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Interview with Kyrgyz FLTA - Dinara Abakirova

 

Recently the IAUNRC sat down to speak with Dinara Abakirova, the 2016-2017 FLTA from Kyrgyzstan. She has been teaching Kyrgyz language classes for the 2016-2017 Academic Year. These classes are offered through the Department of Central Eurasian Studies. For more information please contact ceus@indiana.edu

 

1.      Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

My name is Dinara Abakirova and I am from a very beautiful green country – the Kyrgyz Republic in Central Asia. I am from the city of Tailan. It is a small city in the southern part of Kyrgyzstan near the borderlines between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

 

In my home country, I teach English-Kyrgyz Translation courses at one of the international universities. I love learning new languages and cultures. At the same time, I am also fond of teaching languages. I know the Kyrgyz, English, Russian, and Uzbek languages. I came here as a Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant to teach the Kyrgyz language and to perform the job of cultural ambassador for my country at Indiana University.

 

2.      What do you hope to get out of your experience as a FLTA?

 

As a Kyrgyz FLTA, I am getting significant experience teaching the Kyrgyz language to American students, participating at cultural exhibitions on behalf of the Kyrgyz people, and organizing weekly coffee hours for all interested students to talk about Kyrgyzstan. Most importantly, I am working on the development of a Kyrgyz language textbook for the elementary level in conjunction with CeLCAR. Also, I am developing proficiency tests for the Kyrgyz language with the help of Professor Sun-Young Shin, who is a professional linguist. This project is also directed by CeLCAR.

In addition, I am taking the following courses: Teaching English for Academic Purposes, Advanced Topics in American Studies, and Language Teaching Technology and Curriculum Studies. All of these will be useful for my further career. Between writing, teaching, learning and tasting the American life, I believe that the FLTA experience will enhance both my personal and professional development.

 

 

3.      Is this your first time in the U.S.? Have you had any culture shock?

Yes, it is my first time in the U.S. and I have experienced culture shock several times. First, I was shocked when I was told that I had to leave tips at restaurants. In my country, the tip is automatically included in the receipt so the customer does not have to leave a tip. I was similarly surprised with the wide-scale use of credit cards here. In my country, credit cards are not accepted everywhere so people usually always have cash available, but here I see that credit cards are accepted everywhere! For example, I went to an apple orchard here with some of my friends and we did not have cash to pay, so the farmer pulled out his mobile phone and swiped our cards. It was really surprising.

 

Lastly, I find it very strange that I can return anything I bought back to the store where it was purchased, even for a reason as simple as “I did not like it when I reached home.” This is not how stores operate in Kyrgyzstan.
 

4.      What is your impression of Indiana University thus far?

 

I love IU’s atmosphere. All of the people in administration are ready to help us if we need it. For example, our language coordinator, Piibi-Kai Kivik, is always available to give us teaching advice. The FLTA coordinator, Karen Niggle, takes us to breakfast every Saturday morning. In November, CEUS and IAUNRC sponsored me to participate in a conference about teaching Turkic languages at Harvard. I am also impressed with the diversity of people within the university. I am very glad that I have the chance to be here.
 

5.      Is there anything in particular you would like with your time at IU, such as places you would like to visit or things you would like to try?

I only have four months left here, so I would like to use my time fruitfully. I want to continue to use the library resources, spend time with people who I have become very close with since I arrived, and represent Kyrgyz culture as effectively as I can.

 

6.      Are there any hobbies or activities you like to do in Indiana?

Hiking is something that I like to do in Kyrgyzstan, so I have also enjoyed doing it here. I love hiking along Griffy Lake and in the nearby woods, as I have fallen in love with the nature of Bloomington.  

 

7.      When you return to Kyrgyzstan, you plan to develop a course book on Kyrgyz and English Literary Translation. Why do you think this is important?

Most of the current Kyrgyz language textbooks are devoted to Russian language speakers.However, I strongly believe that there are many people in the world who are interested in Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz culture, but they do not study it because they do not have a source to learn our language. Therefore, I think the development of a Kyrgyz language textbook for English language speakers is a crucial aspect of Kyrgyz language expansion. Also, an English-Kyrgyz literary translation textbook is one of my main goals because this aspect of translation is weak on both a theoretical and practical basis. As I mentioned before, I teach English-Kyrgyz translation back in my home country. We use English-Russian literary translation books by adopting them into Kyrgyz. Here, since I have the chance to obtain knowledge about American literature, English translation, and experience American culture with my own eyes, I can hopefully make a contribution in the development of English-Kyrgyz translation.
 

8.      Do you think studying Kyrgyz is difficult?

I think whether a language is difficult to study or not depends on the interest and diligence of a learner. In my experience as a language learner and language teacher, I have never met a person who could not learn simply because of the difficulty of the language. Here, my current student Kara is doing her best to learn Kyrgyz and she is showing excellent results.

 

The two main concepts that students often find difficult are understanding Kyrgyz sentence structure and the concept of vowel harmony. In the Kyrgyz language, you always put the verb at the end of the sentence. This is a difficult concept for both English and Russian learners because they are used to putting the verb after the subject. Vowel harmony can also be difficult for native English speakers because it is a concept alien to the English language.

 

9.      What would you like IU students to know about Kyrgyzstan?

I want to answer this based on questions I have been asked about my country while I have been here at IU.First, I want people know that “Kyrgyzstan” is not “Kurdistan.”  Many people I speak with get the names confused.

 

 Moreover, nomadic life is not very common now in Kyrgyzstan and we mostly use modern transportation. I often get asked the questions:  “Do you travel by horse? Do you use camels?”  There are still remnants of nomadic life outside of the cities, and you can see this in the summer when herders pasture their cattle in the mountains.

 

10.  Anything else?

We have a saying in Kyrgyz that “It is better to see once than hear about it thousand times.” I want people at IU who are interested in Kyrgyzstan to visit my country and see its real beauty with their own eyes, as it is not always easy to explain everything about it in words. Over 90% of the country is covered in mountains, so there are many beautiful valleys and lakes that are composed from glacier water.  In particular, there is lake called Issyk-Kol which, translated into English, means “warm lake.” It’s called this because it is very salty and, as a result, does not freeze in the winter.  The water is very clear and already a popular destination for Russian tourists.