Internet edition “Na chasi” recently published a proposed way of changing the current spelling of Ukrainian words, based on Cyrillic alphabet, into Latin. In Kazakhstan, president Nursultan Nazarbayev also instructed officials to prepare a draft regulation of transitioning the country’s language to Latin letters.
Why change from Cyrillic to Latin?
Based on the latest data, 1.5 billion people in the world speak English. Another billion people are learning it.
The second most popular language in the world is Chinese. But learning Mandarin writings may seem too complicated for ordinary Ukrainians. So, this is certainly out of question for now.
Proponents of the changeover believe that the change to Latin will help Ukrainians to become closer to Europeans. It will be a step towards universal communication.
The first Ukrainian-Latin texts were written based on Polish or Czech alphabet long time ago. Joseph Lozinski, a priest and scholar from Lviv, was the originator who tried to establish Latin-Ukrainian alphabet back in XIX century. It was an adaptation of the Polish alphabet with the addition of Czech letters. Later Joseph Irechek, Czech linguist, proposed a modified version, Artyom Nikulin reports for Vesti-Ukr.com.
One strong motivation for the changeover is the desire to distance the Ukrainian language from Russian. At the same time, it will allow the rest of the world to understand Ukrainian easier, because of the common letters used. This is especially important for travelers visiting the country. Thus, for Ukraine it would be one more stride towards its alliance with Europe and away from the association with its neighbor Russia.
Ukrainian laws on language
In January 2010 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine issued a decree, which streamlined transliteration rules for Ukrainian alphabet.
These rules apply, in particular, when passports for international travel are issued. The standard is based on English spelling and the “soft sign”, which is an important part of Cyrillic languages (Russian, Ukrainian), is completely omitted.
Kazakhstan is one step ahead
In the beginning of April 2017, Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, instructed his government to develop a timetable for the transition from Cyrillic alphabet, which is presently used by Kazakhs, to Latin. The draft legislation should be ready before the end of the year.
Nazarbayev intends to translate all Kazakh printed books, periodicals, and business documents from Cyrillic to Latin by 2025.
Nazarbayev points out that Kazakh alphabet has its roots in Turk. Turkish became widely an international language for the continent, and it uses Latin alphabet.
Will it work?
Some experts doubt potential effectiveness of such initiatives. Skeptics say that Kazakh people could lose their origin and authenticity.
However, to analyze whether this experiment has a chance to be successful, we can turn to history. In 1980-90s several former USSR countries moved to Latin: Moldova in 1989, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in 1991, Uzbekistan in 1993. So, such initiatives are not new: It has been done before.
Now it’s Kazakhstan that is determined to follow the suit. Maybe Ukraine will be next?