Heritage Language Experiences and Proficiency Among Ethnic Kazakhs Abroad: Exploring Challenges, Language Skill Requirements, and Acquisition Barriers

Gulzhana Kuzembayeva, Zhannat Maigeldiyeva, Bibigul Kussanova, Zhumagul Maydangalieva


This research explores into the issues faced by heritage language speakers and learners, a topic gaining increasing relevance as millions of individuals reside outside their country or region of birth for various reasons. The primary objective of this study is to investigate the experiences and proficiency of the heritage language among ethnic Kazakhs living abroad, with a particular emphasis on those in Russia. The aim is to shed light on the challenges they encounter in using the Kazakh language, their language skill requirements, and the obstacles hindering language acquisition. The research employs a descriptive, non-experimental, quantitative research design, utilizing survey research, descriptive statistics, and descriptive analysis of research data. The survey questionnaire includes participants' personal data, scales addressing challenges in using the Kazakh language, needs in Kazakh language skills, and barriers to language acquisition. The survey involved 100 ethnic Kazakhs in the Russian Federation, ranging from 10 to 72 years old (mean age 43.4 years). The study's findings reveal infrequent use of the Kazakh language by ethnic Kazakhs abroad and a low language proficiency level, with 40% at 0-A0 proficiency levels and 15% at B2-C2 proficiency levels. Younger participants exhibit lower levels of heritage language proficiency and less frequent use of Kazakh compared to their older counterparts, indicating a generational decline in language skills and usage. Challenges in using the heritage language manifest in difficulties writing in Kazakh due to a lack of knowledge about grammar and spelling, struggles in reading and understanding books, newspapers, and magazines, and ineffective communication with Kazakhs from Kazakhstan due to a lack of familiarity with cultural nuances and communication subtleties.


Ethnic Kazakhs abroad; heritage language; language shift; language decline; linguistic minority

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