Archive for April 1, 2008

Kazakh Proverbs: “Light the Passion…” Part III

Light the PassionThe Kazakh nation is faced with the bleak reality of tri-lingual issues of learning their mother tongue of Kazakh but also mastering the foreign languages of Russian and English.  Then, throw into the mix “computer literacy” and Kazakh school children along with their parents could feel very overwhelmed and defeated from the start.  However, if these young children who are growing up during this period of Kazakh Renassaince, don’t learn it all, what will become of Kazakhstan?  Long boundary lines that border Russia and China threaten Kazakhstan.  If the Kazakh populace don’t learn ALL the other literacies while embracing their own oral traditions, they may have one other language they will have to deal with and that is Chinese.

  Tomorrow the Olympic torch will be running through the streets of Almaty and there are posters everywhere (Light the Passion Share the Dream) in anticipation of the summer Olympics in China.  The Chinese are doing a major P.R. stunt with putting up billboards along the torch route.  Maybe Kazakhstan can learn something about China’s drive and ambition to be accepted by the rest of the world.

  Unfortunately, the rest of the “post-literate” world may see Kazakhstan as backwards because of a despicable movie that Mr. B. promoted with the rest of his title being:  Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.  No doubt this was authentic writing that the script writers of the movie picked up on or it is probably a direct translation from Kazakh.  Of course the Kazakhstan government railed against this movie (which I refuse to see) because it depicts just how behind the times Kazakhstan is especially with the convoluted movie title written in English.

 If Kazakh students really do take pride in their culture and country but also are enrolled in our western-style university, I would hope they would make known through their writing in English what a glorious nation Kazakhstan truly is.  However, I’m not so sure our university can help facilitate that given that the administration, teachers and students continue to pretend that they can write (i.e. cutting and pasting off the Internet).  How can I as a western educator help to remedy this situation? Is one tradition of orality better than the other of literacy?

 I still have the visual image of two Quonsets built in Harbin, Heilongjiang China where I taught for two years at H.I.T. (Ha Gong Da) in 1986-88.  One had been built with the Russian blueprints and was still standing.  However, once the Russians had been kicked out of China during the Brezhnev era [?], the Chinese tried to replicate the same Quonset building sans the blueprints.  The result?  The roof of the second building was caved in making it a monument to lack of knowledge.

   The conundrum that Kazakhstan faces is how to preserve their cultural tradition that was ravaged for 70 years under communism while keeping apace with the “Information Explosion” that has happened in the last ten years in the West.  What will happen to our western styled university that is in the middle of the most nationalistic area of the country of Kazakhstan?  Time will tell, but for now I believe that the written word will help the rest of the world know where Kazakhstan is and what its proud heritage is.  We have much we can learn from their oral traditions, if only they were written out in English or languages we, as westerners, could all understand.  Not many westerners are going to set out to learn how to speak Kazakh.  Reality is a difficult thing to stare down. 

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