Kazakh sounds like Russian
Many of our travelers ask us which language they speak in Kazakhstan and how best to communicate locally. We answer the question “What language do they speak in Kazakhstan? and onesmall phrasebook with helpful words and phrases.
The official language is Kazakh
The official language in Kazakhstan is the Turkic language, Kazakh. The Kazakh language was written in Turkish, i.e. in Arabic letters, until the 1940s. With the establishment of the Kazakh Socialist Soviet Republic in 1936, the script was changed to the Cyrillic alphabet. Since the Stalin era, Kazakh has been gradually replaced by the Russian language.
Thus, Kazakh was hardly spoken in Kazakhstan until the end of the Soviet era. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, then President Nursultan Nazarbayev campaigned to revive the Kazakh language. In schools, for example, textbooks were translated into Kazakh, and Russian textbooks were gradually exchanged. By 2025, Kazakh is to be modernized and a Latin script introduced across the board. Kazakh is currently spoken predominantly in the rural regions of Kazakhstan, while in large cities such as Almaty and Nur Sultan (the former Astana), mostly Russian is spoken.
The lingua franca is Russian
As already mentioned, the lingua franca is Russian. As with most Central Asian countries, this is due to the influence of the Soviet Union. Russian is spoken predominantly in the north and in the big cities.
What language do they speak in Kazakhstan, besides Kazakh and Russian?
In addition to Russian, the following languages are also occasionally spoken: Ukrainian, Uighur, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Uzbek and increasingly Turkish.
English in Kazakhstan
At present, English is not very widely spoken in Kazakhstan. English is now taught in all schools, so that more and more young Kazakhs also understand English.
How do I understand myself as a tourist: Small phrasebook Kazakh and Russian
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