Negative discourses on trilingualism: data interpretation.

The program of “trinity of languages” proffered by the President of Republic of Kazakhstan in 2007 initiated the emergence of number of contradicting ideologies. Some of the ideologies regard trilingualism as a threat to Kazakhstan underpinning the interconnectedness of national identity and language, and a need to protect Kazakh language from being replaced by Russian or English which have higher social statuses. To show give a broader understanding of the recurring negative discourses with regard to trilingual policy I will analyze the excerpts from the different sources given below:

  • If we introduce English as a compulsory, as in some countries in South-East Asia and etc.., then the Russian language should be taught as a foreign language. For example, Azerbaijani Internet portals of government agencies are only in Azerbaijani and English languages, there is no link with Russian translation. This is a double edged sword. Mass knowledge of two languages is attainable, but not of three languages. A third language can only be a foreign language. However, nobody talks of Russian as a foreign language, for the supporters of the trinity “understand” that among the triad, the odd man out is the state language. (Eldesov, 2011)
  • If the majority of the population at least received information from Western sources for a year, I think, we would be able to significantly strengthen the information security. People would stop to look at the world through the eyes of false Russian propagandists, and could get unbiased, comprehensive information from Western sources. What needs to be done for that? Firstly, apart from the state, we need to totally implement the study of the English language at all educational levels. The language of economics, science, technology, business and world politics is English. (Abdildin)
  • Since the economy of a country is directly linked to its science and technology, in all of the developed countries, these subjects are taught in their native language. Because, it (trinity of languages) leads to mass illiteracy of a nation and hinders the development of the state language, thus, the state itself, making it left behind for 10 years. These kinds of measures are taken only by the not self-assured, dependent countries with a vague future. The actions of the lunatics that want to make the Kazakh language which has become the language of science and technology and one of the world’s 9 universal languages, go backwards should be regarded as the act against the state. (Januzak, Orazaly, Ayezov, Eleuzisov, Zharmahan, Tokashbayev, Amangazi, 2016)

The first excerpt from the article called “Trinity of languages supersedes the Kazakh language” suggests that the English language can be acquired only at the expense of Russian or Kazakh. The author negates the plausibility of attaining three languages in societal level. This is interesting, as he presupposes that, societally, people can be more or less balanced bilinguals, but if they start to learn the third language, their proficiency in that language will be at “foreign language level” which, in terms, is regarded as a lack of proficiency. Further, the author implies that the program of trinity of languages is mostly supported by native speakers of Russian rather than Kazakh, since Russian is not a “foreign language” for them. There is also an allusion that the Kazakh language is vulnerable and spoken by less people, since it automatically becomes “the odd man out” in case the program of the trinity of languages is introduced.  Author suggests that more attention should be paid to Kazakh, which is supposed to be the most important language in the country, instead of Russian.

Similarly, the second excerpt taken from the article ““Come Sagadiev!” or what to expect from the program of trilingualism?” also consist anti-trilingualism attitude, and advocate the freedom of choice in learning foreign languages. For instance, the interviewee J. Mamai holds a pro-west and pro-English ideology which considers English as a language of “economics, technology, business and world politics”, and a tool to achieve economic prosperity, and asserts the western sources to be more objective and unbiased. On the other hand, Russian information sources are described to be “false” and “protagonist”.  This shows that the negative ideology here is not against English or fears about whether Kazakh can be maintained, but fears of Russian, which could be a consequence of colonial past of the nation.

The third excerpt taken from the open letter which is themed as “We insist on refusal from the mutation called “Trilingualism”! consists the most illiberal discourse among three excerpts which equates trilingualism to a physical pathology, a kind of mutation.  To convince the reader in the benefits of monolingualism, the authors make overgeneralization such as “in all of the developed countries, these subjects are taught in their native language”. The authors of the letter assert that “the trinity of languages” leads to “mass illiteracy of a nation” implying the development of semilingual nation, a nation which is not fully competent in any of the languages spoken within the country.  The letter puts forward the ideology which indicates that hegemony of one language leads to the development of a country, while depicting “trilingualism” as something insane, “the action of (mangurts) lunatics”. The authors use the patriotic feelings of the readers to promote the linguistic homogeneity as language is “among the different ethnic layers of identity that can bring out deep-seated feelings in people that nationalist movements can use or abuse for their own ends (de Jong, 2011, p. 86).

In conclusion, there are number of discourses against the multilingualism in Kazakhstan since “in public discourse, language often becomes inseparably associated with a territorially bounded identity in a relationship that takes language, territory, and identity to be isomorphic” (Freeland and Patrick, as cited in Blackledge, 2008, p. 30). Further studies are needed to analyze the causes of tensions between monolingual and pluralistic ideologies within the Kazakhstani society.


Abdildin, S.  “Come Sagadiev!” or what to expect from the program of trilingualism? Retrieved from:

Blackledge, A. (2008). Language ecology and language ideology. Encyclopedia of Language and Education, 2nd Edition, Volume 9: Ecology of Language, 9, 27–40.

De Jong, J. (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education.  Philadelphia: Caslon

Eldesov, D. (2011). “Trinity of languages” supersedes the Kazakh language. Retrieved from

Januzak, A., Orazaly, S.,  Ayezov, M., Eleuzisov, M., & Zharmahan, T., Tokashbayev, M, … Amangazi, K. (2016). We insist on refusal from the mutation called “Trilingualism”! Retrieved from:


One thought on “Negative discourses on trilingualism: data interpretation.

  1. Nice work, Ariya (4.5/5). This is a detailed and systematic post analyzing an important current topic. A few stylistic/grammatical improvements could be made:
    1) Comma overuse:
    This is interesting, as he presupposes that, societally, people can be more or less balanced bilinguals, but if they start to learn the third language, their proficiency in that language will be at “foreign language level” which, in terms, is regarded as a lack of proficiency.
    2) Word choice: “consists” vs. “comprises” or “includes”
    3) End quotation marks: (de Jong, 2011, p. 86).


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