Language Kazakhstan


Kazakhstan is an extremely multicultural country with a large number of different languages and ethnic groups which makes this a difficult question to answer and one that is often politically charged.

The short answer is Kazakh, the native language of the Kazakh people who are a majority of those who live in Kazakhstan. According to the constitution, Kazakh is the official language of Kazakhstan but with a special status for Russian as the ‘Language of interethnic communication’.


Kazakh

Kazakh is a Turkic language of the Kipchak or eastern Turkic family. Its most closely related languages are Kyrgyz and Mongolian. Roughly 65% of the population of Kazakhstan are able to speak and understand Kazakh to varying degrees.

Historically under the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union, Kazakh was relegated to a second-rate language of little importance. This was in part because of the attempt to create a more singular identity, and also just due to simple demographics. In 1950, Kazakhs only made up 30% of the population and even at the end of the Soviet Union, they still only made up 40% of the population. It wasn’t until the end of the millennium that Kazakhs once again became a majority in the country named after them.


What script is Kazakh written in?

The Kazakh language was controversially officially changed to being written in its own version of the Latin alphabet in 2017. The public has been given until 2025 to adapt to the changes. If you’re in Kazakhstan you’ll still see the majority of Kazakh written in Kazakh Cyrillic, which shares the same letters as Russian Cyrillic but with some extra letters unique to Kazakh.

Kazakh Cyrillic was adopted in 1940. Before that it was written in Latin between 1929 and 1940 and before that it was in Arabic script, which is still used by the Kazakh minority in Western China.

Kazakh is spoken in three, dialects namely Southern, Western, and North-Eastern. Since the Kazakhs have intermingled with numerous communities over time, Kazakh features words from Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Mongolian, Tatar, Persian, and Uzbek languages.

There are some jobs in Kazakhstan that require the applicant to pass a Kazakh language test, including running for President.


Russian

Although many ethnic Russians left Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union, still roughly 1 in 5 in Kazakhstan are Russian. On top of this, over 95% of the population of Kazakhstan is fluent in Russian with it being the preferred language for even many ethnic Kazakhs, especially those who live in the major cities.

Likewise, Russian is primarily used in academia, medical, science and when conducting business.

Most importantly, Kazakhstan consists of at least 130 different ethnic communities including Uzbeks, Turkmens, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Tartars, Koreans, Germans, Georgians, Azeri, Chechens and Tajiks, just to name a few, and the Russian language allows these groups to communicate with one another.

There are a small minority in Kazakhstan who attempt to reduce the use of Russian and promote Kazakh, however that is a small group, and most people are just happy to communicate in whichever way is possible.


Other Languages

With over 130 different nationalities in Kazakhstan, there are many minority languages.

There is a concern that some less widely spoken languages are slowly dying out. In 1999 there were reported to be 126 different languages spoken in Kazakhstan, while today that number has dropped to 117.

Minority languages in Kazakhstan are afforded protection by law. These languages include German, with 958,000 speakers; Uyghur, 300,000; Ukrainian, 898,000; Tatar, 328,000; Belarusian, 183,000; Korean, 103,000; Polish, 61,000; Greek, 47,000; and Romanian, 33,000.


English in Kazakhstan

English is becoming increasingly known in Kazakhstan, although you still shouldn’t assume you’ll be able to communicate with most people in it. While all European languages had similar levels of popularity in the past, English is now clearly the most studied language and there are English language schools in every city and town across Kazakhstan as people see English as their ticket to see the world and advance their opportunities.

The government of Kazakhstan has in recent years promoted the learning of English at school level and it’s noticeable as most young people now have some grasp of the language. As with most of the world, you’ll obviously find less English in rural areas and amongst older individuals.


Kazakh phrases

English

Kazakh

Welcome!

Қош келдіңіз! (Qoş, keldiñiz!)

Hello!

Сәлем! (Sälem!)

How are you?

Қалыңыз қалай? (Qalıñız qalay?)

Reply to 'How are you?'

Қалым жақсы (Qalım jaqsı)

Long time no see.

Көрмегелі қанша болды? (Körmegeli qanşa boldı?)

What's your name?

Сіздің атыңыз кім? (Sizdiñ atıñız kim?)

My name is ...

Менің атым ... (Meniñ atım ...)

Where are you from?

Қай жердікісіз? (Qay jerdikisiz?)

I'm from...

Мен... (Men...)

Pleased to meet you!

Танысқанымызға қуаныштымын! (Tanısqanımızğa qwanıştımın!)

Good morning!

Қайырлы таң! (Qayırlı tañ!)

Good afternoon!

Қайырлы күн! (Qayırlı kün!)

Good evening!

Қайырлы кеш! (Qayrli kesh!)

Good night!

Қайырлы түн! (Qayırlı tün!)

Goodbye

Сау болыңыз! (Saw bolıñız!)

I don't understand.

Мен түсінбеймін (Men tüsinbeymin)

Do you speak Kazakh?

Қазақша сөйлейсіз бе? (Qazaqşa söylejsiz be?)

Excuse me/ Sorry!

Кешіріңіз! (Keşiriñiz!)

Thank you!

Рахмет! (Raxmet!)

Reply to 'thank you'.

Оқасы жоқ! (Oqası joq!)





Example Tours

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June 19, 2024
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Kazakhstan Polygon Autumn Tour
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4 Stans Autumn Tour
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5 Stans Autumn Whirlwind Tour
A great snapshot into 5 amazing countries.

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5 Stans Autumn Original Tour
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5 Stans Autumn Mega Tour
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5 Stans Summer Tour
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June 19, 2025
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5 Stans Summer Tour

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