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With approximately 75 million speakers worldwide, Turkish is a popular language to learn given its pivotal role between the Middle East and Europe. 90% of Turkish speakers are in Turkey and the rest are spread over some 35 countries including Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Macedonia, Romania and Uzbekistan. Turkish is part of the Turkish family of languages, which also includes Gagauz, and Khorasani and Osmanli Turkish.
Turkey is often referred to as a ‘bridge between the West and the East’. This is illustrated on the streets of Istanbul by the great variety in dress. Men in traditional Islamic skull caps, or in t-shirts and jeans, and women with headscarves, or in miniskirts and high-heeled shoes. Turkey presents a fascinating mix of East meets West and will continue to have geographical strategic importance in the modern world.
Turkish is not related to the other major languages of Europe or the Middle East. Instead, it is distantly related to Finnish and Hungarian. Turkish is an agglutinative language.
Agglutination refers to the process of adding suffixes to a root word, so that a single word can convey what English would take a complete sentence to say. For example, the English sentence “They were not coming” is a single word in Turkish: Gelmiyorlard. The regularity and predictability in Turkish of how these suffixes are added make agglutination easier to learn than you might think.
Turkish has ‘post-positions’ rather than prepositions, and objects usually come before the verb. So the sentence “Ahmet talked about his class” would have the following word order in Turkish: “Ahmet his class about talked.” While this may seem strange at first, you’ll be surprised how quickly this new word order comes to feel natural when you’re learning Turkish.
Beyond the grandeur of Istanbul lies an entire country filled with diverse landscapes, all breath-taking and definitely worth your time. Turquoise blue waters, picturesque beaches, hidden coves, shimmering lakes, grand vistas, misty hills, snow-capped mountains, historical ruins, ancient castles… you name it, Turkey has it!
Outside of Istanbul and the tourist circuit along the Mediterranean coast and Cappadocia, however, English is rarely spoken. But you certainly don’t have to become fluent in the language to travel around Turkey. A little bit of Turkish goes a long way.
Turkish is from an entirely different language family from any of the more popular languages.
For this, you have to thank Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. In 1928, he decreed that the Arabo-Persian alphabet used in Ottoman Turkish should be replaced by the Latin alphabet. At the same time, under the language reform that he initiated, most Arabic and Persian words were replaced by those with Turkic origins, thus causing the demise of Ottoman Turkish and giving rise to the Turkish that is spoken today in Turkey.
Indeed, many Turks will not expect visitors to speak any Turkish. So use this to your advantage and make someone’s day when you travel to Turkey. It is really not too difficult to get the pleasantries down. For a start, hello in Turkish is simply merhaba (mer-ha-ba).
For the more serious-minded folks out there, Turkish is also an increasingly strategic language in the field of business and politics in the Middle East and Eurasian region. As Turkish businesses expand in those regions and Turkey grows as a regional economic power, a command of Turkish will definitely be a useful asset for any aspiring entrepreneur to reap business opportunities there.
If you know any Arabic, Farsi, or French, you are in luck! Turkish has a large number of loan words from these languages. For instance, if you need a haircut in Turkey, just head over to a kuaför (kua-fuhr). Similarly, the French word for a hairdresser is coiffeur, with almost the same pronunciation. To see more of such loan words from French, there is a nice list of them on Wikipedia.
Unlike a number of other languages, Turkish is pretty consistent in terms of how its words are formed. Once you learn a grammatical rule, you can be pretty certain that it will be applicable in almost all scenarios. There are very few exceptions to the rules, which is certainly refreshing when learning Turkish over other popular languages.
About 70 million people speak Turkish natively, and about 15 million speak Turkish as a second language. About two million Turkish speakers live in Germany, so if you’re interested in working in Germany, knowing Turkish would be an extraordinary asset.
Turkish is not only spoken in Turkey, it is an official language in a beautiful little country called Cyprus! If you speak Turkish you might even be able to understand some Azerbaijani, Uzbek, and Turkmen.
Learning Turkish – even just a few words or phrases – is the least one can do in response to the generous hospitality that you will definitely receive while in Turkey.
The Turks are the nicest and most hospitable people around. Despite the language barrier, they are very eager to welcome you to their country. Its only polite to learn how to say: çok teşekkür ederim (chok te-shek-keur e-de-rim)—thank you very much!
Turkish is a very systematic language. Constructing a sentence in Turkish is like lining a series of blocks together, just like playing with building bricks.This is exactly what linguists refer to when they use a fancy word, “agglutinative”, to describe the Turkish language.
Turkey’s melting pot of cultures is best reflected in its cuisine. If you’re a newcomer to Turkish food, you’ve got a mouth-watering journey ahead of you.
Get started with these seven classic dishes: baklava, şiş kebap, döner, köfte, pide, kumpir and meze.
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Georgina – Learning Turkish