Spring 2000 (8.1)

Gular Hajiyeva

I was so pleased when I heard we were changing our alphabet because it signified that, at last, Azerbaijan would have its own script. It was high time to get rid of everything that reminded us of the Soviet Empire. Why should we keep that script if we were no longer part of their empire? So I welcomed the change.

I realized that it would create some problems, especially in terms of publishing and converting documents, but I was happy. The new alphabet was yet another sign of our independence.

When I first started learning the Latin script, I did run into some difficulties with a few letters that were confusing to me. But I soon got used to them and I don't have any problems now. I suppose I haven't completely converted to Latin though. Whenever I have to write something quickly in Azeri, like during a lecture, I tend to use Cyrillic.

The best thing about the Latin script is that it is closer to other languages. The letters are more attractive and easier to look at. In Cyrillic - to tell you the truth - the letters are crude and I don't like them very much.

Transition - Too Slow
Unfortunately, the transition to the new alphabet is slow. I'll give you an example. My uncle has always been known for his large collection of books in his house. He is a lover of literature. He used to buy every interesting book he could lay his hands on, justifying himself by saying that he was doing it for his kids. He has works from every Azerbaijani poet and writer in his library - all of them in Azeri Cyrillic or Russian.

My uncle's son is now eight years old. The boy takes after his father and also loves literature. One day he asked his father who Samad Vurghun was. Without thinking, my uncle replied, "Go find a book of his poetry in our home library." The poor boy searched all the shelves, then came back to his father complaining that he couldn't find anything. It was then that my uncle understood the reality of the situation. Very few books in his library were in Azeri Latin. None were about the most beloved Azerbaijani poet of the 20th century - Samad Vurghun. So here you have a father who has organized an immensely resourceful library, but even his own son can't fully benefit from it. This is the sad reality of our new alphabet.

Don't Make "Intellectual Cripples"
If a country ever does decide to change its alphabet, I would advise it to really hold onto whatever script it eventually chooses so as not to make cripples of the future generations. I say "cripples" because that's the reality. Generations cannot be separated from one another just because one generation doesn't know the next one's alphabet. There must be one alphabet for all generations.

Also, if they do change, it's important to organize courses for older people so that they can get used to the new alphabet. That way they can read books and understand the Latin script that's printed everywhere and not feel excluded from contemporary life.

Change Towards Azeri
It's good to see that the attitude toward the Azeri language is changing. Whereas Russian used to be considered more prestigious, now more and more people understand how important it is to know one's native language. In our clinic, there are some dentists who only used to speak Russian before we gained our independence. Now they're learning Azeri and trying their best to speak only Azeri at work.
We're also trying to use the Azeri Latin script more often in our clinic. Whenever we have new clients, we fill out applications for them in Azeri Latin; in the past, we did it in Azeri Cyrillic.

It also makes me happy to see that more and more non-Azeri speakers are trying to learn Azeri now. I have a neighbor who is Russian. I hadn't seen her for quite some time. The other day when I ran into her on the street, I was amazed that she was speaking perfect Azeri. It's really a thrill when you see other people learning and trying to communicate with you in your mother tongue, not always theirs.

Gular Hajiyeva (born 1971) works at Dental Clinic No. 11 in Baku. Her mother tongue is Azeri; she also speaks Russian and a little English. At home, she speaks Azeri with her family. Gular followed the Azeri track in school.

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

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