52% of people in Kazakhstan speak Kazakh, and 44% don’t know Latin alphabet

DEMOSCOPE Bureau for Express Monitoring of Public Opinion conducted a public opinion poll to find out what people in Kazakhstan think about transferring the Kazakh language to the Latin alphabet.

1,829 respondents from Astana, Almaty and all 14 regional centers of Kazakhstan took part in the poll. 71% of women and 29% of men aged over 18 were interviewed. The maximum statistical error did not exceed 1.33% with 90% probability.

The respondent were interviewed online and by phone between 17 and 21 April, 2017. 


According to the results of the poll conducted by Demoscope Bureau for Express Monitoring of Public Opinion, 52% of people in Kazakhstan speak Kazakh language, however 44% don’t know Latin alphabet. The overwhelming majority of the latter is senior generation (aged 40 and older), 46% and more of whom are not good at Latin. As for young people, 24% of them don’t know Latin alphabet, while 43% recognize Latin letters without speaking languages based on it. When initiating transfer of Kazakh language to Latin alphabet, the president of Kazakhstan suggested that the process should focus on young people who will transfer faster. On the other hand, do the young people and other age groups think it is necessary to transfer to the Latin alphabet?

Over the half of the respondents (54%) do not think it is actually necessary. And 60% of them are young people aged 18-29. In general, although 30% of the interviewed people have no doubts the process is necessary, they think it is not cost-effective to implement such project during crisis. One in five respondents (21%) aged 50-59 and 30% of 70-year old interviewees consider the transfer essential.

Regarding the way how the transfer to the Latin alphabet will be implemented, the respondents gave different forecasts. 32% of the interviewed people think the transfer can be cancelled when the authorities will understand how much money and time it can take. Another 25% are sure the transfer will happen, but the process will take long time, as it was in Uzbekistan where both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets are still used. The latter scenario was mentioned by 43% of the poll participants.

The transfer to Latin alphabet will have no effect on popularity of the Kazakh language. Either it will bring no changes. 31% of the respondents suggested it would become more difficult to study Kazakh language. And another 30% found it difficult to answer this question. 17% were sure nothing would change. It is interesting that young people were more optimistic, with 33% aged 18-29 mentioning that Latin alphabet will make it easier to study Kazakh language, especially for foreigners.

When answering the question about the knowledge of Kazakh language, 52% of the respondents said they are fluent in speaking and writing, while 18% stated they can only speak, and 19% can understand,  but cannot speak. The geography split corresponds with the national one. Over 62% of the interviewees living in Astana, as well as Mangistau, Kyzylorda and Atyrau regions are fluent in Kazakh. And Atyrau region has the highest share of those who support transfer to the Latin alphabet – 28% (while the country average is 16%). Kostanai and North-Kazakhstan regions have the lowest share of respondents speaking Kazakh (39% and 28% correspondingly).

As the poll results collected in Akmola, East-Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Pavlodar and North-Kazakhstan regions showed, the local population can have problems with transferring to the Latin alphabet. Over 53% do not speak national language at the present moment.

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