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Turkish Language Profile
Home > Languages > Turkish

Ural-Altaic / Altaic
Difficulty: ***

Learning Turkish provides a big advantage for this living, working, or vacationing in Turkey. It makes travelling through the country much easier and less expensive, as English is generally not sufficient to get around with, especially away from major cities. It opens up worlds to discover, as Turkey offers many attractive tourist destinations, as well as an archaeology buff's paradise. Although Turkish will seem completely foreign to most, aside from perhaps Japanese speakers, who get the grammar easily, or perhaps Arabic speakers who will find the many Arabic loan-words helpful, it is essentially a very logical language, with few or no irregularities, and an equally logical, phonetic use of the latin alphabet.

Thanks to Tyler Olson for his input!

Usefulness For anyone living, working, or frequently vacationing in Turkey, learning the language makes traveling considerably easier and cheaper. English is really only sufficient to get by in major cities, even there it's usefullness is limited. Also for anyone looking at spending much time there, learning the language opens up a world of social opportunities. Turks are very appreciative of anyone who manages to learn their somewhat challenging language. Also, since Turkish shares a considerable degree of mutual intelligibility with the other Turkish languages of central Asia, it provides a convenient bridge for anyone planning on living or travelling in that area.
Beauty In all honesty, it's not a very pretty language. However, in this case the context makes a big difference. For example, the same vowel sounds that make it sound somewhat unattractive in speech, lend themselves very well to song and lyrical poetry.
Chic factorLiving in the U.S. the chic factor is limited. Perhaps in Europe where multilingualism is more common this would be different. However, the ability to travel to all of Turkey's, and perhaps some of central Asia's, beautiful and exotic places, without the need of a guide, should lend itself naturally to the languages chic factor. Nonetheless, this the language of a powerful nation and that it enjoys a rather exotic grammatical system.
Speakers 70 million in Turkey
Countries Turkey, considerable Turkish minority in Germany, (Noticable degree of mutual intelligibility with the languages of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazhakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and the Uygur autonomous region of Western China)
Regional Variations The Turkish spoken in the West of the country is standard, and is used in news broadcasts, etc. There's a bit of variation in the Black Sea region, and a definite distinction between standard Turkish and that spoken in the Southeast. For the purposes of traveling to other Turkic speaking countries, proficiency in the language would be necessary to understand.
Travel Turkey itself offers many tempting destinations, from sunny beaches to the ruins of bronze age civilization. Also, with a good command of Turkish and a sense of adventure, one may be able to travel the old silk road through central Asia. It's important to note that the far Southeast of Turkey is predominantly Kurdish and Turkish becomes less useful.

The culture in the West of the country is decidedly Mediterranean. Turkish people are pleasant and generally helpful. The food wonderful. Further East, the culture is more Middle Eastern, offering a whole different set of sites for the adventurous traveler.



One of the main features of Turkish is "vowel harmony", the fact that vowels change in words as you add suffixes to them.

The difficulty in pronunciation varies depending on what your mother-tongue is. Turkish has a few vowels that may provide some difficulty if your mother-language is dominated by consonants with fewer vowels. As a native English speaker I managed the pronunciation without too much difficulty. Also, Turks are very appreciative of foreigners who attempt to learn their language and will make an effort to understand you.


This may provide some confusion. Turkish is an agglutinative language. Basically phrases that would take up several words in other languages are compressed into one by adding a series of suffixes. It may be tough getting used to a language that often seems to leave out pronouns and prepositions, but once again the basic logic of Turkish should make this easier. Once you understand how to conjugate one verb, you can conjugate every verb.

For the language lover, this is a very attractive grammatical feature that sets turkish apart from most other languages!


This aspect of Turkish can make it much easier. In order to simply get around, or have basic conversations, you need relatively few words. In order to read or write more are necessary.

There are many word pairs in Turkish that look very much the same and yet have very different meanings. For example, kar'In can mean "of the snow" or "your wife" or with a slight change "belly". Only context will help you tell them apart.


The Turkish alphabet is completely logical and phonetic. Every letter has one sound. And it's a variant of the latin alphabet so it should be the easiest aspect of learning Turkish.

Overall difficulty

Arguably the easiest of Asian languages. Speakers of Japanese or Korean may learn it much faster as the grammer bears many similarities. Also speakers of Arabic or Farsi have an advantage in vocabulary.

Time needed

Basic conversation could be achieved in a little less than a year. Unless you speak Arabic or Farsi, reading and writing proficiently will take longer.


Learning material
Books and tapesFSI Turkish

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