Spring 2000 (8.1)

Nazim Abbas
Television Media

Adopting the new Latin alphabet has had a profound effect on television programming in Azerbaijan. Today, all of our news reports are printed in the Latin script, which means our reporters have to know Latin perfectly. In fact, our director set a special deadline for newscasters to learn to read it fluently. Of course it's the nature of the news industry that announcements have to be made about late-breaking news. Often notes that are scrawled out on scraps of paper are passed to reporters. Imagine what would happen if they couldn't read those notes when the cameras were rolling.

During our TV programs, reporters often read the text, line by line on a teleprompter. It's called "a running line". In the past, those running lines were always typed in Azeri Cyrillic. It used to take about 10 seconds to read a full screen. Now that the script is in Latin, it takes longer; in fact, sometimes twice as long. Of course, it's the younger reporters who have the advantage because of their mental agility.

Also when we show the Azeri Latin on TV, we have to hold the text on the screen for a longer period of time so that the audience has time to comprehend it. That wasn't the case with Azeri Cyrillic. People read it automatically and quickly.

The role of the Azeri language in society has also affected our programming. Before independence, about 40 percent of our company's programs were conducted in Russian. Today, only one news program, "Den" (Day), is in Russian. Almost all of the talk shows are in Azeri but the movies tend to be in the Russian language.

Setting an Example
In our television company, we make every effort to speak Azeri correctly. Our Director, Nizami Khudiyev, is a linguist of Turkic languages. He cares a lot about the Azeri language and demands a high standard. Every week when the executives meet for their planning sessions, we devote about an hour or more to discussing such things as the meanings of Azeri words and their correct pronunciation. Since television and radio establish the standard for the whole country, we try to watch out for regional colloquialisms, slang and words borrowed from Russian or Turkish. We feel like we have a great responsibility to set a good example.

Photo: A young boy reads one of his favorite books at Sahil Park. There are very few books available in Azeri Latin for children of his age.

Generation Gap

My late father knew Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic. First he studied Arabic as a child and then the script was changed to Cyrillic which, no doubt, took quite a while to get used to. Can you imagine having the alphabet change three times in your lifetime? He taught the first three grades and so had the responsibility of teaching the alphabet to his pupils. If my father were alive now, I think he would be very happy to discover that we had returned to the Latin. Unfortunately, if my son wanted to read the same things that his grandfather studied in his first years at school or to study our early classical literature of the 12th or 13th century, he would have to learn the Arabic script first.

But I think all of these difficulties are temporary. This period of transition will probably last another few years. We have to be patient. Nothing can be successful at the very beginning. Later everything will be fine.

These days I'm already sensing a positive attitude towards the Azeri language. Our language is so beautiful and expressive. Even Russian speakers are learning it. In the 18th century, it was considered fashionable in Azerbaijan to speak with an Ottoman dialect. But nowadays, who speaks like that? Nobody. The same will happen to the Russian language. Years and centuries will pass but our language will remain - our beautiful Azeri. It's the root of our culture, we've grown up on it.

Nazim Abbas (born in 1938) is the Director of Azerbaijan Telefilm Creative Union of the Azerbaijan State TV and Radio Company. His mother tongue is Azeri but like most Azerbaijanis, he knows Russian fluently. He enrolled in the Azeri track in school and at the Azerbaijan State Theater Institute and later studied Television Directing in Russian in Leningrad (St. Petersburg).

Azerbaijan International (8.1) Spring 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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