Spring 2000 (8.1)

Elman Gurbanov

When I heard that the alphabet was going to be changed from Cyrillic to Latin, my reaction was positive. I didn't realize it would end up being such a big problem for me - I can't read the Latin alphabet. I know Cyrillic because that's what the Soviet system taught us for 70 years. But I don't know Latin.

I feel like I'm too old to go and learn the Latin alphabet - that would be like going back to first grade and starting all over again. I can't do that.

Access to News
But I'm concerned about my future. I'm afraid that soon I won't have any access to Cyrillic newspapers and books. I read newspapers a lot. I'm a driver, so I'm used to sitting in the car for hours and sometimes I read while I wait. I'm afraid that someday I'll end up experiencing an information blockade. At least right now, I can read newspapers, but when everything changes over to the Latin alphabet, I won't even be able to read newspapers.

Separation from My Kids
My kids are learning the Latin alphabet in school, and sometimes they ask: "What is this, Papa? What is that, Papa?" I say that I don't know what it is because I don't know the Latin alphabet. So I can't even help my kids.
Their teachers help them, but at home nobody can help them. I know a little bit of mathematics and numbers, so I can help them out with that, but not with written words. Since the Azerbaijani channels on TV use Latin, sometimes I even have to ask my kids to read for me.

On the Job
So many of the store names are in Latin these days. As a driver, I manage to get by mostly because I know where the streets are even without reading store names. But sometimes I run into problems. For example, one day I was passing by the Musical Comedy Theater and I saw three notices announcing upcoming performances. I wanted to know what the new shows were all about, but two of them were in Azeri Latin. I could only read the one in Russian.

Photo: Fast food menus are found in Azeri Latin as well as Russian Cyrillic.

I sense that there is more of a tendency for people to speak Azeri these days. For example, in restaurants, waitresses used to speak only Russian, but now they speak Azeri, too. That's one good thing. At least I think so.

Elman Gurbanov (born 1960) is a company driver. At home, he speaks Azeri with his family. Elman followed the Azeri track at school and is sending his kids to Azeri-track schools. As for foreign languages, he considers it more important for his children - who are still in elementary school - to study English rather than Russian.

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

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