As a bilingual nation and a multilingual society, Kazakhstan is home to two major languages: Kazakh and Russian. Aside from these, there are over 130 nationalities in the nation, and 117 languages which are identified as of right now.

Kazakh enjoys an official status awarded by the Constitution of Kazakhstan, which also argues that the President of Kazakhstan should be a speaker of Kazakh. The Kazakh language is a Turkic language from the Kipchak branch and it bears some similarities to Karakalpak, Nogai and Kyrgyz. The Kazakh language is used by nearly 65% of the population of Kazakhstan, which accounts to about 5,290,000 speakers. It is spoken in three dialects which include the Southern, Western and Northeastern dialects. Kazakh features words from Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Tatar, Mongolian, Persian and Uzbek languages, due to the country’s interactions with various communities over the years.

Russian is a popular language spoken in Kazakhstan, with about 95% of the country’s population speaking the language fluently. Russian was recognized by the 1995 Constitution as a state language, along with Kazakh. Russian is the primary language in academic, scientific and business sectors. However, substantial knowledge of Kazakh is required to be able to work in state organizations. Russian is popular in urban regions of the country, and the schools use both Russian and Kazakh as the instruction mediums. Schools typically tend to emphasize one or the other. Many publications and TV and radio broadcasts are offered in both languages. There have been attempts to eradicate Russian in the country, especially after the country achieved independence in 1991, however the northern regions and the Almaty Province have remained Russian-speaking.

Aside from Kazakh and Russian, Kazakhstan is home to many other indigenous, minority and foreign languages. Indigenous languages of Kazakhstan include the Dungan language, the Ili Turki language, Ingush, Plautdietsch and Sinte Romani. Minority languages in Kazakhstan enjoy protection by law, and include Ukrainian with 898,000 speakers, German with 958,000 speakers, Uyghur with 300,000 speakers, Tatar with 328,000 speakers, as well as Turkish, Uzbek, and Tajiki.

Main foreign languages in Kazakhstan include English, which is being increasingly adopted by the young population of the country, and it is particularly popular in the tourism sector and the major cities. German, Arabic and Chinese are other foreign languages which are used in Kazakhstan. German used to be the language of choice as the foreign language in schools in the 2000s, but the country’s policy has since shifted to one that advocates the development of a population fluent in Russian, Kazakh and English in order to enable the nation to engage better on a global scale.


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