Wednesday, April 12, 2017

More Latin alphabet promises for Kazakh

That's a pretty bare-bones timeline. Essentially:

1. By the end of this year decide on a standard alphabet (not sure why they can't just go back to the Uniform Turkic Alphabet that they used between 1927 and 1940. Is there some problem with that alphabet as applied to Kazakh? If so, what is that problem?)

2. Start producing teaching materials in the new alphabet.

3. No later than 2025, profit! Kazakh should be written in Latin.

When I visited Uzbekistan in 2003, they were in year 8 of a 10 year transition period to move from the Soviet-imposed Cyrillic alphabet for Uzbek to a Latin alphabet. Aside from a few scattered holdovers, all the Uzbek street signs were in Latin script, but few people other than young people could read them. People would still write and print their own things in Cyrillic (I was handed a wedding invitation that I assumed was in Russian because of the script, but I later learned was in Uzbek written in Cyrillic. "Too many guests wouldn't be able to read it if it was in Latin" the local who told who identified the script explained). Even with all the Uzbek signs in Latin, older people, even older people who used Uzbek as their primary language, just relied upon the Russian-language signs--they could all read Russian because they had grown up as Soviet citizens. Now, 14 years later, things are probably better. But it was evident during my visit that 8 years was not long enough to make everyone understand a new script.

Maybe KZ will be better pulling it off than UZ was, but color me suspicious that in just 8 years Kazakhs will all be able to read their own language in Latin when they don't even know what the alphabet will be yet.

(Previous post about latinizing Kazakh (featuring a dead link!))

ADDING: Another article, but it really doesn't add many more details about the plan, because it doesn't look like there are any. But I do like the bit about how the timetable announcement was published in Kazakh but not Russian. Virtually all governmental announcements in KZ are done in Kazakh and Russian and the state run news source that originally published the story normally publishes in both languages.

Actually, the fascinating thing is Egemen Qazaqstan publishes its Kazakh edition in three different scripts--standard Cyrillic Kazakh, Latin Kazakh, and Arabic/Persian-script Kazakh. I didn't realize that publications in KZ were doing that. Arabic/Persian script is what the Kazakh minority in China use to write the language. I did not know that anyone currently wrote Kazakh in Latin.