What languages are spoken in Kazakhstan – Kazakh, Russian? A lot of Kazakh people, living in the Republic of Kazakhstan, are losing their own language because they use Russian in their everyday speech.

Why does Kazakhstan speak Russian?

Russians in Kazakhstan make up to 25% of the total population, making Kazakhstan home to probably the largest ethnic Russian population outside of Russia.

Russians in Kazakhstan

Percentage of Russians does not equal the number of Russian-speakers in Kazakhstan. Russian serves as a lingua franca throughout Central Asia. And since Kazakhstan is home to a quite large number of ethnic groups, Russian serves as the main language of inter-ethnic communication.

Language problem in Kazakhstan emerged during decades of Soviet cultural and political domination. At that time almost all people in the Republic were required to speak Russian. Whether they are Russians or not. Actually, it was not forbidden to speak Kazakh. However, if people did not know Russian well, they could not succeed and get highly-paid jobs. They might thought to be uneducated and belonged to a lower social class. Since that time, most families were sending their children to Russian schools and tried to speak primarily Russian at home. As a result, lots of grown up adults might not speak Kazakh while some don’t even know the language at all.

In the some parts of Kazakhstan, like in Aktau, Atyrau, Aktobe, Kyzylorda cities, native people speak more in the Kazakh language. The language itself belongs to the Kipchak branch of the Turkic languages.

Currently, the tendency is changing. Kazakhstan adopts new version of Latin-based Kazakh alphabet.

Kazakhstan adopts a new version of Latin-based Kazakh alphabet

Kazakh alphabet

The government previously published an action plan detailing the phased transfer to the Latin alphabet. According to the document, the three successive phases will cover:

  1. regulatory-legal framework (2018-2020);
  2. issuance of official records including passports and IDs and trainings for teachers and the adult population (2021-2023);
  3. actual day-to-day use of Latin script in public and state offices, as well as publishing the state media in new alphabet (2024-2025).

“The amendments make the Kazakh language more practical and functional,” Nur Otan Party First Deputy Chairman Maulen Ashimbayev said. “It is a strategic decision aimed to work for the nation’s future.”

Usefull phrases in Russian and Kazakh

All Central Asian countries do know Russian language but may lack in English by now. So if you ever step foot in here, here are some useful phrases we thought might be quite handy. 

Hi, HelloPrivet / ZdravstvuiteSalem/Salemetsiz be
How are you?Kak dela?Qalyn qalai?
Thank you!Spasibo!Rakhmet!
Excuse meIzvinite Keshiriniz
Bye / GoodbyePoka / Do svidaniyaSau bol/Sau bolynyz
What is your name? Kak vas zovut?Sizdin atynyz kim?
My name is ...Menya zovut ...Menin atym …
Where is …?Gde nahoditsya ...? … qaida?
How do I get to…?Kak dobratsya do…?…qalai barsam bolady?
How much is it?Skolko eto stoit?Bul qansha turady?
Can you help me, please?Pomogite, pozhaluistaotinemin, magan komektesinizshy!
I am from ...Ya iz ...Men ... keldim
Bon appetitPriyatnogo appetitaAs bolsyn
How do you say ... in Kazakh?Kak eto na kazahskom?(... qazaqşa qalay aytıladı?
I love youYa tebya lubluMen seni süyemin!

The pronunciation of common Kazakh phrases