THE CLASSROOMS of school number 76 in Kazakhstan's capital Astana are buzzing with change as old words take on new forms and teachers struggle to keep pace.

Number 76 is one of several pilot schools in the city where a Latin alphabet consisting of 32 letters is being test driven for the country's state language, Kazakh, which has been written in Cryillic for nearly 80 years.

The long planned return to Latin, which Kazakh was briefly written in from 1927 after the  Bolsheviks phased out Arabic scripts by a number of non-Slavic languages, should be completed by 2025.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called has called the reform a modernising move to make it easier to use the Internet and learn English.

The Soviet Union encouraged the use of Cyrillic letters in its republics and a move to the Latin Alphabet would break symbolic ties with its former master, Russia.

The transition has been bumpy so far, sparking philological mudslinging - notably over apostrophes.

But the school administration in the ex-Soviet with close ties to Moscow have expressed confidence that the younger generation can take all the upheaval in the stride.

''Children/students understand the language of computers, they know some English. So they will grasp Latin script very quickly,'' Ernur Omarkhanov, the state-funded school's deputy director told AFP. [Agencies]


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