Time to learn Latin alphabet…

02.08.2004 text: Elina Alkova, exclusively for Gazeta.kz

I am a little shocked. What, we’ll have to re-learn whatever we have managed to learn with such pains? Linguists believe that any complaints about the changes in the language are not justified. This problem has a global meaning and giant – proportions for them. Firstly, it is fifteen years that there have been talks about it. Secondly, all civilised countries vote for the Latin script. Even Russia according to scientists, who are in correspondence with the leading intellects of all countries say that they will revise Russian and correct it taking into consideration the Latin script. But why?

Ten years ago Mr. Kaidar, president of international society “Kazak tili” addressed an open letter to the president of Kazakhstan with a proposition to switch to the Latin script. That issue was discussed at an international congress in Antalia in 1994. 50 persons represented Kazakhstan at it. All delegates, representatives of thirty states, univocally decided that a transfer to the Latin script was necessary. The cultural layer of the language had to be maintained and all Turkic peoples had to have an opportunity to recover their common roots. What does it mean?


Herold Belger, a famous linguist, believes that Kazakhstan will become closer to the West. Anyway computer technologies make any Kazakhstani citizen know English, if Kazakh adopts the Latin script, the communication area of the country will become much broader. Other language experts say that it has nothing to do with the friendship with the West, but the main thing is that Turkic peoples will become closer to each other.


The point is that the Latin script was banned in 1940. There are people in the Southern capital, who remember those times. Native residents say that it was terrible. One had to break his tongue being 15-20. However they did break it. But a real language tragedy occurred: when the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced each people speaking a Turkic language created its own alphabet. As a result the same letters or words were read differently. Today only an “h” letter has up to 10 versions of pronunciation. Therefore in the East they say that languages are alike, one can understand another, but it’s difficult without taking specifics into consideration. A transfer to the Latin script would destroy linguistic complexities, imprecisions. Today when the people of the whole planet speak about integration a common language can promote integration a great deal. Besides, a big quantity of ancient works written in Latin script are considered to be dead for the civilisation. So something had to be done with the language? Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have decided to transfer to the Latin script totally. In Uzbekistan it is the tenth year of the language reform, in Azerbaijan it has been completed. 15 years were needed to bring the country to the Latin script. Is it our turn now?


Specialists in onomastics say that during discussions on the subject, in last ten years, a state commission was created twice, which had to deal with the introduction of the Latin script. However the idea was not supported above, the government kept silent about it, did not give any appropriate orders, therefore the commission had to leave its plans unfinished and dissolve itself. It is only because of that that the Cyrillic is still alive in Kazakhstan, while the Latin can’t find its place in Kazakh language. Presently there are around 30 variants of how to translate the Kazakh into Latin script. The issue is discussed in the government and it is still unknown which one will be taken up.


A long transition period awaits the country. Kazakhstani people already have an idea of what it is. There is nothing good to expect from an introduction of an actually new language. Although linguists reassure people who are fluent in Kazakh. They say that an educated Kazakh will need but seven days to master the Latin script. They sure mean a person fluent not in Kazakh, but in English or German. And how do the leading scientists see the transition of the country in general, not on the level of a separate educated person, but in its totality?


Scientists, academicians are sure that the country won’t make stupidities and will not introduce the Latin script in five minutes. Years and years will be needed to make the people get used to new graphics, learn new scripture and pronunciation. Most likely the language will be introduced in schools from the very first years, as they do in Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. Are there people in the country who will teach a “dead language” to the children? It appears that there are. The University of foreign languages, when it was still an institute trained teachers with knowledge of Latin language. Nobody was happy about that because Latin remained alive only in medicine. All diagnoses are made in Latin and prescriptions are written in it as well. And now this language turns out to be useful. Some wise person did not allow the linguistic base to be destroyed, maintaining it on the level of a new educational institution, as a school for Latin speaking persons. But… the country does not have anything apart from this! And how much is still needed?! First of all big money. Professors from the institute of linguistics, whose specialists will have to translate books, documents from the old script to the new one, say that they are ready for the job. However they have difficulties in defining how much it will cost for the country. “It’s not our business,” – translators and linguists say in defence. “Counting money is none of our business.” I’m sorry, but whose business it is? Is it still unclear that a transfer to the Latin script will be carried out at the expense of our taxes, our honestly earned wages. Moreover it will be extended in time and space, it will devour more than one thousand dollars, which would be more than useful in our problematic lives.




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