Evening View of Central Square of Astana in Kazakhstan

Do People Speak English in Kazakhstan?

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the importance of understanding and speaking multiple languages has become more apparent. For many countries, English has emerged as a key language to learn and use in various settings. One such country where English has gained prominence is Kazakhstan, a Central Asian nation with a rich history and diverse cultural background. But do they speak English in Kazakhstan? Yes, English is spoken in Kazakhstan, with a moderate proficiency level among the general population. Read on to explore the role of English in the country.

English Proficiency Level in Kazakhstan

In recent years, Kazakhstan has made considerable strides in improving its population’s English proficiency. According to the EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), Kazakhstan ranks 45th out of 100 countries, placing it in the “moderate proficiency” category. This indicates that a significant portion of the population can understand and communicate in English at a functional level, though fluency might not be widespread.

Official Language of Kazakhstan

The official language of Kazakhstan is Kazakh, a Turkic language spoken by around 85% of the population. In addition to Kazakh, Russian also plays a significant role in the country, with many residents speaking it as a second language. In fact, Russian is widely used in business, government, and daily life, making it an essential language for anyone looking to engage with Kazakhstan on a deeper level.

Progression of English in Kazakhstan Over the Years

Kazakhstan has recognized the value of English as a global language and has taken steps to promote its use within the country. Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Kazakhstan has pursued modernization and internationalization efforts, with English playing a crucial role. In 2012, the government launched the “Trilingual Education Policy,” which aims to have citizens fluent in Kazakh, Russian, and English by 2050. This policy demonstrates Kazakhstan’s commitment to fostering English proficiency among its population.

English in Schools in Kazakhstan

English is taught in schools throughout Kazakhstan, starting at a young age. As part of the Trilingual Education Policy, the government has worked to ensure that English language instruction is available from primary school through higher education. To further improve the quality of English education, the government has also sought the assistance of international organizations and experts in developing curricula, teacher training, and assessment.

In recent years, the government has invested in sending Kazakh students to study abroad in English-speaking countries, with the expectation that they will return with advanced language skills and contribute to the country’s development. These efforts have helped create a new generation of Kazakh citizens who are more comfortable with and proficient in English.

Can You Get By Speaking Only English in Kazakhstan?

Although English is not as widely spoken as Kazakh or Russian, it is possible to get by with only English in major cities like Almaty and Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana). Many young people, especially those who work in the service industry, have some knowledge of English and are often eager to practice their skills with tourists. In addition, businesses catering to tourists and expats generally have English-speaking staff.

However, in more rural areas or smaller cities, English speakers may be harder to come by. In these situations, having a basic understanding of Russian or Kazakh will be advantageous. Learning a few essential phrases in the local languages can go a long way in making your stay more enjoyable and immersive.

English in the Workplace and Higher Education

The growth of English proficiency in Kazakhstan has led to a surge in demand for English-speaking professionals. Many multinational companies operating in the country require a working knowledge of English, and fluency is often considered a valuable asset. As a result, the younger workforce is increasingly motivated to learn and improve their English skills to remain competitive in the job market.

In higher education, English is often the language of instruction for courses in business, technology, and sciences. A number of prestigious universities in Kazakhstan have established partnerships with universities in English-speaking countries, facilitating student and faculty exchanges, research collaboration, and joint degree programs. These developments have further reinforced the importance of English in Kazakhstan’s academic and professional spheres.

English Language Resources and Courses in Kazakhstan

To cater to the growing interest in English, numerous language schools and resources are available for those looking to learn or improve their English skills. Language centers offer courses catering to various proficiency levels, from beginner to advanced. These schools often employ native English-speaking teachers or those with a high level of fluency, ensuring that students are exposed to authentic language input.

In addition to traditional language schools, there are various online resources and apps that can help learners practice their English skills. Websites and apps like Duolingo, BBC Learning English, and Memrise provide engaging, interactive ways for learners to study at their own pace.

English as a Cultural Bridge

As Kazakhstan continues to open up to the world, English has emerged as a cultural bridge, allowing for greater interaction and exchange with other nations. The increased exposure to English-language films, music, and literature has also fueled interest in the language among the younger generation. English-language cultural events, such as film festivals, book clubs, and language exchange meetups, are becoming more popular, providing opportunities for English speakers and learners to connect and share experiences.

Travel Tips for English Speakers in Kazakhstan

While it is possible to get by with only English in Kazakhstan, travellers can benefit from a few strategies to make their journey more enjoyable and stress-free. Here are some tips for English speakers visiting the country:

  1. Download a translation app: Using a translation app on your smartphone can help bridge language gaps when communicating with locals who may not speak English. Google Translate, for example, offers offline translation for Kazakh and Russian, making it a useful tool even when internet access is limited.
  2. Learn basic phrases: Familiarize yourself with common greetings and essential phrases in Kazakh or Russian to show respect and appreciation for the local culture. Locals will likely appreciate your efforts and may be more willing to assist you.
  3. Carry a language guide: A pocket-sized language guide or phrasebook can be a helpful resource when navigating unfamiliar situations. These guides typically include essential vocabulary and phrases, as well as pronunciation tips.
  4. Seek out English-speaking locals: When in need of assistance, try approaching younger people, as they are more likely to speak English. Additionally, staff at hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions in larger cities are more likely to be proficient in English.

In conclusion, English is spoken in Kazakhstan, with a moderate proficiency level among the general population. The government’s efforts to promote English education and foster trilingualism have contributed to the growing presence of English in the country. While it is possible to get by with only English in major cities, learning some basic phrases in Russian or Kazakh will enhance your experience and help you connect more deeply with the local culture.