Kazakh (natively қазақ тілі, qazaq tili, pronounced ) belongs to the Kipchak branch of the Turkic languages. It is closely related to Nogai, Kyrgyz, and Karakalpak. Kazakh is the official language of the Republic of Kazakhstan and a significant minority language in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture in Xinjiang, China and in the Bayan-Ölgii Province of Mongolia. Kazakh is also spoken by many ethnic Kazakhs through the former Soviet Union (approximately 500,000 in Russia according to the 2002 Russian Census), Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Germany.
In October 2017, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev decreed that the government would transition from using Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet by 2025. President Nazarbayev signed on February 19, 2018 an amendment to the decree of October 26, 2017 No. 569 "On translating the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic alphabet to the Latin script." The amended alphabet uses Sh and Ch for the Kazakh sounds "Ш" and "Ч" and eliminates the use of apostrophes.
The Kazakh language has its speakers (mainly Kazakhs) spread over a vast territory from the Tian Shan to the western shore of the Caspian Sea. Kazakh is the official state language of Kazakhstan, with nearly 10 million speakers (based on information from the CIA World Factbook on population and the proportion of Kazakh speakers). In China, more than one million ethnic Kazakhs and Kazakh speakers reside in the Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang.