08 March 2006

A Link, Learning Kyrgyz, and Sly Uzbeks

RFE/RL on the media's reporting on religious freedom in Central Asia (or the lack of it)

That's just a link. I'm not writing anything about it.

I have noticed that people are a lot more impressed with our efforts to learn Uzbek and Kyrgyz than they ever have been with Russian. I am getting far more encouragement and that is very helpful. Well, maybe it's an exaggeration to say people are impressed with my husband learning Uzbek. Uzbeks aren't exactly popular in Kyrgyzstan. As they always say, Uzbeks are sly. Tajiks aren't too popular either, although Kazakhs are, at least relatively.

I wonder what other nationalities in the region say about the Kyrgyz?


  1. I've been playing around with beginning to learn Kyrgyz when I go back this summer. When I was there the first time I learned a few basic phrases, which helped immensely because people did just what you said, they respected the fact that I was trying to learn their first language. I need to see what's available as far as dictionaries or books here in the states. If you have any recommendations please let me know. And if there are any books that would help you out as you learn the language but that you can't find there, please let me know and when my husband and I come in June we'd be happy to bring them for you. I think we will be flying in on June 18th or so and then leave for Karakol the next day, but I'm sure we could work something out. We'll be there through the last week of July. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it's just not quite long enough for my tastes:( After seminary I think my husband and I should just move back permanently.

  2. I haven't been able to find anything except the Peace Corps books. Nothing in bookstores, on the internet, from NGOs in Kyrgyzstan. Nothing to order. All I have is Karl Krippes' dictionary.

    There are few universities that teach Kyrgyz and I can't even figure out if they have a textbook.

    If you find anything out, let me know. :)

  3. The Kyrgyz classes here use the Peace Corps book. All Dunwoody Press has is the Kyrgyz dictionary you mentioned. Indiana might have something they use in-house. (We have some awesome Uzbek resources that aren't published.)

    And as for what others think of the Kyrgyz, the only concrete thing I can come up with off the top of my head is that Uzbeks are known to call their neighbors "it-kirghiz" -- basically "Kyrgyz dogs." (This is what our Kyrgyz professor says the Uzbek kidss in her town called the Kyrgyz kids when she was growing up.) I'm not sure why exactly. Uzbeks have little use or love for dogs, though. As for other things, you could probably just flip around some Kyrgyz views of the Uzbeks.

  4. I'm not even sure Indiana teaches Kyrgyz. I've never been able to find it on their site.

    Is there any way I could get any of those awesome unpublished Uzbek resources? We're not really satisfied with what we have.

  5. I might be able to photocopy them for you. What do you have now?

    For textbooks, I'd recommend the one from Dunwoody Press over the one we use (made in-house). It has exercises and ours doesn't. We have a supplemental "exercise book" that isn't too terribly useful as far as I can tell. It has some old exams and a handful of short texts. What is really cool is the appendix of suffixes. It's big and comprehensive. If you've got a feel for the structure of the language, it helps break down words very well.

  6. It looks like the Dunwoody Press textbook by Khayrulla Ismatulla you recommend is a newer edition of the textbook we have now. We also have the very small Hippocrene dictionary and phrasebook.

    What we'd really like is something that focuses more on spoken Uzbek than literary. Or at least something that's a more transportable than the textbook. I really liked my Russian Penguin book because it was easy to carry around.

  7. Learning "spoken Uzbek" is a waste of time. No such thing exists. Well, to be more precise, so many forms of it exist that you'd go nuts. Start with literary ("TV Uzbek") and go from there. Most Uzbeks should understand it, and you will have no luck finding any resources for dialects (I assume). Just keep in mind that there can be lots of differences in pronunciation, some of which are pretty significant. But, if you've got a pretty good grasp of literary Uzbek (which, as I understand it, is pretty much what you'll hear in parts of the Ferghana Valley), you should be able to understand that kotta means katta, qatta means qayerda, and so on from context.

    The Hippocrene dictionary, by the way, is an abomination. It's extremely limited, some of the translations are bad, and there are numerous misspellings. You should be able to find better dictionaries in the region. If you get the chance or know someone going to Uzbekistan or something, you should be able to find the Uzbek-English dictionary put out by Dunwoody (the bootleg version in Uzbekistan is much cheaper). There is also a great pocket-sized English-Uzbek dictionary available in Uzbekistan for about $4.

  8. Thanks Nathan. We'll stick with literary Uzbek. And we'll try to find a better dictionary if we can.

    Might there be Russian-Uzbek-English dictionaries? We've found Russian-Kyrgyz-English ones.