All posts by makpaloralovna

To translate or not to translate?



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A recent assignment on Academic Kazakh brought up another controversial issue related to Kazakh language – translating international words and terminology into Kazakh. The task involved checking and correcting the translations done by previous year students. Reporting and reflecting on the completed work triggered a heated debate in class on some issues connected with translating terminology.

Firstly, some, including me, were in doubt whether we have the right to make up new words in Kazakh, if we ourselves are just learning Academic Kazakh. Others felt that we, as researchers in the field, are responsible for translating, as “If not us, who?” For example, the word “translanguaging” is used a lot in multilingual education and is researched by several of my group mates. However, it does not have a translation in Kazakh. Well, it did not have until one of my group mates translated it as “транстілдесу” [transtildesu], which, in my opinion, sounds nice and is an example of a successful translation.

Another controversial issue was translation of words which are internationally common. Some students held an opinion that words like “context” do not need to be translated because it confuses people. The word is translated into Kazakh as “мәнмәтін”, whereas in Spanish it is “context”, in Italian “contest”, “context” in French, “контекст” in Russian, “kontekst” in Uzbek and “kontekstində” in Azaerbaijan. Others thought that people will get used to new words as they did in case of words like “сынып” [synyp] (class) and “пайыз” [payiz] (per cent) which were met skeptically when introduced in the 1990s.

Finally, some students mentioned that translations of some words were more like definitions rather than equivalents. For instance, “magnet school” was translated as “жеке пәндерді тереңдетіп оқытатын арнайы мектеп” (literally: the school which offers specialist tuition in a particular subject). The argument for such translation was that we need to think of the ordinary people who are not experts in the field as for them leaving “bullying” as “буллинг” does not make sense, whereas its definition does. However, others argued that people can look up the definition of the term when needed in a thesaurus or defining dictionary as we do with medical or other terminology.

What do you think?

Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity? (Deconstruction)

Ken Robinson, a creativity expert (TED, 2006), has several TED talks on the topic of education, but the video “Do schools kill creativity?” is the only one which got more than 50 mln views. I came across this piece of talk during a group project on Academic Kazakh. Frankly, the video did not impress me much, but I got curious to know what makes it so popular and decided to deconstruct it.

Throughout the video I had a feeling as if I was watching a stand-up comedy show. The audience laughed 37 times during the talk. 37 times during a 20-minute talk! And yes, I did count that. The speaker managed to engage the audience despite not using any slides or other visuals, mainly by the use of jokes, personal stories and quotations. It was, undoubtedly, a great way of engaging and entertaining the audience. However, in my case, it was annoying to hear the speaker chuckle all the time and it distracted from the flow of thought.

Another peculiarity of the talk is that it is hard to follow the main idea because of a lot of rambling. The main argument of the speaker could fit 5 minutes, but the presenter keeps on getting side-tracked telling the stories which do not exactly connect to his argument. The speaker introduces the topic only at the third minute after a long prelude about interest in education, unpredictability and children’s capacity for innovation mixed with jokes. His main claim is “creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status”. At this point he presents his claim without giving any credible evidence that would support it, and, to tell the truth, neither does he further in his speech. Instead, he touches on a number of things connected with creativity and education; tells a lot of stories; and uses a lot of quotes, many of which barely relate to his ideas.

Then he goes on with two stories to present an idea that children are usually not afraid to make mistakes, but lose this ability as they grow older. His claim here is “we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities”. These two stories are followed by a quote by Picasso “Every child is an artist…” to conclude that “…we grow out of creativity. Or rather, we get educated out of it”. These are, certainly, impressive and emotionally effective examples, and the audience “buys them”. However, his claims about the schools are not supported by any evidence or research, and thus, are just assumptions.

Similarly, the presenter’s stories about moving to Los Angeles, Shakespeare’s birthplace, jokes about Shakespeare being a child and his son’s first love are all told for the sake of making the audience laugh and take good 2 minutes of our precious life. Moreover, they do not help to make a transition to or support his next point, which is “Every education system on Earth has the same hierarchy of subjects, where mathematics and humanities are at the top, and at the bottom are the arts”. I would rather not list all the ideas he introduces and stories he tells during the talk, as they all fall under my main critique: irrelevance and no evidence.

As transition to his conclusion Ken Robinson uses a quote by Jonas Salk which, in my opinion, is absolutely irrelevant to the topic: “If all the insects were to disappear from the Earth, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” The conclusion he makes is “And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future”. Well, do you see any connection? I do not.

Final thoughts.

Did I enjoy the presentation? No. However, I do give the presenter a credit for managing to keep the audience engaged for 20 minutes.

Do I agree with the presenter? Well, with some of his ideas, yes. There are too many.

How might the speaker improve his argument? Stick to the point and use evidence.


Robinson, K. (2006). Do schools kill creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from

Embedding Russian into Kazakh songs

Language mixing in colloquial Kazakh is not something unusual or rare in Kazakhstan. People use Russian words like “уже” [already], “еще” [still; yet], “давно” [long ago], “по-любому” [in any case], “вообще” [overall], “пойдет” [it’s ok] very often in their everyday speech in spite of knowing their equivalents in Kazakh. More often these words sound more natural in speech than Kazakh equivalents of them. However, mixing languages in songs occur more rarely, and interestingly, when Russian is used in songs it sounds artificial or gives the song humorous tone. I attempt to analyze mixing Russian and Kazakh in two popular songs by the group Dos Mukasan by looking at similar patterns and contexts.

In both songs insertional language mixing takes place: Russian language (embedded language) is inserted (in the form of single words or of larger constituents) into the grammatical frame defined by Kazakh language (matrix language) (Auer & Muhamedova, 2005). A song called “16 қыз” [16 girls] is a joky song written by an unknown author in the early decades of the twentieth century. It was popularized by a group called Dos Mukasan in the 1970-80s. The language variation we can notice in the song is embedding Russian words and phrases into the Kazakh text. Each line of the two verses contains a word or phrase in Russian. In the first verse the words “генадушка”, “немножка” and “молодушка” end the first, second and third lines, which might have been done for easy rhyme:

Астыма мінген атым генадушка,

Шабамын көңіл ашып немношка.

Не стоит на свете жить етуге,

Азырақ ойнап-күлмей, молодушка.

In the original version the performers pronounce these words with a strong Kazakh accent, probably to emphasize the playful nature of the song. Here, the grammar of the matrix language (Auer & Muhamedova, 2005), Kazakh, is kept and Russian words are embedded without any change. But the most interesting case of inserting is seen in line three: the whole line is in Russian, but Kazakh ending is added to the word “жить” [live]. “жить” is a full verb in Russian that does not need an ending, whereas in Kazakh most verbs are used as a combination of two or three verbs. So instead of Kazakh “өмір сүруге” [to live], or Russian “жить” [to live], they say “жить етуге”. The phrase “жить етуге” is four syllables, which better fits the line, while “өмір сүруге” has five. So that might also be a reason for inserting a Russian word in that line.

In the second verse the pattern is different, as Russian words and phrases appear at the beginning or in the middle of the lines, not at the end. However, there is another use of Kazakh ending in a Russian word “сорт+тар” [sorts] in the third line. In this case a Kazakh plural ending is added to a Russian noun:

Қарағым, айналайын, черный көзім,

Никогда не забуду айтқан сөзің.

Второй сорт, третий сорттар толып жатыр,

Первый сорт қайдан тудың сенін өзің?

The chorus is mainly in Kazakh, except for some Russian female names and the last line which says “Я люблю тебя, Рая”. Although the embedding in the song is intentional, it clearly shows the social linguistic context of that time, when a lot of Russians were coming to Kazakhstan.

Another song of this group called “Су тасушы қыз” [literally: A lady who carries/delivers water] is about a girl who drives a water carter. As the word “водовоз” does not have a translation in Kazakh it was used in the song. The song was written by the group in the late 1970s and it might have been influenced by the song “16 қыз” [16 girls], as it has some similar use of Russian embedding. For example, the word “большой удар” [a big punch] in the second verse, rhymes with the Kazakh word “кейбір қулар” [some sly fellows]:

Әкелген бал-бұлақтан мөлдір су бар,

Сылтаулап шөлдей берер кейбір қулар.

Жасырда бұл совхоздың қыздары ыстык,

Абайла, алып қалма большой удар.

Overall, the song “Су тасушы қыз” has fewer cases of mixing Russian than “16 қыз”, but the tone and manner of two songs are very similar. Intentional use of Russian-Kazakh mix in a joky manner might be the reason for the popularity of the songs, and in more serious songs mixing languages would not have such an effect.


[Aleksandr Z] (2016, Oct 2). Дос Мукасан – 16 Кыз 1977 [Video File]. Retrieved from

[Дос-Мукасан] (2014, Jul 19). Дос-Мукасан – Су тасушы қыз [Video File].Retrieved from

Peter Auer & Raihan Muhamedova, (2005). ‘Embedded language’ and ‘matrix language’ in insertional language mixing: Some problematic cases. Italian journal of linguistics, 17(1), 35-54. Retrieved from

The future of Russian language in Kazakhstan.

The status of Russian language in Kazakhstan has been a topic of heated debates among the general public as well as in the government since getting independence in 1991. Nevertheless, the topic of discussions seems to have changed recently from the official status to predicting the future of Russian in Kazakhstan.

Some say the prospects of Russian are stable and its role does not seem to wane, while others predict that Russian in Kazakhstan will lose its ground. One of those who conform to the latter opinion, a secondary school teacher Ayatzhan Akhmetzhanuly, caused some outbreak among Russian speakers by his article “I pity those who send their children to Russian medium schools” (2017). The growth in the number of Kazakh medium schools, a decrease in the number of the Russian in the country, and the growing popularity of English are his arguments for  Russian becoming unpopular and unnecessary in Kazakhstan in the future. Although he claims that he only operates with facts to show that Kazakh language is becoming dominant in the society, you can notice aggressiveness and ill feeling towards Russian in his tone:

“To tell the truth, there is no trilingual program at all; although it is called trilingual, we understand that, in fact, it is a bilingual program. The president says that Kazakh will be a dominant language and develop further. And if that happens how will the third language, which is English, develop. Of course, at the expense of Russian”. ( July 12, 2017)

The same idea about Russian being replaced by English under trilingual policy is put forward in in 2017:

“It can be noticed that in Kazakhstan Russian language is being gradually substituted by English in business and education. Even now all top universities in Kazakhstan instruct in English”. ( July 7, 2017)

“… prospects of Russian language in Kazakhstan are obscure. Kazakhstan is a unitary country. Thus, involuntary trilingualism will not work here, as it is superfluous, ineffective and unpractical.” ( July 7, 2017).

However, some politologists are more optimistic about the future of Russian language in Kazakhstan. Eduard Poletayev, for example, claims that although the number of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan is falling, the proportion of communication in Russian is still high. Another politologist Petr Svoik holds an interesting view that even if all the Russian disappeared in Kazakhstan, Russian would still be kept here for at least half a century. Politologist Zamir Karazhanov gives three reasons for Kazakhstani people to need Russian: firstly, Russia is our big neighbor; secondly, Kazakhstan is a multinational country; thirdly, Russia is one of the biggest economies in the world, and is a big market for us.

There is truth in the arguments for both opinions, but I am inclined to think that people in Kazakhstan will not stop using Russian widely at least in the nearest future. What are your opinions?


Amir Zhanuzakov. (2017, 9 September). Shto zhdet russki v Kazkahstane – mneniya ekspertov [What does future hold for Russian in Kazakhstan – experts’ opinions] Retrieved from:

Ayatzhan Ahmetzhanuly. (2017, 12 July). Balasyn orys synyptaryna beretinderge jany ashidy [I pity those who send their children to Russian-medium schools]. Retrieved from

Budushchee Kazakhstana bez russkogo yazyka? [Future of Kazakhstan without Russian language?]. (2017, 7 July). Retrieved from

Does the term emergent bilingual make difference to learning process?

Since I read the article by Ofelia Garcia about the importance of referring to learners of English as a foreign language as emergent bilinguals, I have been thinking if the way we call someone really makes difference or it is the way educators teach and treat the foreign language learners that matters? I can’t help thinking that the term is suggested for the sake of suggesting a new term and its benefits are exaggerated.

In her article “Emergent Bilinguals and TESOL: What’s in a name?” Ofelia Garcia, the professor at the City University of New York, claims that referring to students who speak languages other than English as English language learners or Limited English proficient students doesn’t support equity in teaching process. She argues for the term “emergent bilingual” to be more appropriate and beneficial to refer to students whose first language is not English.

The author believes that calling students emergent bilinguals refers to their potential and emphasizes positive characteristic rather than seeing bilingualism as a problem or limitation. Garcia speculates that the term emergent bilingualism would encourage teaching which is centered on students, rather than profession. She points out that looking at children through a monolingual and monoglossic lens approves educational inequities, while adopting the use of the term emergent bilingual would restore educational equity. It is believed to encourage teachers to use the children’s home language and cultural practices which would help them develop pedagogical practices. Also, focusing on the emergent bilingualism is claimed to help policy-makers to develop bilingual education programs and pedagogy by basing educational decisions for bilingual children on their strengths. Garcia concludes that using the term emergent bilingualism would benefit all the stakeholders, from students to policy makers.

So what’s in a name? Does name really matter? Or do you think “the rose by any name would smell as sweet”?


Garcia, O. (2009). Emergent Bilinguals and TESOL: What’s in a Name? TESOL Quarterly, 43(2), 322-326. Retrieved from