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Kyrgyz Language Lesson #1

Kyrgyz sounds like it is merrily tripping and skipping through a mountain meadow with its Ts, Ks, Rs, and Ngs.  But it is equally happy wrapped up in a blanket and hibernating through a cold winter, with the Oos, the Uus, Shs, and Zs.  Trying to learn it requires a remastery of lip movement and vowel formation, but it is fun to learn. It does not contain a vast lexicon, and materials for learning the language are sadly limited.  For most, studying with a native speaker and living with a host family are the best ways to get a grasp of this mountainous, nomadic, Turkic language. 

We’ll start with the basics:

Kan - dai - siz / Kan - dai - sen 

How are you?

The greatest challenge for me, in attempts to learn the Kyrgyz language, is all the forms of YOU that exist.  There is a deep respect for other people in Kyrgyzstan, which is reflected in the language.  For starters, we will distinguish between “siz” and “sen”. 

  • Siz is the formal you. 
  • Sen is the informal you.
  • Siz is used for anyone who is older or unknown.
  • Sen is used for peers, people who are the same age, or anyone younger than yourself.

So when I walk up to my friend who is one year younger than myself, I can say “Salam! Kandaisen?”

My friend might respond with “Jaksha (good)!  Kandaisiz?”

And from there we would carry on a normal conversation in English (as least until we hit Kyrgyz Language Lesson #2!)


Pronunciation tips:

Accent is on the middle syllable: Kan - DAI - siz

For a fairly dire but accurate mnemonic, you could use “con - die - seize” or “con - dye - sin”.

When in doubt, stick with the formal version of the language.  A little respect goes a long way in Kyrgyz culture!

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