Book Translation Program offers grants for English to Kyrgyz translations

The US Department of State is currently accepting applications for grants to translate American English-language literature and other writing into the Kyrgyz language.

The US Embassy in Bishkek’s Public Affairs Section (PAS) runs the Book Translation Program (BTP), which aims to “increase Kyrgyz-language speakers’ access to diverse sources of information.” The Department of State will be accepting applications for grants of up to $30,000 through the end of April.

“BTP focuses on the translation and distribution of American books in the Kyrgyz language, (and) offers a unique and popular way to connect with Kyrgyz audiences, particularly rural youth, while supporting the growth of the Kyrgyz language across the country,” reads the grant’s description.

According to the agency, there is a scarcity of foreign literature translated into Kyrgyz, thus the program hopes to alleviate some of this. Any publishing house, non-governmental organization, or academic institution based in Kyrgyzstan is eligible to apply for the BTP’s grants. The program is mainly seeking fiction and nonfiction that would appeal to audiences between the ages of 15 and 35. 

In addition to diversifying the amount of literature available in Kyrgyzstan, the agency also claims that it hopes to promote the use of the Kyrgyz language within the country. Kyrgyz, native to the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, maintains official status in its homeland alongside Russian. 

Roughly 58% of the population speaks the language, while about 39% speaks Russian, mostly as a second language (the country also has significant populations of Uzbek speakers). Russian maintains a large degree of popularity within the country, as it is particularly prevalent in the media. Russian is particularly prevalent in the capital city, Bishkek, while Kyrgyz tends to be more prominent in rural regions. 

Still, Kyrgyz remains the majority language within the country, and some critics of the program have argued that it is simply a means of curbing Russian influence within the country.

Like many of the languages spoken in other former Soviet territories, Kyrgyz has been subject to a sort of “Russification” process, most obviously in its writing system. Outside of Kyrgyzstan, speakers of the language in China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan use an Arabic alphabet; within Kyrgyzstan, however, the language is written in Cyrillic, which was adopted under the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

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Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.

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