All posts by nazguln

Kazakhstan plans switch to Latin alphabet

Kazakhstan is preparing to officially start using Latin alphabet, instead of Cyrillic, which linguists say is becoming more obscure. The President N. Nazarbayev in his address to the people of Kazakhstan “Strategy Kazakhstan-2050” said that switching alphabets would provide an impulse for the modernization of the Kazakh language. The President set the deadline where transition will take over a 12-to-15-year period.

Ministry of Education and Science examine the experiences of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have all changed to Latin letters since 1991 after the Soviet collapse. The ministry’s proposed action plan is based primarily on the model used in Uzbekistan. It calls for a six-step program, outlining cost estimates for retraining the country’s workforce to read Latin script, and changing signs on streets and public buildings. The overall cost of switching is estimated at $300 million. However, some experts believe the final cost could be much higher (Bartlett, 2007).

This plan stirred many disputes and arguments. Similar to languages spoken in other Central Asian countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Kazakh is a Turkic language. For centuries, the language was written in Arabic script and, for a brief time, Latin. After Kazakhstan became an official part of the Soviet Union, the language was written in Cyrillic, which makes up the Russian alphabet. Along with the usual arguments for alphabet change, in particular promoting the country’s integration into the global economy, officials have argued that a Latin alphabet could help Kazakhstan develop a more cohesive national identity. Switching the Kazakh alphabet to Latin means for Kazakhs changing the Soviet identity (which still largely dominates the national consciousness) to Kazakh identity. Cyrillic alphabet facilitated and facilitates the orientation of the Kazakh national consciousness towards the Russian language and Russian culture. As a result, Kazakh identity as such remains largely undefined. On this level, moving to Latin will make it possible to form a clearer national identity for Kazakhs (Lillis, 2013).

The move has inspired much discussion, with supporters excited about attaining a new level of national development and about the prospect of convergence with international information websites and with new technologies. Opponents, though, fret about preserving the uniqueness of the language and Kazakhstan’s cultural legacy.

About 70% of countries use the Latin alphabet, making it an essential part of communicating with the world, especially in terms of global science and education. The switch to Latin is unlikely to be a problem for the younger generation. Many school children already study foreign languages, such as English and German, and are thus familiar with Latin letters. However, older members of society may need to be targeted in order to ensure that they do not get left behind in the changeover.


Bartlett, P. (2007). Kazakhstan: moving forward with plan to replace Cyrillic with Latin alphabet. Retrieved from:

Lillis, J. (2013). Kazakhstan: the ABCs of the alphabet debate. Retrieved from:

Strategy “Kazakhstan-2050”. Retrieved from:

Will Chinese become the world’s most important language?

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What you might already know:

  • “China is one of the world’s oldest and richest continuous cultures, over 5000 years old
  • China is the most populous nation in the world, with 1.28 billion people
  • One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese. Mandarin Chinese is the mother tongue of over 873 million people, making it the most widely spoken first language in the world
  • In addition to the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken in the important and influential Chinese communities of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia
  • China is the second largest economy in the world
  • China is one of largest trading partners of the United States
  • Many US companies do business in China and have long-term investments there” (

The study of the Chinese language is increasing in the United States and around the world. In 2009, about 60,000 American college students were studying Chinese. That is three times as many as in 1990. A small but growing number of American parents are even sending their children to bilingual Chinese immersion schools. However, Chinese is a more difficult language to learn. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute estimates it would take a native English speaker 2,200 hours to reach professional fluency in Chinese. That is four times longer than it would take to reach the same level in Dutch, French, or Spanish. While Chinese grammar is much simpler, Chinese has a tone and writing system that is more difficult for adult learners to master (Brock, 2014;

There are also some interesting facts that Chinese has a relatively uncomplicated grammar. Unlike French, German or English, Chinese has no verb conjugation and no noun declension. For example, in English there are different verb forms like “see/saw/seen,” all you need to do in Chinese is just to remember one word: kan. Another example for singular and plural forms: “cat” and “cats,” in Chinese there is only one form: mao. (Chinese conveys these distinctions of tense and number in other ways, of course.) The basic word order of Chinese is subject – verb – object, exactly as in English. A large number of the key terms of Mandarin Chinese (such as the terms for state, health, science, party, inflation, and even literature) have been formed as translations of English concepts (

Nowadays China is playing a more and more important role in global political and economic systems. It has become a huge market, and business leaders are looking for people who can speak more than one language, giving their preference to those who speak Chinese and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context. In many countries Chinese has become a popular language, for instance in Japan, Chinese is now the most taught foreign language after English; in Britain the first English-Chinese bilingual primary school was opened last year. If in recent decades most children were taught French, Spanish and German, in another 10 or 20 years it could well be Chinese that tops the language list.


Brock, A. (2014). Will Chinese replace English as the international language? Retrieved from:

Why study Chinese. Retrieved from:

Write or wrong: the death of handwriting?


The benefits of modern technologies such as computers, electronic organizers and other gadgets are evident in everyday life. However, it has been speculated that the increasing use of personal computers and therefore the common use of keyboards to produce written texts may lead to the general loss of handwriting skills. Moreover, some researchers as Sulzenbruck, Hegele, Rinkenauer and Heuer (2011) believe that using keyboards instead of pens could affect the human behavioral repertoire in a more general way, so that a broad class of basic motor skills rather than just handwriting could suffer.

More and more of our current writing is writing with a digital device, whether it is a laptop or a mobile phone. Computers and keyboards are replacing pen and paper at an ever-increasing rate, and children are increasingly being introduced to writing with computers, and even at the expense of, writing by hand. With new technologies, we are changing the role of the hands, as the haptic affordances of digital technologies are distinctly different than earlier technologies such as pen, paper and a print book. We click and scroll with computer mice and tap keys on a keyboard, instead of putting pen to paper. This switch from pen and paper to keyboard and screen entails major differences in the haptics of writing. Writing by hand, we use only one hand, whereas typewriting typically involves both hands; handwriting is commonly experienced as a slower and more laborious process than writing with a keyboard (Mangen & Velay, 2010).

Nowadays, in a world in which everything from personal correspondence to job applications are computerized, the need for such a skill isn’t as pressing. Many schools have abandoned cursive in favor of teaching basic computer literacy skills, a move which, in the eyes of many, better prepares kids for life in the technologically competitive 21st century. Teaching cursive as a discrete skill takes time away from teaching children how to communicate meaningfully. Today’s thinking is that short periods of practice are better. Some experts also think handwriting should not be taught by itself. Instead, they say it should be used as a way to get students to express ideas. But Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of writing, vocabulary, spelling and handwriting programs, stands behind the method so firmly that they sponsor an annual handwriting contest. He claims that learners who become independent and fluent in writing manuscript and cursive letters enter a world of endless opportunities (Gordon, 2009).

There is no doubt that teaching good, legible handwriting skills, whether through print or cursive, improves children’s ability to construct and convey thought. Nevertheless, the major ongoing changes in how we write, and more importantly how children, in the age of digital technology, learn to write and might learn to write in the near future is a question that needs a scientific scrutiny.


Gordon, M. (2009). From cursive to cursor: the death of handwriting. Retrieved from:

Mangen, A. & Velay, J. (2010). Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the haptics of writing. Advances in haptics. p. 385-402. doi: 10.5772/8710.

Sulzenbruck, S., Hegele, M., Rinkenauer, G. & Heuer, H. (2011). The death of handwriting: Secondary effects of frequent computer use on basic motor skills. Journal of Motor Behavior, 43 (3), p. 247-251.

Issues relating to minority languages

The question of the importance of preserving minority languages has already been discussed in the post “What we gain by supporting minority languages?” However, it is also impossible to avoid such an important factor that as a relatively newly independent State, Kazakhstan faces the challenge of promoting multilingualism and reasserting its State language and Kazakh culture while fostering an inclusive sense of national identity, which encompasses all national and ethnic groups. Many groups have strong historical, ethnic, cultural and religious identities that they wish to maintain and express, while also seeking to build their futures as equal citizens of Kazakhstan.

In accordance with the Constitution, the Law on Education and the Law on Languages of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the state takes care of creating favorable conditions for the study and development of all the languages of multiethnic people of Kazakhstan. Each ethnic group living in Kazakhstan,  has the right to form  its own ethnic and cultural associations, schools, which contribute to the revival and development of the national languages, cultures, traditions and customs. The Government highlights general secondary education in pupils’ native languages or teaching native languages as subjects. However, it also acknowledges difficulties in the organization of multicultural education arising from the multiple ethnic cultures. A total of 65 schools have Uzbek as the language of instruction and 75 schools have mixed languages of instruction allowing 79,426 to be enrolled in Uzbek-language education. There are 14 Uighur and 50 mixed language schools in the Almaty region, enabling 14,955 students to be enrolled in Uighur language education. Two Tajik schools and 10 mixed language schools teach 3,503 students in Tajik in the South Kazakhstan region. Fifteen native languages are studied as separate subjects in 126 general education schools; 76 general education schools provide optional language subjects in languages including German, Korean, Tartar, Polish and Ukrainian (Dave, 2004).

Another concern is inequality of access to university for minority students. University education is provided in Kazakh and Russian only, and the national testing system for high school students — the university entrance examination — is not available in minority languages. It means the Unified National Testing (UNT) and the Complex Testing of higher-education Applicants (CTA) in schools with Kazakh and Russian languages of instruction is carried out only in Kazakh and Russian languages. Consequently, minority students must first pass a graduation exam and then sit additional university entrance exams in Russian or Kazakh, which some struggle to pass owing to their poor language proficiency. So that unlike their peers in the schools with Kazakh and Russian languages of instruction, graduates of ethnic schools are required to take an examination twice: when they leave school and when they enter the university. Accordingly, the students of ethnic schools have high psychological stress and often feel discriminated against. In addition, they are not as well prepared to take the exams in Russian or Kazakh, are they?

It might cause irreparable damage to the image and social status of ethnic schools, producing disbelief in the prospects of the national schools. As a result, parents are forced to send their children to schools with another language learning. Correspondingly, the number of students studying in their native languages is reduced. In recent years, a number of schools were closed, and some of them are on the verge of closing, hence, reducing the number of schools of minor languages.

For the above mentioned reasons, welcoming provision and support of minority languages and schools, the government should take action to ensure that all textbooks include appropriate consideration of the cultures, traditions and history of minorities and their contributions to Kazakh society, as well as the equality of access to university education for students from ethnic groups.


The Law on Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, dated July 27, 2007 No. 319-III 3 RK

The Law on Languages of the Republic of Kazakhstan, dated July 11, 1997 № 151-I.

Dave, B. (2004). Minorities and participation in public life: Kazakhstan. Paper presented at Central Asia Seminar: WP5 “Minority Rights: Cultural Diversity and Development in Central Asia”. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Retrieved from:

Talent development

All children have special talents that need to be noticed and nurtured, so they will do well in school and in their later lives. Children’s talents should be developed as early as possible so they can achieve their full potential. Finding and nurturing special talents in children and youth, and seeing those students and their talents blossom, are among the great joys of teaching. In the early years, children’s talents may be quite undifferentiated. They may be limited to what Gardner (1983) calls the seven “intelligences” (logical-mathematical, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal). As children experience varying environments at school, at home, and in the community, they demonstrate more specific strengths or aptitudes. Feldman (1993) describes the middle and later stages of talent development as follows:

  • 4–10 years: Growth in cognitive control through exploration and observation
  • 10–13 years: Talent development through mentors, models, contests, apprenticeships
  • 13–18 years: Commitment to talent development, idealism, blending self with talent
  • 18–22 years: Crystallization of talent with a career choice.

Sir Ken Robinson (TED talks), an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation, brings much needed inspiration to the subject. He talks about how to identify children’s unique talents and passions, what to do if you’re passionate isn’t something you’re good at, and why not everyone can make a living doing what they love and more. He says that people make very poor use of their talents – people endure life rather than enjoy it. According to Sir Ken Robinson, education is one of the major reasons why most people don’t do what they love. Because education “dislocates many people from their natural talents”. These talents, says Robinson, “you have to looking for them; they’re not just lying around. One’s talent, or talents, need to be searched for and discovered, a job that education ought to fill. Unfortunately, too often, it doesn’t”.

Robinson quotes a poem of W.B.Yeats: “Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with gold and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”, and concluding that “every day, everywhere, our children spread their dreams beneath our feet. And we should tread softly”.

A major premise of talent-oriented education is that all students deserve instruction and learning opportunities at a level and pace that are appropriate for their current development and talents. Teachers at all grade levels and in all areas should do a better job of identifying and developing the talents of students with average and low potential, as well as those with very high potential. They can do this within any instructional arrangement – heterogeneous inclusion classes, pullout classes, or special classes for honors or advanced placement students (Feldhusen, 1996).

In a nutshell, education has to address us all as individuals. Schooling needs to be thoroughly reorganised so that each individual can find out where his or her talents lie and can make the most of them. It is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion.


Feldhusen, F. J. (1996). How to identify and develop special talents. Students with Special Needs, 53(5), p. 66-69.

Feldman, D.H. (1993). Intelligences, symbol systems, skills, domains and fields: A sketch of a developmental/contextual theory of intelligence. Proceedings: Edyth Bush Symposium, “Intelligence: Theory into practice”, p. 83-95. Tampa: University of South Florida.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Robinson, K. (2010, May 24). Bring on the learning revolution [Recorded at Ted2010]. Retrieved from: