Turkish Language and Culture

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    How many people speak Turkish? Where does Turkish language come from? Is it easy to learn Turkish? What are the Turkish speaking countries? Let’s see!

Turkish Language Origins: Life in Turkey

For somebody who has little information about the Turkish language, it might be shocking that Turkish is spoken by a lot of people in the world. Throughout history, Turks have expanded over a wide geographical area. This made their language evolve in different directions.

In this article, we are going to give you some information about the origin of the Turkish language, speakers of it, the benefits of learning it, and its similarities with other languages. Let’s start. This blog post was first published on the website of Cevir.io Turkish translation services.

History and Origin of the Turkish Language

Turkish, which is also referred to as Turkey Turkish or Istanbul Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages within the Altaic language group.  The earliest known Old Turkic writings were found in modern Mongolia. They were the three monuments called “Orkhon Inscriptions” written to honor the prince Kul Tigin and his brother Emperor Bilge Khagan.

Historians and linguists separate the Turkish language into four main periods and these are Old Turkish (13-16th century), which is also called Anatolian Turkish, Middle Turkish (17-18th century), which is also called Ottoman Turkish, Newer Turkish (19th century), and finally Modern Turkish which began in the 20th century and still continues today.

The first important development of the Turkish language began when Turks accepted Islam as their religion in the 10th century. The language became a hybrid language almost. Many of its words and important part of the grammatical structure were taken from Arabic and Persian. After that, Turks tried to minimize the other cultures’ effect on their language. The most important work of this period is Divanü-Lügati't-Türk which is a dictionary written by Kasgarli Mahmut in 1072. The goal of this dictionary was to assist Arabs to learn Turkish.            During the 14th and 15th centuries, Turks worked on making translations of terms in the fields of medicine, mathematics, and astronomy. Even though the origins of these terms were taken from Arabic, they found a way to write them in Turkish.

The most important development of the Turkish language happened with the announcement of the Republic in 1923. In those times, Turks left the Arabic alphabet and started to use the Latin alphabet adapted to the Turkish vowel system with the help of their founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1932, Atatürk founded the Turkish Language Society and it was a huge milestone in the journey of reform the Turkish language.

Turkish Speaking Population

It is a common fact that Turkish is the official language of Turkey, but it is also one of the official languages of Cyprus. Along with that, the native speakers of any Turkic language can fluently speak Turkish because they share the same origin.

The Turkish language is spoken in a lot of countries and there are many reasons for this. Sometimes it’s because both of the countries share the same history at some point, the country has a huge amount of Turkish population, or they are neighbors of Turkey. We can give examples of these kinds of countries with Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, the Republic of Macedonia, and Russia.

On the other hand, there are many Turkish immigrants all around the world for a long time. Turks go to other countries to work or to build a family and a new life there. Countries like Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, the US, Switzerland, France, and the UK have this kind of Turkish community in them.

Also, because of some treaties or events that happened in the past, some countries like Iraq, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Romania officially accept Turkish as a minority language.

The latest research shows that about 78 million people in the world speak Turkish as their native language, and along with that several million people speak it as a second language. The most important majority of Turkish speakers live in Turkey, as you can guess. It means only in Turkey, there are more than 82 million Turkish speakers. The next country that has a great number of Turkish speakers is Germany. It is home to approximately 1.5 million Turkish speakers.

Life in Turkey: What to Expect?

Turkey is sometimes accepted as a Middle East country and because of this, when foreigners imagine life in Turkey, they imagine deserts and camels. However, the reality is so far away from this imaginary Turkey.

On the other hand, answering the question “How is life in Turkey?” is harder than you think for many Turkish people because Turkey is one of the most diversified countries in the world. You can literally find every kind of person there and you don’t even have to search for it. Although, we can safely say that even if Turkey is a country with a major Muslim population, the country is pretty secular.

This modernity can be seen mostly in big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir. Especially in those cities, you will have the European life-style experience so easily. There are big shopping malls with international brands in it, coffee shops, bars, pubs and clubs, and everything else that you can see in a European city. Of course, there are very conservative cities in Turkey, but they are not common nowadays like people imagine.

Turkish people are very hospitable and this is an important part of their tradition. No matter which city you will go to, everybody will try to help you in their own ways, even though they don’t know how to speak English or your language. Because Turkey is very rich when it comes to culture, it is a very touristic country and most of the Turkish people know basic English to keep up with the tourists.

Turkey is probably popular mostly for its cultural heritage. In fact, Turkey has 13 cultural property inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and its culture is not limited to that. Since Turkey’s lands were home to huge empires throughout history, you can find magnificent historical buildings all around the country, especially in Istanbul. So, if you want to move to Turkey one day, this visual feast will be a part of your daily life.

It is a common fact that moving to another country which has totally different traditions than yours might not be an easy experience for everyone, so you should make good research before you made your mind. However, we can safely say that as an expat, you will probably love living in Turkey.

How many people speak Turkish?

Even though Turkey is a diverse country, the Turkish language is spoken by approximately 80,000,000 people including Turks, Kurds, and Armenians who live in Turkey. There are also a lot of speakers all around the world. Since Turkey is the most important one of the Turkic languages, there are many languages that connected to Turkish which you will be able to learn so easily as soon as you learn Turkish.

So, now we are going to light the way for you if you want to Turkish but you don’t know if it is an easy language to learn or the benefits that knowing Turkish will provide you. Here we go.

Is It Easy to Learn Turkish?

Turkey is probably one of the most different languages for you if you are a native English speaker, or you know the languages that close to English. Because of this, it might be hard for you to learn it. The major reason for this situation is because Turkish is an agglutinative language. So what does it mean? It means most of the Turkish expressions are made with additions to words, which we call “suffixes”.

The other thing you are not used to before learning Turkish is some letters in its alphabet. These are some difficult sounds written as “ç”, “ş”, “ı”, “ö”, “ü”, or “ğ”. It will be a difficult process for you to learn how to pronounce them. However, some of them are not harder than they look. For example, “ç” is actually a letter that used for the “ch” sound in English, and “ş” is “sh”.

Most of us know that the word order in English and the languages similar to it goes like subject, verb, and object. In the Turkish language, the verb is at the end of the sentence mainly. So, this is another thing that might be new to you.

I can hear that you are asking “Is it that difficult?”. The answer is, no. It is not as difficult as you think.

First of all, there are no genders in the Turkish language. It will save you a lot of time and effort while you are learning it because you don’t have to memorize which words are feminine, masculine, and neutral. They are just words. There aren’t even different words to refer to a third-person according to their gender. Like in English, you use “he”, “she”, “it” but in Turkish, it is just one word that contains only one letter, which is “o”. Also, just like genders, there are no articles in Turkish. Because of all of that, you won’t have to spend so much time learning Turkish words.

The Turkish alphabet extracted from the Latin Alphabet. It means you don’t have to suffer to learn a completely different alphabet. Of course, there are some different letters than English letters. For example, in Turkish, the letters “x”, “w”,”q” don’t exist but there are 6 more letters which are “ç”, “ğ”, “ı”, “ö”, “ü”, and “ş”. With all of the new letters and letters that don’t get used, the Turkish alphabet contains 29 letters.

Probably one of the easiest and most difficult things about learning Turkish is, it is a phonetically written language. It means you are pronouncing the words just the way you write it or vice versa. At first, it may seem difficult if you are not used to it but believe in us, this makes everything easy.

Last but not least, Turkish people really love it when you try to learn their language. They don’t mind if you make mistakes, they will just appreciate your hard work and encourage you to learn Turkish. Our suggestion is, if you want to learn Turkish, you should find yourself a Turkish friend to practice the language.

The Benefits of Learning Turkish

There are many reasons why you should learn different languages. For the most basic examples, to meet people all around to world, to travel easily, bigger business opportunities, and understanding different cultures. Then, why should we learn Turkish specifically?

Much More Than A Country’s Language

Turkey is literally a bridge between Europe and Asia. Since it has a very important strategic spot, for the many centuries, the most powerful empires invaded the land and Turkey became a home for them. This is one of the reasons why Turkey is a diversified country like that. Today, Turkey is home to 82 million people and the Turkish language is their official language. However, this population is not only limited by Turks. There are also people whose mother languages are Kumanji, Zaza, and Arabic. Still, these people speak Turkish natively. There is also a huge amount of Turkish immigrants living all around the world. So, when you think about it, the Turkish language is not only a country’s language. Just like Turkey, it is a bridge, between Europe and Asia.

Global Importance

Because of the reasons we talked about in the previous paragraph, Turkey’s important strategic spot, Turkey’s economy is growing every day. Since the land has connections with Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, it is an important trading area between the countries. This, of course, affects their economy in a good way. As Turkey’s economy grows, the importance of the Turkish language also grows. So, if you are a person who likes to plan their distant future, you should definitely consider learning Turkish.

Turkey in World Heritage

The Anatolia, where is now the territory of the Republic of Turkey, is a very important place in history. It is home to some of the world’s greatest archaeological sites, just like the oldest human settlement site that ever known. Along with it, Anatolia also contains Noak’s Ark, the city of Troy, and probably the most strategically important city in the world, Istanbul which is the only city in the world that is located on two continents at the same time. Everywhere you go in Turkey, you can see the pieces of previous civilizations. There is a huge history lying in the land because the Anatolia was once home to Hittite, Hellenistic, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman civilizations. It means that, if you learn Turkish, the doors of world heritage will open for you.

Feel Like a Local

With the developments in the field of education, English become popular in Turkey but it happened a little late than other European countries. So, the elderly population of Turkey has still some trouble when it comes to speaking English. Because of this reason, English might not be enough for you if you ever want to visit to Turkey or move there. To minimize the problems you are going to face just because you don’t know the language of Turkish people, and to have more fun by feeling like a local, you should at least learn basic Turkish expressions.

Basics of the Turkish Language

So far, we have learned some most basic information about the structure of the Turkish language. Like, it has 29 letters in its alphabet, most of the Turkish expressions are made with suffixes, it doesn’t have any genders or any articles in the language and, etc.

If you made your mind to learn Turkish, at least the basic expressions of the language but you have no idea where to start, we are here to help you, as always. Don’t forget that while you are learning a language, you should start with baby steps. Don’t go too harsh on yourself, set your goals and everything will be perfect. Here is a list of some basic Turkish expressions for you to start with:

Hello! = Merhaba!

Have a good day! = İyi günler!

Good night! = İyi geceler!

Goodbye! = Güle güle!

Please. = Lütfen.

See you later! = Sonra görüşürüz!

Sorry. = Özür dilerim.

Excuse me! = Affedersiniz!

How are you? = Nasılsın?

I’m fine. = İyiyim.

Yes. = Evet.

No. = Hayır.

What’s your name? = Adın ne?

My name is … = Adım …

How old are you? = Kaç yaşındasın?

Where are you from? = Nerelisin?

Languages that are Similar to Turkish

If you have ever read our previous post, you should know that learning a language is a great advantage to learn the other language that has similarities between. Or, if you already know a language, and you want to learn a similar language to that, it will be so much easier for you than a normal learner.

So, every language belongs to a family tree. Since they are coming from the same or similar ancestors, it is normal that two languages of the same language family have similarities. However, the reason for the similarities is not limited to this. Two languages can still be familiar and don’t have the same ancestor if the speakers of these two languages shared a history. Let’s see which languages are similar to Turkish and why.

Turkic Languages

Turkic language family group is a branch of the Altaic language family. This is a group that contains very similar languages that are spoken by people spread across a huge area from Western China to Eastern Europe and even Siberia. So, as members of the same family group, these languages are closely related to each other in morphology, phonology, and syntax. However, some languages like Chuvash or Khalaj can be different.

The Turkic languages are also separated into 4 main groups which are southwestern,  northwestern, southeastern, and northeastern but Chuvash and Khalaj are not in any of these groups, instead they form another branch.

The southeastern branch is also called the Oghuz branch and this branch also separates in three groups called The West Oghuz group,  The East Oghuz group, and The Southern Oghuz group. Now, why are we learning all of these? It’s because Turkey is a part of The West Oghuz group along with Azerbaijani and Gagauz. This means the Turkish language is very similar to these two languages. So, let’s check how similar Turkish and Azerbaijani are.

Similarities Between Turkish and Azerbaijani

Azerbaijani is the official language of the Republic of Azerbaijan and it is spoken by the Azeris living mostly in there and Iran. Turkish and Azerbaijani share some significant common linguistic features that can’t be found in other languages of Turkic languages. Of course, there are not the same language and there are differences and it is so normal because all languages develop in their own way as time passes. However, especially between the 13th and the 19th centuries, the differences between Turkish and Azerbaijani were so minimal that they attempted to combine these languages.

Both Turkish and Azerbaijani uses the Latin alphabet. In the Turkish alphabet, there are 29 letters and in the Azerbaijani alphabet, there are 3 more characters, in addition to these 29.

The majority of Azerbaijani words come from Turkish. Although this huge majority, Azerbaijani has also some different words that are either not exist in Turkish, or some similar words have different meanings in both languages. The two languages have taken many words from Arabic and Persian, but Azerbaijani also have taken many words from Russian.

Here is a list of similar words of Turkish and Azerbaijani:

lip = dudak (Turkish) = dodaq (Azerbaijani)

big = büyük = böyük

rabbit = tavşan = dovşan

hunter = avcı = ovçu

light = ışık = işıx

tongue = dil = dil

eye = göz = göz

back = arka = arxa

Translation of the Turkish Language

If you want to move to Turkey, or visit there to see its magnificent cultural richness, or you have important documents to get translated, you should only trust professionals that were trained for this. Don’t forget, even though you are a native speaker, it doesn’t mean you will be so successful in translation. It is something you shouldn’t risk.

So whatever kind of translation you need, our Turkish translation office provides Turkish translation services to its clients online. We are working with people who are professionals in their fields. You can always reach us and we will be happy to help you!

About the author:

Nazlıcan is an American Studies student from İzmir. She loves poetry, and her biggest dream is to own a boutique hotel one day.