Lesser-known language in the spotlight: Kyrgyz

21 January 2023

In 2022, Foyer’s team of intercultural mediators in health and welfare was joined by a mediator who is fluent in both Russian and Turkish. Not an obvious combination at first sight, but this lady is from Kyrgyzstan, a country where both languages meet.  

Kyrgyzstan is situated between Kazakhstan, China, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is a mountainous country, which has been under varying forms of foreign rule in the past. These include the Kokand Khanate, which brought Islam and Arabic script to Kyrgyzstan. Subsequently, the country came under Russian and Soviet rule.  Its inhabitants, the Kyrgyz, are a Turkic ethnic group. Their language is related to Turkish spoken in Turkey, but even more closely to Kazakh, Uzbek and Tatar, another branch of the Turkish language family. Under Russian influence, the Kyrgyz language was no longer written in Arabic script, but in Cyrillic script. 

Kyrgyzstan became independent in 1991 and both Kyrgyz and Russian now have official status there. All children learn Kyrgyz, Russian and English at school, but university education can be pursued only in Russian. 

Kyrgyzstan has a population of about 6,769,000 and there are also a large number of Kyrgyz living abroad. However, our mediator is not asked to interpret into Kyrgyz: on 1 January 2022, only 82 Kyrgyz lived in the Brussels Capital Region. 

Some Kyrgyz phrases: 

Salamatsyzby! Hello! 

 Kandaysiz? How are you? 

Atyngyz kim? What is your name? 
(Атыныз ким?) 

Rahmat! Thank you!