What are the benefits of multilingualism and how has the language policy in Kazakhstan affected over the past two decades?

Нурсара Белисбаева

Kazakhstan, as a multinational state, has a complex language policy that changes under the influence of time and also has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Language is functionally distinctive feature of human as a biological species of homo-sapiens and an integral part of the environment in which human exists. (Zvegintsev,  1996). The language politics of Kazakhstan has a long historical way. The advancement and consequent alteration of a Kazakh language has produced about steady discussion for over one hundred a long time. Then, in 2006, the project of introducing trilingualism in various spheres of life was discussed for the first time in the country. The State arrangement of the three languages within the Republic of Kazakhstan recommends speaking three dialects : Kazakh as a state language, Russian as an instrument of international communication and English as a language of economic integration into worldwide financial environment and globalization. So, the national language (Kazakh) serves as the main factor uniting the multinational Republic of Kazakhstan. The state linguistic policy of Kazakhstan in relation to the functioning and development of languages in the country is aimed at the progress of scientific areas and education.


The concept of trilingualism in Kazakhstan, in addition to the state language includes Russian and English, as they have played a role in shaping the country’s language policy over the past decades.  Numerous studies have shown that approximately 93.8 percent of the country’s population has at least the most minimal literacy of the Russian language.  Of these, 77.8 percent of people express their thoughts freely and have no problems in reading, speaking, listening and writing skills, while 9.2 percent have problems only with literate writing and 6.8 can only speak at a low level. If mention the media in Kazakhstan, the Russian language also dominate here, since most of the articles on the Internet and sources are usually written in the most used language. Russian language in the Republic of Kazakhstan is polyfunctional .  It is the dominant means of relations in all spheres of public life (Mazhitaeva Sh., et al. Akhmetova A., Zhunusova A., Azhigenova S., 2016). It has a range of functions, such as the function of political, different ethnic integration; regulatory function; the function of capacity and recovery of logical and specialized data. English language is the third language in trilingualism program of Kazakhstani education and as mentioned before, it is a necessary part of modern conditions.  Knowledge of English is decided as a fundamental condition for increasing practical and proficient abilities of specialists on universal markets. According to the international recruitment agency «Kelly Services», the salary of English-speaking specialists is 20-25% higher than that of specialists without knowledge of the language. According to the results of a survey conducted by Global English , almost 90% of respondents around the world believe that he speaks English fluently, it is easier to break through the career ladder. In Kazakhstan, about 70% of students of higher educational institutions study English and English language teaching has been introduced from the 1st grade of almost in all secondary schools and lyceums.


Multilingualism gives a speaker of several languages a greater variety of interactive resources but can negatively affect the national language of the country.    Nowadays the status of a foreign language in Kazakhstan has essentially changed. Learning different languages give sufficient opportunities  to the new generation. Today, a completely new methodology of learning foreign languages is being formed, the purpose of which is to form communicative competence — to teach how to communicate, talk, understand and respect another culture. (Tokkulova A., 2019). The advantages of learning languages include establishing connections. The new language allows people to make friends, share ideas with other that they might never know if they had only their native language in stock. Secondly, learning new languages allows them to achieve a high career level and earnings. Learning languages improves the cognitive functions of human’s brain. There is strong evidence that learning a language actually increases the amount of gray matter in the brain, improving ability to remember, find the reasons and solve problems. Learning a language also helps to preserve the white matter of the brain, which means that person will be able to process information faster. Although there are exists benefits, multilingualism can be considered not only as a resource but also as a problem. One of the most imperative issues regarding the dialect structure in Kazakhstan is how to force Kazakhs to use their own language, based on the fact that the dialogue between ethnic Kazakhs and the Kazakh language  will not be disrupted. The more hidden problem of multilingualism is that it works against nationalism. It is more difficult for multilingual States than monolingual ones to develop a sense of common group identity.   To form such a feeling, a multilingual State should either try to develop a common national language, or try to develop a group identity on a basis which do not relate with the language. The first way immediately leads to the problem of choosing a national language.There are question arises whether those who are not native speakers will accept it. Moreover, this leads to the problem of language development, since it must necessarily fit modern standards and privileges of the state.


Trilingualism is the optimal means for expanding horizons, for the formation of a multicultural personality. People of the new formation are considered the future of multinational Kazakhstan. However, the problem of  loss of the meaning of the Kazakh language must be solved. Ferguson (writer, actress, and story coach) identified 3 forms of language development which can solve problem of Kazakh language: 1)  visual, namely the systematization of writing and the establishment of spelling conventions, such as punctuation marks; 2) standardization, that is, the language must be socially standardized to the  norms of the 21st century; 3) modernization — the process that carries the formation of a language equal to other developed languages of the world. There are exists opinions, that if the policy of Kazakhstan adheres to above-stated principles, qualification of the Kazakh language will rise to a higher level.  Additionally, the Government is already dealing with this issue.  According to the intentions of the Ministry of education, since 2018-2019 the subject called «History of Kazakhstan» is studied in Kazakh, and «World History» is studied in Russian, regardless of the language being studied. With 2019-2020 academic year, the relevant items or exact science : «computer science», «Chemistry», «Biology» and «Physics» at the high school are taught in English.

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