All posts by ariyavvv

Should bad handwriting be judged?


The Freakonomics Radio podcast “Who needs handwriting?” discusses the role of handwriting in today’s digital era, proposes some arguments on whether it should be preserved or not, and forecasts and evaluates some possible consequences of its lost. However, after having listened to the podcast, the question that drew my attention the most was not the necessity of preserving handwriting, but the correctness of judging students by their handwriting.

One of the arguments made in favor of typewriting in the episode was about “handwriting effect”, or in other words, the studies that showed the positive correlation between good handwriting and higher test scores. By stating that people tend to connect penmanship with individuality and person’s ability to learn, Anna Trubek, one of the hosts of the show, argued that schools should deemphasize the role of penmanship in their curriculum. Paradoxically, Telegraph reports that students are losing marks in exams due to their deteriorated handwriting skills that resulted from their overreliance on technology, and implies the need to put more emphasis on handwriting.  Looking at the both sides, the question that emerges is if it is fair to ask students take handwritten exams when writing is becoming more personal and more and more papers are being submitted online.

As mentioned in “Who needs handwriting?”, nowadays, most of us write mainly for utilitarian purposes.  When we write we write for ourselves, not for the others.  We usually write to take notes, jot down useful ideas, or make a draft of our outlines. In all of those situations most of us (at least you’re a perfectionist) do not care about the neatness, legibility or aesthetic value of our handwriting as long as we are able to decipher it later. But not in written exams.  Because in written exams how you present your ideas seems to be more important than the ideas themselves.

As  makha09 wrote, in Kazakhstan students might be penalized for making their works less neat by making self-corrections.  But, in many cases, a decent piece of writing needs some self-correction. And it is not just about crossing out the wrong letters; you might want to add some more words or cross out and replace whole sentences or paragraphs while writing. I remember asking for an extra sheet of paper and rewriting my whole answer simply because I felt as my argument would sound more reasonable by adding several example sentences.  Now, imagine that your writing is completely illegible and rewriting would not help you…

Taken all these into consideration, do you think that students should be given extra time to transfer their answers to a new sheet of paper during exams, or should they type instead? But apparently you generate more ideas when you handwrite. So, what will be your solution? Or do you think that is not a problem at all?

Photo credit to:


Me before research, or how preparing to write a research paper has changed me



I have not written an empirical research paper yet, but we are preparing for it for at least a year now. This stage of preparation turned me into a critical thinker, who would not be convinced by a bear statement unless the evidence that can support it is provided.  But it also made me become more ethical in some senses.  Here are the reasons why:

You write a research by standing on the shoulders of giants. As suggested by Graff and Birkenstein (2010), while writing a research, you engage in a conversation with previous scholars in your field to find out more about your research theme as well as to respond to their claims later. And the fact that you cannot do that without giving credits to them made me understand the salience of respecting someone else’s intellectual property. If me-before -research would download a popular song from the internet and use it as background music in my presentations without any hesitation, now I think twice before using any material. For instance, before deciding to add music to my work, I start contemplating if I have a right or permission to use that music and how I am going to reference it. (P.S I am also not sure how to reference the picture that I edited using Photoshop for this post 😀 )

     From the very start of the MA program, we were taught the significance of protecting the privacy and anonymity of our research participants, and guarantying the confidentiality and voluntariness of their participation. It became so ingrained in my mind that when I came across the youtube documentaries such as “World’s scariest drug” or “How easy is it for refugees to buy fake passports in Anthens” where people candidly talk about their past criminal experiences I kept asking myself “How ethical is it for film makers to show the respondents without blurring their face and what consequences their answers might bring to them?” which I am still curious about.

       Last but not least, preparing to write a research paper, particularly dealing with APA style made me more conscious about the words that I use to refer to people from different contexts, backgrounds.  Me-before-research would not pay a lot of attention for choosing a word that is least offensive, and most appropriate to use. But now I try to be careful during my speech.


Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2010). They say / I say: The moves that matter in academic writing. ew York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Picture drawn from:

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:

Educating body confidence? Deconstruction of the Ted talk “Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you”

“About 10,000 people a month Google the phrase, “Am I ugly?” By making this statement, the global director of the Dove Self-Esteem Project Meaghan Ramsey raises the issue of low body-confidence and its consequences in her Ted talk. Subsequently, the speaker suggests delivering appropriate body-confidence education for teenagers and encourages her listeners to work collectively to defeat todays’ image obsessed culture.

In her speech, Meaghan Ramsey claims that in today’s image-obsessed culture people are training their children to exert more mental effort on the way how they look at the expense of all the other aspects of their identity. She supports her claim by talking about the ubiquity of social networks and online trends such as proana (pro-anorexia), size zero models and thinspiration and the social pressure that comes from them. Meaghan Ramsey’s speech is mostly directed to girls alluding that they become the victim of image-obsessed society more easily than boys. The fact that speaker herself is female may also has affected to her decision to specifically elaborate on the girls’ confidence in their appearances.

According to the speaker, low body confidence undermines teenager’s academic achievement, and negatively affects their health pushing them to take risks like early unprotected sex, cosmetic surgery, alcoholism and drug-taking. She supports her fist statement by unsettling information such as: six out of ten girls choose not to do something because of being unconfident about their looks.  31 percent of teenagers are withdrawing from classroom debates to not to draw attention to their appearances, one in five are not showing up to class when they don’t feel they look good, and, finally, in Finland, US and China the teenagers who think they are overweight perform worse at exams than their counterparts who are not concerned with it. However, despite the compelling tone of the speaker, the listeners may question the reliability and generalizability of the given statements since she doesn’t mention any source from which these pieces of information were derived.

Furthermore, Megan Ramsey explicates her second argument by alleging that teenagers who are not confident in their appearances tend to eat unhealthy food, do less physical activities, be easily influenced by people around them, suffer from depression, and, therefore, take more risks. Instead of making speculations, the speaker could have made her argument more convincing by proving the connection between risk-taking and low body confidence with the findings of solid studies.

On the final part of her speech, the speaker suggests to educate body-confidence with the help of programs that address six key areas: 1) media and celebrity culture; 2) competing and comparing looks; 3) respecting and looking after yourself, 4) talking about appearances; 5) teasing and bullying; 6) family, friends and relationships. In addition, she encourages people to challenge the status quo where women are judged based on their appearances rather than abilities. I support Megan Ramsey’s suggestions since appropriate body-confidence education may benefit the teenagers by boosting their self-esteem regardless of their gender.

Overall, despite the obscurity of the used sources, the speaker delivered a very reasonable and inspiring speech. Moreover, her confident posture, pertinent gestures, eye-contact and pauses, clear, friendly and convincing tone makes the speech very enjoyable.

Peculiarities of Kazakh-Russian code-mixing: data interpretation of the scene from the sketch comedy “Q-eli”

In this data interpretation, I will analyze the scene taken from the sketch comedy popular among the youth of Kazakhstan called “Q-yeli”, which depicts a stereotypical image of Kazakhstani regions and their inhabitants.  Three minute and fifty second video consists of a dialogue between the urban married young couple which uses code-mixing recurrently in their predominantly Kazakh speech. Thirty two Russian words appear during the dialogue, including 20 nouns, 7 verbs, 1 interjection, 2 adverbs and 2 conjunctions. In the video, the Kazakh language functions as a “matrix language” (Auer & Muhamedova, 2005) where the Kazakh sentence structure pattern dominates the sentences, with Russian words “embedded” to them.

In terms of morphological structure, Russian verbs are embedded into the speech in two different ways: (a) preserving the morphological form of the Russian language (3 verbs); (b) taking on the morphological form of the Kazakh language (4 verbs).  For instance, the Russian verbs “посмотри” [look], “слушай” [listen], “скажи”[tell me] are used preserving their morphological structure in the second person singular form, imperative mood of the Russian language. While the verbs “экономдап жатырмын” [I am saving], “пландаймыз” [we will plan], “звондаймын” [I will call], “заказ беру” [to order] are modified and adjusted to the Kazakh sentence by adding Kazakh verb forming suffixes ( –дай, -дап), morphemes indicating person  (–мын [1st person sing], -мыз [1st person plural] ) and auxiliary verb (жатырмын − used to form present continuous first person singular) to the Russian roots -план-, -звон-, -эконом-.  Interestingly, in Kazakh the word “to order” is a compound word which consists of the nominal part “тапсырыс” [the order] and verbal part ‘беру’ [to give], while in Russian the simple verb “заказывать” is used instead. To say the word “order” in the phrase “рестораннан заказ бергенің” the speaker uses the compound verb instead of adding the verb forming suffix to the root “заказ” which makes the sentence more compatible with Kazakh morphology. But, at the same time, she replaces the Kazakh word “тапсырыc” [the order] with the Russian equivalent “заказ”. Compared to verbs, all the Russian nouns used in the dialogue carry the morphological form of the Kazakh language. For example:  the words with the endings of different cases (dative, locative, ablative): интернет-тен [from the internet], ресторан-нан [from the restaurant], ресторан-дар-ға [to restaurants], ресторан-да [at the restaurant] and etc.

Most of the Russian nouns embedded to the speech are used instead of relatively new Kazakh terms that have not been fully integrated into common usage. For example: ресторан − мейрамхана [restaurant], интернет − ғаламтор [internet], кредит − несие [credit], процент − өсім, пайыз [interest], квитанция − түбіртек [receipt]. Frequent usage of the Russian equivalents demonstrates that those new terms in Kazakh have not become pervasive among the young speakers of Kazakh language yet.

By using the sentence structure common to both languages, the speakers show their knowledge in both languages and bilingual identity. For instance, the words such as “не…, не” in Kazakh and “либо…, либо” in Russian, meaning “either…, or” in English, are used interchangeably in the sentences “Либо ананы төле светті, либо маникюр жаса” [either pay for the electricity, or get your nails done] and “Не бізге шығындарды азайту керек, не сен табысыңды көбейту керексің” [We should either cut down on expenses, or you should earn more]. Moreover, the Russian-Kazakh code mixing, especially the usage of transitional words such as “тем более”, “так” can be a demonstration of urban identity of speakers, as code-mixing is more prevalent in urban areas.  During her speech, the wife used the Russian regular expression “ой, все” popular in Internet, meaning “oh, enough”, that expresses a stereotypical image of girls that always end their argument saying “oh, enough” unable or unwilling to justify their point. Thus, the expression is used to show stereotypical “girlish” side of the character.

Limitations of this data source consist in that films are artificial set-ups that use prechosen codes that can differ from the speech produced in natural environment.  Moreover, script-writers may use abundance of code mixing to create a comic effect, or, conversely, eliminate code-mixing to promote pure Kazakh speech.


Auer, P., & Muhamedova, R. (2005). “Embedded language” and “matrix language” in insertional language mixing: Some problematic cases. Rivista Di Linguistica, 17(1), 35–54.
Continue reading Peculiarities of Kazakh-Russian code-mixing: data interpretation of the scene from the sketch comedy “Q-eli”

Tandem language learning

If you had an experience of being an international student in a foreign country, you probably hung out more with other internationals rather than locals. Being placed in the same dormitory, attending same parties, facing same problems as a foreigner you quickly get attached to the students from different geographical and cultural backgrounds. English naturally becomes a lingua franca that connects you. Although this means that you will improve your English, at the same time, you lose the opportunity to learn the local language truly experiencing the local culture.  That is why many European universities organize Tandem language learning programs to break the ice between international and local students enabling them to learn from each other.

In tandem language learning native speakers of two different languages are paired together to learn each other’s language. They meet and spend equal amount of time speaking in both languages.  It is upon them to decide when and where to meet and on what topic to talk about: they might meet at a pizzeria and have a nice conversation enjoying a pizza, or find a more official setting where they can teach the grammar of their language. The only prerequisite for participants is that they should at least have an Intermediate language proficiency in the language of their partner. Otherwise, imagine an awkward situation in which you and your partner sit in a silence staring at each other being unable to communicate.

So, what are the benefits of tandem learning?

          It helps to make new friends.

          It helps to develop intercultural communicative competence.

          It is convenient as you can decide the time and location to meet.

          It helps to practice a foreign language in a real authentic setting with a native speaker.

In my opinion, with the rise of international students, this approach of language learning can also be introduced in Kazakhstani universities, what do you think?

Learning a language from TV series

Coming across the Youtube comment above I immediately thought of my 20 year old cousin who is fond of Korean TV series just like me.  The difference between us is she can watch the fresh episodes in Korean right after the release, while I usually chase after her trying to persuade her to interpret for me.  Interestingly, she can’t speak Korean, but understands most of the dialogues in TV series. In fact, she neither learned Korean nor spoke to a Korean native speaker in her entire life.  All she did is watching subtitled Korean TV shows and series incessantly from her childhood.  Her experience tells us that watching TV series in a foreign language with subtitles for a prolonged period of time might help you to acquire the language incidentally, and can be more beneficial in language learning than two-hour films.  

In British council’s site Kieran Donaghy explains the benefits of learning a language through films as follows: 1) it is enjoyable and motivating; 2) it provides authentic and varied language; 3) it gives you a visual context; 4) it brings variety and flexibility to language classrooms. Sharing all those leverages, subtitled TV series can be even more helpful in terms of language learning since you do it regularly, and they are full of repeated words. According to Webb& Rodgers, watching television regularly may significantly affect the learner’s vocabulary size since lots of studies demonstrate that increasing the frequency of the words within a context improves the possibilities of vocabulary learning (as cited in Webb & Rodgers, 2010). This means that having constant characters that talk in a certain style using specific expressions and words again and again, TV series might certainly facilitate the vocabulary acquisition.

To conclude, watching TV series in a foreign language might trigger incidental language learning as it contains plethora of repeated words.  Moreover, being fun and enjoyable activity it serves as an excellent supplement to formal learning. So, next time when you desire to watch your favorite subtitled TV series in a foreign language you might justify yourself by telling that it can be helpful in learning new foreign expressions and words and improving your language knowledge.


Webb, S. (2010). Using glossaries to increase the lexical coverage of television programs, 22(1), 201–221.

Screenshot taken from

Performing better in PISA, why?


Kazakhstani students have been taking part in reputed international tests such as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA),which help to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the education system, for several years . Despite some fluctuations in the results of both tests, they always gain remarkable scores from TIMSS while falling behind in the PISA rating.  What is the reason behind this seemingly never-changing trend? I would say different testing formats and Kazakhstani teaching approaches that are more compatible with the purposes of TIMSS.

TIMSS generally aims to measure students’ traditional skills such as their understanding of classroom content. PISA, on the other hand, focuses more on analytical skills, or, in other words, tests if students can apply the knowledge they have gained from mathematics, science and reading to real life settings.

Being accustomed to teaching approaches that emphasize the memorization of factual information, Kazakhstani students naturally underperform in tests such as PISA which ask students to think. Most students at schools remind pre-programmed robots that can solve the assigned tasks only in certain fixed ways using familiar methods. Change that task slightly, and you might end-up making them feel like as if they were deciphering some kind of mythical codes sent by aliens. Moreover, tasks and activities, whether in-class or for home, resemble the exercises for memory expansion.  So, the large proportion of what students do at school is usually the sequence of learn it by heart and retell it, learn it by heart and retell it. No analysis of the given material, no critical reflection, and of course, no questions about whether that knowledge is useful, and if yes, for what. Take a typical English class as an example. All students do are about memorization: memorizing grammatical rules, new words, dialogues. As a consequence, when faced with a real English speaker, they become unable to go further from uttering several simple greetings finding the foreign speech completely incomprehensible.

In conclusion, I think Kazakhstani teaching approaches need a complete overhaul that fosters thinking and currently the country is on the right track of improving it. Do you agree with me, or can you think of other factors that may also influence the TIMSS and PISA results?

P.S in case you get interested in how PISA tasks actually look like, I found some samples here

Photo credits to



I didn’t expect you to get high scores from the UNT, as I don’t think I could do it myself

In one of his stand-up shows famous Kazakh comedian Tursunbek Kabatov called the Unified National Test (UNT) “the great one day turbulence” by depicting the students who are going to take the test as the soldiers ready to enter a war zone.  But he didn’t mention that before taking the actual test these ‘soldiers’ undergo several steps of selections, leaving only those who are most likely to survive to participate.

The selections begin at the end of the ninth grade when students are required to choose whether to continue their studies at school or to enter vocational schools, which are usually considered to be ‘inferior’ to academic learning. The students who are most likely to fail the UNT are subtly or sometimes forcibly, in a form of long notations, advised and encouraged to continue their further studies in colleges by the school administration and teachers.  The reason behind that is the results of the UNT play significant role in measuring the performance of teachers and schools in general, and those who fail the test may lower the ratings of schools.  As a consequence, terrified of the potential failure, many secondary school students free themselves from the burden of taking the scary test by leaving their schools voluntarily to gain vocational education.

The next step of selection occurs at the beginning of the final year of high school. As being awakened from a long deep sleep, parents and schools themselves start to desperately look for preparatory courses and private tutors to make their children catch up with the knowledge that they should have acquired during the 11 years of schooling. Some students, in turn, look for relatives in the villages to enhance their chance of getting a grant by transferring to rural schools and entering the list of socially vulnerable. Others sharpen their techniques of cheating in a hope that examiners will turn a blind eye on their cheating, which actually happen from time to time. Of course, I cannot say that this story is true for all Kazakhstani schools, but based on my observation I think it is applicable to most of the ordinary state schools.

But would all of these have happened if the quality of the education provided was high enough? I cannot forget the honest confession of my math teacher which said ‘I didn’t expect you to get high scores from the UNT, as I don’t think I could do it myself’.   This explains why students are so terrified of the UNT, why they look for all sorts of additional teaching sources, tutors and courses and suddenly move to villages on their final year of study to improve their chance of getting grants.  Having said that, I completely agree with the statement which claims “… ensuring that teachers are capable of improving student learning – and that school leaders are able to help them do so – is perhaps the most significant step [policy makers] can take to raise student achievement.”  (Darling-Hammond&Rothman et al, 2011, p.1).


Darling-Hammond, L., & Rothman, R. (2011). Lessons learned from Finland, Ontario, and Singapore. Teacher and Leader Effectiveness in High-Performing Education Systems, 1–12.

[Online image]. Retrieved January 14, 2017 from