International Association for Assistance to the Abaza-Abkhazian ethnos «Alashara»

Abaza language today: a view of the researchers-volunteers

Абазинский язык сегодня: взгляд исследователей-волонтеров

"Abaza are very open people" – so speak about us the researchers from Saint-Petersburg of Rodion Svetlichny and Sergey Bictimirkin, they write about it in social networks under the photographs reflecting the everyday life of their trips throw Abaza villages...

If to speak more precisely, there is the Linguistic centre "The Word" in Saint-Petersburg, who refered them to the expedition, and they are from different cities.

Rodion from Toliatti, a certificated teacher and psychologist, is the head of the Studio of the English language by the method of V. N. Meshcheryakova. In 2016 participated in the expedition in the Far East, acquainted with the language and life of the Udege. Sergey lives in Ulyanovsk. His main occupation is a Manager for web design, he is the activist of public organization "Youth in action", has experience with indigenous tribes of Kenya.

Rodion and Sergei met and decided to work together in St. Petersburg at the organizational seminar center, conducted in preparation for the formation of volunteer groups. There were 11 groups directed at different regions of Russia.

Rodion Svetlichny and Sergey Bictimirkin worked in Abaza villages of Karachay-Cherkessia continuously from 12 to 28 June  of 2017. They talked with children and adults, visited kindergartens, schools and families, visited the editorial offices of the Republican newspaper "Abazashta" in the Republican Institute of improvement of professional skill of education workers, where he met with a group of kindergarten teachers and primary school teachers.

The whole research material was recorded on video and voice recorder for a report and subsequent analysis, it was also photographing.

– The aim of our work was to investigate the current state of the Abaza language, set the level at which speakers of different ages own them, to identify the problems of preservation and development, – says Rodion. For this we used the well-known technique used in practice in different regions of our country and abroad,- Sergey continues the theme - we started our work in the village of Psyzh –attended classes of Abaza language at school camp.

Forms of the researchers ' work was very diverse. Children were invited to read a poem or passage of prose to retell its content in their native language or Russian. Recordings were made in one village, auditioned for the other – and here children were asked to retell the content heard in the native or Russian languages. Along with the reading texts were asked to sing any of Abaza song. And so it happened: they met the abaza boy in the street and asked to tell a fairy tale story in their native language. They spoke about the Abaza language also in families , told stories, and discussed the difficulties. A straw poll was carried out at the same time. There were 35 filled questionnaires. In conversations with teachers, educators and other professionals of Abaza language were discussed the status of Abaza language, problems of preservation and development. Educators, teachers, parents, leaders were invited to cooperate. The work was carried out with native speakers as tapanta dialect and ashkharsky.

In the allotted period, these young people worked in 12 Abazin auls, they did not have time to cover only the village of Coidan. The collected material is big in volume, and processing will need a lot of time. In a conversation with us, Rodion, and Sergey briefly summarized the work as a whole, shown review the survey results and shared their observations and impressions.

– In the early days we immediately felt as Abaza are very open people, – says Sergey with a smile. We had an average five - six meetings a day. In every house we went, first were sat at the dinner table often turned out that we had breakfast twice, had lunch three times and twice had dinner. We are touched by such hospitality, we really enjoyed the national dish.

 Rodion noted that during the entire period of work, they met many caring people who love their native language and concerned about its future.

-The chief editor of the newspaper "Abazashta" F. K. Kulova met us very well, offered help and support in work, and we had some ideas about how to improve the newspaper, - he says. The Cuban school teacher F. K. Dokhtova loves her job very much, she teaches children more then 56 years, we took her interview. Journalist R. H. Pazova told a lot of stories, and F. Ionova involved in the popularization of Abaza language, conducting online classes, M. Dzugova improve her knowledge and enjoys the native language with her son. An interesting conversation we had with a primary school teacher A. V. Khachukova. With great passion M. Tukov told us about the history of Abaza  people in the room of Museum created by him. There are many good examples, and we were very pleased to every such meeting.

Here are some observations shared by the researchers-volunteers.

Children are easier to perceive written texts, well-read by peers and adults perceived more difficult.

In most cases children read well, but when asked to retell in their native language, often find it difficult to get lost. It turns out that it is easier to do it in Russian. Children who can read confidently and retell it in their native language, we have met very few. In this respect, stands out the village of Krasny Vostok.

Some heads of rural settlements and schools are concerned that more children speak the Russian language at the school yard and in kindergarten, which negatively affects the knowledge of the native language. Many parents complained that children begin to speak in Russian rather than native, when I visit a kindergarten.

The researchers were surprised to find that the children do not know nursery rhymes in their native language, asked me to sing, but never heard a word. Unexpected was the fact that the children do not know Abaza fairy tales.

As for learning problems, kindergarten teachers and teachers speak with regret about the lack of visual and educational AIDS. Parents who would like to practice at home with their children are spoken about the lack of appropriate books or games in Abaza language too.

There are very few developing workshops, first and foremost, arts and crafts areas – because the child's speech in their native language develops more intense when he's enthusiastic about some thing related to national culture, art.

There are problems in the work with talented children. One of the teachers in Krasny Vostok sings well and instills this passion to students. They need a man who would have produced children: at the initial stage would be to create a concert band and to go around with performances by villages. And subsequently to help them to get education, to realize themselves in competitions, festivals. This would be the development of song culture, would help to identify and develop talents.

Rodion and Sergey drew attention to the fact that school libraries have little books in Abaza language. In one of them the ancestor of the book was located somewhere in the far corner, although to promote them it is necessary to place in the most prominent place.

It would be advisable, - said  Rodion, next to the inscriptions in Russian, wherever possible, located the labels in Abaza language too: street names, signs on buildings of the institutions, even the inscriptions pasted on the shelves with books. This would expand the functional boundaries of Abaza language.

Answering the question about the further work and plans in the intended direction, S. Bictimirkin said:

-We would like to come again next summer and continue working. We have a proposal to create a separate permanent site on issues of Abaza language, its preservation and development.

– Mostly it depends on the coordinators of the project. We are ready to continue to work to contribute to the preservation of Abaza language, - supported the idea of his colleague Rodion Svetlichny. – In our view, in the villages the inhabitants have a good command of the native language. This is also evidenced by the questionnaire data. There is a trend: the farther the village from the cities, the better it adults and children speak the native language. We liked Abaza language, sounds are unique and interesting, and we have learned some words and expressions for everyday communication. Using recorded material, we intend to develop a cycle of stories to help parents, teachers of schools and children gardens. We admire the beauty of your nature. They showed us the surroundings of Krasny Vostok , in the apiary we were treated with a flavorful honey. I hope, we will have more time next year and we will be able to visit the mountains of Dombai and Arkhyz.