The Kalmyk language (in Kalmyk, Хальмг келн) belongs to the western group of the central Mongolic languages alongside Oirat spoken in Mongolia and the Xinjiang region of China. It is also genetically related to the languages in the eastern group: Buryat (Russia) and Mongolian (Mongolia and China). Kalmyk is one of the state languages of the Republic of Kalmykia, the region located in the southeast European part of Russia.
The three dialects are distinguished in the Kalmyk language, which are named after the major Kalmyk ethnic subgroups: Derbet (Dervyud), Torgut (Torgout), and Buzav (Buzava). The former two dialects served as the foundation of the literary Kalmyk language. The differences between the dialects are negligible and generally relate to phonetics, vocabulary, and morphology to a lesser extent.
The number of Kalmyk speakers (potentially as a second language) was 80,546 in accordance with the latest census data available (as of 2010) . The UNESCO World Atlas of Languages classifies Kalmyk as a ‘definitely endangered’ language.
1. The Kalmyk language used to have its own alphabet called Todo Bichig (‘Clear Script’), adapted from the Classical Mongolian script by the Buddhist monk and enlightener Zaya Pandita Ogtorguin Dalai in 1648.
2. Kalmyk has undergone the three changes of its alphabet. It was replaced by the Cyrillic script-based alphabet in 1924, followed by the Latin script-based alphabet in 1930, and then reverted to the Cyrillic script in 1939.
3. Kalmyk relies on agglutination (i.e., words are formed by adding affixes to word roots) and vowel harmony (i.e., the agreement between the vowels in word roots and the vowels in word suffixes) principles and lacks grammatical gender.
This conversational Kalmyk language course is designed to engage learners in real-life scenarios in Kalmyk, such as greetings, introductions, ordering food, talking about family, weather, and more. The course introduces learners to vocabulary and basics of the Kalmyk grammar using the combination of learner-centered and communicative language teaching approaches. Offering cultural insights, the course equips learners with a deeper understanding of the Kalmyk culture, customs, and traditions.
The course was created by Dr. Liubov Darzhinova, an applied linguist specializing in second language acquisition. The speech recordings of Svetlana Darzhinova, Liubov Darzhinova, and the images of Olga Darzhinova and Vladimir Darzhinov serve as the audio and visual content of this course, respectively.
Liubov dedicates this course to the loving memory of her grandad, Darzhinov Vladimir Petrovich (1927-1999), and grandma, Darzhinova (nee Danzhinova) Olga Badminovna (1927-1996).
Being Kalmyk and having a passive knowledge of the Kalmyk language, Liubov has always been trying to find ways to popularize the use of the language among the younger generation. For example, during her undergraduate studies, she organized the regional festival The Kalmyk Language is My Language (Хальмг келн – мини келн) that comprised of the competitions for the best theatrical piece and the best dramatization of the Kalmyk ceremonies. The event then impacted around 700 youngsters from all over Kalmykia.
‘Many young Kalmyks are nowadays proficient in English given its status of a global lingua franca. Moreover, there are dozens of the Kalmyk diasporas outside of Kalmykia and Russia. Both groups would like to either reactivate Kalmyk or start learning it from square one. Why not target these groups when popularizing the use of Kalmyk? This is how I came to the idea of creating an online course that teaches Kalmyk through English. By learning Kalmyk through English, they can become fluent in Kalmyk without losing their mastery of English.’
- Liubov Darzhinova