describe living languages, not construct dead ones.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s