[lg policy] Kyrgyzstan pushes for nationwide fluency in Kyrgyz

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 5 15:08:38 UTC 2014

 A new nationwide campaign of Kyrgyz-language studies has started, designed
to foster integration and promote diversity.

By Bakyt Ibraimov

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BISHKEK – Kyrgyzstan is pushing to have its entire population learn Kyrgyz.

   -  [image: Civil society activists in Osh in July discuss prospects for
   spreading the use of Kyrgyz nationwide. One topic of discussion was the
   establishment of Kyrgyz-language websites. [Bakyt Ibraimov]]

   Civil society activists in Osh in July discuss prospects for spreading
   the use of Kyrgyz nationwide. One topic of discussion was the establishment
   of Kyrgyz-language websites. [Bakyt Ibraimov]

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 The government will carry out a two-year programme in partnership with
UNICEF as part of a comprehensive effort to spread Kyrgyz fluency
nationwide. The partnership starts this month, with various national
programmes scheduled to end in 2017.

"Out of 500m KGS [about US $10m] allocated for the [comprehensive]
programme, nearly half [240m KGS (US $4.5m)] is to be spent on book
publishing; the rest will go to finance the establishment of [language]
study centres and websites," Almazbek Kulmatov, deputy chairman of the
National Commission on State Language Development, said August 19.

In Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz is the "state language" while Russian is the
"official language." Knowledge of Russian has dwindled in the countryside
and among younger Kyrgyz but remains strong in the cities.

"City dwellers in Kyrgyzstan generally have a poor knowledge of Kyrgyz,"
Ziynagul Mederbekova, a teacher of Kyrgyz at Public School No. 78 in
Bishkek, said. "That's because the kindergartens are Russian-speaking and
parents don't speak Kyrgyz to their children because they have a poor
command of the language themselves."

Less than two-thirds of residents are fluent in Kyrgyz
according to the government.

Authorities have expressed concern about that situation's implications for
national unity.

"Today, we must create the conditions for studying Kyrgyz and for using it
full scale in all areas of public life," Kulmatov said. "Kyrgyz should play
an integrating role among the people ... and in national ideology and
inter-ethnic relations."
A national effort needed

The government should promote the language policy at a national level,
teachers and civic leaders say, calling for assistance to those who have
poor or no knowledge of Kyrgyz at all.

"The new campaign not only will help develop [knowledge of Kyrgyz] – it
will improve the overall level of education and contribute to greater
inter-ethnic harmony," Mederbekova said. "For the more than 80 ethnicities
living in Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyz might become a unifying factor."

Bishkek resident Igor Savelyev, 37, an ethnic Russian, said he would take
advantage of the programme to learn Kyrgyz.

"It's normal to speak the language of the country you live in," he told
Central Asia Online. "I couldn't learn Kyrgyz before because there were no
free courses available. I need to speak Kyrgyz not only because employers
require me to, but also because I have to be able to communicate with my
clients coming from remote villages."

Currently, work is underway to develop training programmes for each target
audience, whether they be youth or adults, Kulmatov said, and money will be
allocated for books and other teaching aids.

"Also, schoolteachers will be trained to teach language classes [free for
the students] in schools and universities in Jalal-Abad, Osh, Karakol and
other cities and district capitals throughout Kyrgyzstan," he said.
Older generation needs more help

Such policies need to become permanent if Kyrgyz-fluency promotion is ever
to succeed, specialists say.

"We are leading a large-scale effort in cities across Osh Oblast to teach
Kyrgyz to oblast and local government officials so that they run their
offices in Kyrgyz," Almagul Tilekmanova, an employee of the National
Foundation for State Language Development, told Central Asia Online. "Also,
we provide language courses for prosecutors and court and law enforcement

"In addition to seminars, we organise cultural and scholarly events
dedicated to the Kyrgyz language," she added. "Now the country's
universities are welcome to join in to make Kyrgyz the language of
education and scholarship."


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