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Languages at UW-Madison



Kazakh is a Turkic language from the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, closely related to Turkish, Uzbek, Tatar, and other languages. It is spoken by about 12 million people in Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, and Iran. Learning the Kazakh language can help unlock the other Central Asian Turkic languages because they are very similar.

Kazakh is on the U.S. State Department list of critical languages. Knowing Kazakh may lead to special professional opportunities in business or government careers. Kazakhstan is a rapidly developing economy rich in energy, mineral and other natural resources. The economy of Kazakhstan is larger than that of all other Central Asian countries combined, largely due to the plentiful natural resources. Kazakhstan’s wilderness is one of the most beautiful and visually distinct in the world with mountains, beautiful lakes, deserts and grassy steppes.

Knowledge of Kazakh allows you to discover a world of rich traditions and customs. Horses, eagles, and other animals have a central place in the history and culture of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh people are very hospitable. They have an interesting history but have never started a war, instead only fighting to protect themselves and the land. Many ethnic groups and multiple cultures reside within Kazakhstan including Russian, German, Polish, Ukrainian and others who were resettled during Soviet rule.

UW-Madison is a strategic partner with Nazarbayev University (NU) in Astana, Kazakhstan. UW-Madison students have the opportunity to interact with NU undergraduate students and graduates during the academic year and with those who study in Madison as part of the summer Visiting International Student Program. Tourists who are US citizens don’t need a visa to visit Kazakhstan and stay for fewer than 30 days. Russian undergraduate majors can participate in study abroad programs in Kazakhstan. It may be individually helpful to have some understanding of Elementary Kazakh if you are planning to participate in those study abroad programs.

Majors & Certificates 

Languages and Cultures of Asia Major, MA in Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies; visit the Majors & Certificates page for more information.


Jennifer Tishler,

Study Abroad 

You can study Kazakh in Kazakhstan. Contact International Academic Programs for more information.

Student Organizations 

Kazakh Students Association; browse the Wisconsin Involvement Network for more information.


Consider an internship where you can use Kazakh, either in the US or abroad. An internship in any field can complement your language study and can provide valuable professional experience.