Meruyert Omirzakova is the Kazakh FLTA (Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant) at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies, Indiana University Bloomington. Here she talks about Kazakhstan, teaching languages, and life at IU.
Can you introduce yourself briefly and tell us a little about your background?
My full name is Meruyert Omirzakova, and I am from Karagandy, Kazakhstan. Before coming to IU, I worked as an English teacher at a secondary school, I taught first and second year undergraduate students at Qaragandy State University, and I taught English for government workers in my region.
How many sections of Kazakh language are you teaching?
I am teaching advanced Kazakh at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies this fall semester. In the spring, I am going to teach introductory Kazakh for Russian Flagship students.
What classes are you taking here at IU?
I am taking two courses: “Teaching Less Commonly Taught Languages” and “Social Psychology and Individual Differences.” Both of these are very important subjects for teachers.
Is this your first time visiting the United States? If so, what are your thoughts?
Yes, this is my first experience in the US. I really like the whole atmosphere here. Americans are a giving nation, and everyone is open and friendly. It is very interesting to hear so many languages spoken in my department and get to know different people from various countries, and learn about their cultures.
Is there anything you miss from Kazakhstan that you have not been able to find here?
I would say that I miss some of our national food; for example, it's impossible to find kurt, which is made from sour cottage cheese, sour cream and butter.
What is your favorite thing to do at IU so far (when you're not teaching or taking class)?
There are so many events every week, and I immediately try to register and attend all the events I can. I am also taking dance classes at IMU, which is so much fun, and the fireplace in IMU is the coziest place for me to work and study.
Meruyert winning first prize in the Navruz Student Association Plov Cook-Off
Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Kazakhstan?
Kazakhstan is the biggest country in Central Asia. It also has the largest economy, the second largest population, and it does the most trade with the United States. Business partnerships between Kazakhstan and the U.S. are growing, creating a demand for educated Americans who are fluent in Kazakh. Furthermore, Kazakhstan is one of the leading countries in the world for a significant number of mineral resources, like bauxite, copper, gold, iron ore, coal, natural gas, and petroleum.
Do you think learning the Kazakh language is difficult for a native English speaker?
I think it can be challenging for native English speakers in comparison to other languages, but the grammar of Kazakh is consistent and the spelling is phonetic. Moreover, nouns do not have gender, adjectives do not have to agree with nouns, and verbs are not irregular, which is why once you get used to this way of constructing sentences, there will be no difficulty in mastering the language. By learning Kazakh, you will get to know the Kazakh people and immerse yourself in their rich cultural heritage.