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Kurdish resources?

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 Message 1 of 12
03 March 2007 at 2:41pm | IP Logged 
I want to add Kurdish to the languages that I'm studying but I can't find any learning materials. What do you use to study Kurdish?
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 Message 2 of 12
03 March 2007 at 3:34pm | IP Logged 
You don’t specify which variety of Kurdish you are interested in, and so it isn’t easy to make recommendations. But in hopes it will be helpful, and as a reference for anyone else who may be interested in Kurdish, I’m re-posting here four (long!) notes I wrote a couple of years ago on another language-learning website. They deal with 1) what it means to “learn Kurdish”, 2) materials for Kurmanci, 3) materials for Sorani, 4) materials for Zazaki, as well as a final note with some excellent materials that have only gone on-line recently. It’s probably way more than you, or anyone else for that matter, would ever want to read through, but it is fairly exhaustive:


Various people here seem to be interested in learning “Kurdish”, and for various reasons, but I have the impression not everyone is all that familiar with the dialect situation, so I thought I’d try to give a brief introduction so that people don’t spin their wheels on learning aspects of the language that don’t suit their needs.

Learning Kurdish tends to be a frustrating and confusing exercise, due to the dialect situation, the political situation of the Kurds in different countries, and the problem of finding good materials to learn from.

As the Kurds are split among a number of different countries, they all speak very widely differing varieties of Kurdish. There are two “main” dialects, the “northern” (or Kurmanci), and the “southern” (Sorani), but there are also lots of variations within these dialects, and other, outlying dialects, such as in the deep south of Iraqi Kurdistan or among the Fayli Kurds, that are even more different still. Then, there are related but probably not really Kurdish groups such as the Zazas or Dimilis in Turkey, as well as the speakers of Gorani/Hawramani, who often consider themselves Kurds or are considered by other Kurds to be Kurds, but who have yet another entirely divergent way of speaking. The speakers of Bahdinani, in Iraqi Kurdistan, are essentially Kurmanci speakers, but there’s a good deal of influence from both Arabic and Sorani in their dialect, so that it differs a good deal from the “standard” Kurmanci dialect.

To give just a couple of examples of the differences among the main dialects of Kurmanci and Sorani, which one book describes as being as different from one another as English and German:

“I go” in standard Kurmanci is “Ez diçim“

This is “Min deçim“ in standard Sorani, which comes across to Kurmanci speakers as “Me go”. (Kurmanci has the distinction of ez/min for I/me, but in Sorani both pronouns have become “min”.)

But in Suleymaniya, the biggest Sorani-speaking city and the center of Sorani Kurdish cultural and intellectual life, the local dialect uses “Min eçim“, dropping the d entirely.

Other examples of the differences: Nouns in Kurmanci are divided into two genders, masculine and feminine. Sorani has eliminated the gender distinction entirely. Kurmanci has a future tense, while Sorani uses the present tense to express both the present and the future. Kurmanci forms the passive mood by using the word for “come” and the infinitive of the verb: Ez tîm dîtin, I am seen, is formed like “I come to be seen”, whereas Sorani has two suffixes, -ra and –rê, which are put onto the active-voice verb forms to show the passive in the past and present, respectively. Sorani inserts subject and object pronouns inside the verbs, while these are kept separate in Kurmanci. An example:

”I see you” is “Ez te dibînim” in Kurmanci, literally, I you am-seeing. In Sorani, the “t” of “you” goes inside the verb, so the expression is “Min detbînim”, or “I am-you-seeing”. This becomes even more complicated in the past tense in Sorani

Sorani is written in a modified version of the Arabic script, while most Kurmanci is written in the Latin script.

Essentially, these “dialects” are sufficiently distinct from one another that, as a learner, it really makes more sense to treat them as two separate but related languages, and to learn one thoroughly before tackling the other, so as not to get confused between the two. While a person can learn, say, both Spanish and French, or Italian and Spanish, and benefit by the similarities between them, it really doesn’t make sense to treat them as the same language. Kurds themselves very much want to see themselves as one people, who speak different dialects of one language, but this is a very unrealistic approach for people who are not already native speakers of some variety of Kurdish.

In addition to the dialect differences cited, the fact that most Kurds live in countries where the official language is something other than Kurdish also has a tremendous impact. In Turkey, for instance, all official education is in Turkish, and Kurdish was forbidden by law until a few years ago. So most Kurds, even if they can speak Kurdish, get all their education in Turkish, and are usually pretty much illiterate in Kurdish unless they make a special concerted effort to learn to read and write it – and if they can find appropriate materials to learn it, which isn’t easy. All the technical vocabulary they know comes from Turkish, and so their Kurdish tends to fill up with a lot of Turkish vocabulary. In Iraq, the situation is a bit better now, but in years past, Arabic played a similar role as Turkish in Turkey. In Syria, again it was Arabic, while in Iran, Persian. So Kurdish has been a language used in the homes and the villages, but Kurds have had to become fluent in other languages to make their way in the wider world. These other languages have had a big impact not only on the Kurds in each individual country, but also upon the Kurdish spoken in those countries, and you have to factor this in in terms of deciding what variety you want to learn and what materials to use for it.

Finally, on materials, there hasn’t been much available until fairly recently for people to learn Kurdish, and the situation has been in some ways even worse for Kurds seeking to study their own language. You don’t find books, CDs, etc. the way you do for other languages; the ones that have been produced are often hard to find, go out of print quickly, and tend to be based on the local dialect spoken by the people who have prepared them.

My point in going on so long is to make it clear that while “learning Kurdish” is indeed possible, you have to be more specific in your own mind as to just what variety of Kurdish you are going to learn, and then choose your materials accordingly. If you have a Kurdish boyfriend or girlfriend and that’s your primary motivating factor, then you should really start with that person’s variety of Kurdish, and get materials for it, rather than confusing matters with other varieties of Kurdish. If you already know Turkish, it would make more sense to start with Kurmanci, as you will have a head start on the dialect used by Kurds from Turkey, and can also use materials written in Turkish rather than have to depend on materials in English. I have written a couple of other postings earlier regarding available materials and how to obtain them, and would be happy to provide further details or answer questions if people have them. But realistically speaking, if you want to learn Kurdish, you’re going to have to buy a good book or two and work with it, and utilize whatever chance you have to speak with Kurds who speak that variety of Kurdish. You can’t learn it via the internet the way you can with some languages, and whatever dialect of Kurdish you learn will certainly help you to “break the ice” with any Kurds you meet, but won’t equip you to speak fluently with all Kurds. Learning Kurdish is substantially more difficult than learning Spanish, but it can be done if you get suitable materials and really work at over time.

I’m sorry to go on for so long, but I hope that at least some of what I’ve said above will clarify the situation for those of you who are interested in learning Kurdish. I’ve spent a number of years learning Kurmanci, and have met lots of wonderful people in the process. It’s been intensely frustrating, but also in the end quite satisfying, and I wish the best to others on the same path.

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Materials to learn Kurmanci Kurdish

I wrote a little "essay" on this a year or so ago and posted it on Phrasebase, but the archive now seems to be missing, so here's the text of what I wrote then, in hopes you find it useful:

Materials to learn Kurmanci Kurdish - Various people in this group have asked about materials to learn Kurdish. Having first gotten interested in learning Kurdish a number of years ago, before the days of the internet, and when the language was forbidden by law in Turkey and next to no materials were available, I can appreciate your frustration, but believe me the situation has improved immensely since the days of my initial struggles. So in the hope of being helpful to those of you seeking materials, I’ll try to list some of the more useful materials, as well as how to get hold of them.

The first thing to focus on is which “dialect” you’re interested in learning. As much as the Kurds insist on treating Kurdish as one language, the dialect difference is very big. One (European) writer described the differences between Kurmanci and Sorani as equivalent to those between English and German. He wasn’t far wrong, and so you have to decide which you’re going to start with. Although there are similarities once you’ve learned one of them well, you’ll go crazy trying to learn both at the same time, and so you have to choose your study materials accordingly.

Kurmanci is the dialect with the greater number of speakers. It’s the dialect spoken by the Kurds of Turkey, Syria, the former Soviet Union, the northernmost Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan, and the northwestern Kurds in Iraq (i.e., the Kurds in the Barzani-run region of Iraqi Kurdistan, where it’s known as Bahdini or Bahdinani and is a bit different from “standard” Kurmanci.) It’s written in the Latin script in Turkey and Syria, in Arabic script in Iran and Iraq, and in Cyrillic in the former Soviet Union. Sorani is the southern dialect, written in the Arabic script, and is spoken (with variations) by most Iranian Kurds and by the “Talabani” Kurds in Iraq. (There are other variants of Kurdish spoken further south in both Iran and Iraq, which are not normally written, and there is also Zaza/Dimili, spoken in Turkey, which really isn’t Kurdish but is often considered as such by Kurds and others.)

In this posting, I’m going to list some sources for Kurmanci, which is the dialect I know, and the one for which materials are most plentiful. I’ll try to follow up later with one for Sorani, but it will be more limited.

In English: There is a very good textbook for learning Kurmanci Kurdish, entitled “Learn Kurdish/Dersen Kurdi”, by Baran Rizgar, available from Amazon in the UK. (From the regular Amazon site in the US, you can jump to the other Amazon sites from the bottom of the page.) This book is 299 pages long, has excellent grammatical explanations and lots of exercises, and is a godsend for anyone interested in Kurmanci. I wish I had had it when I was starting out! The same writer has also produced a very good Kurdish-English/English-Kurdish dictionary, also available from Amazon in the UK. If you’re at all interested in Kurmanci Kurdish, you should get both books immediately.

There’s really not much else available for Kurmanci in English in terms of grammars, but you don’t need much else if you work your way through Rizgar’s book. There is the very expensive (75 dollars!) and massive Kurdish-English dictionary by Michael Chyet, which is a big investment but does have a good many words you won’t find elsewhere. (Maddeningly, it also neglects a lot of fairly common words and expressions. So I would buy the Rizgar books and then, when sure you’re serious and looking for something more, buy the Chyet dictionary.)

In French: If you know French, there is “Le Kurde Sans Peine”, by Kamuran Bedir Khan, produced by the Kurdish Institute of Paris and available from Amazon in France or from the Alapage online bookstore ( 206 pages long, it has lots of practice material, although it’s marred by a fair number of typos. Another resource in French is “Manuel de Kurde: Kurmanji”, by Joyce Blau and Veysi Barak, 225 pages, which is a bit more grammar-oriented but also a bit more systematic. A cassette is available for it as well. The standard reference grammar for Kurmanci, “Grammaire Kurde”, by Emir Djeladet Bedir Khan and Roger Lescot, is a treasure-chest, and is likewise available via the above online bookstores. So there are three marvelous resources available if your French is up to snuff.

In German: There are two excellent textbooks. One is “Rojbas: Einfuehrubg in die Kurdische Sprache” (207 pages), by Petra Wurzel, which has a separate exercise-key and vocabulary volume (80 pages). Very systematic and clear, if your German is good. The other is “Lehrbuch der Kurdischen Sprache” by Usso B. Barnas and Johanna Salzer. 265 pages, and a separate cassette is also sold. Both these textbooks are good if you know German. There’s also a large Kurdish/German dictionary (“Kurdisch-Deutsches Woerterbuch: Kurmanci” by Feryad Fazie l Omar. 721 pages. The Bedir Khan –Lescot reference grammar cited above is also available in German translation as “Kurdische Grammatik” (330 pages). All of these should be available via Amazon Germany or other large online booksellers in Germany.

In Turkish: None of the above were available when I first started working on Kurdish, and so I used a slim book in Turkish, “Dersen Zimane Kurdi”, by “Baran” (actually Kemal Burkay). This is now available online as a PDF file of 122 pages. Go to the Roja Nu website ( and at the left you’ll see a URL for “Kurtce Dil Dersleri”; click that and you’ll get a free copy to print up. This is a handy little guide for beginners, with the only real drawback being that the genders of nouns are not provided, so you don’t know whether the words you’re learning are masculine or feminine. (All of the other books cited above do specify the genders.) The same reference grammar cited above is also available in two slightly different Turkish Phrases as “Kurtce Gramer” and “Kurtce Dilbilgisi”, while the French textbook noted above “Le Kurde Sans Peine”, is also available in Turkish as “Kolay Kurtce”. All can be ordered online from the Pandora Kitap Hizmeti bookstore in Istanbul ( As for dictionaries, there’s the Kurdish-Turkish/Turkish-Dictionary (913 pages) by “Izoli”, available from Pandora, and now there is a giant Kurdish-Turkish (2,132 pages) and a somewhat less giant Turkish-Kurdish (1,278 pages) dictionary by Zana Farqini, both published by the Istanbul Kurdish Institute. Obtaining these latter might be a problem; I got Pandora to send them to me, and I presume they would do the same for anyone who inquired via e-mail, although they’re not listed in their online catalog.

So as you see, there’s plenty of material out there to learn Kurdish…

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Materials for learning Kurdish - Sorani

Having posted an earlier message on materials for learning the Kurmanci dialect of Kurdish, I herewith give a (more limited) listing of available materials to learn the Sorani dialect. As brief background, Sorani is the so-called “southern” dialect of Kurdish, spoken by the “Talabani’ Kurds in Iraq and by most of the Iranian Kurds. Written in a modified version of the Arabic script, it is in a sense the more developed of the two major Kurdish dialects, since it has always been the “official” Kurdish dialect used/tolerated in both Iran and Iraq for Kurdish education and publishing, but it is spoken by a smaller number of people than the Kurmanci dialect I dealt with in my earlier message.

Books for learning Sorani are rather limited and not all that “user-friendly”. The only real “course” is “Kurdish Basic Course: Dialect of Sulaimania, Iraq”, by Jamal Jalal Abdulla and Ernest N. McCarus, published by the University of Michigan in 1967. The entire set consists of five volumes: a textbook, three readers, and a dictionary (more a glossary to the series than a complete dictionary). The lessons to the course use a rather awkward Roman-alphabet transliteration system, and the Arabic-script portions of the series use an older version of the alphabet rather than the version currently used by the Iraqi Kurds. It is not easy to use. On the upside, however, several cassette tapes are available, so you get some hearing practice. To my knowledge, this is the only complete introduction to Sorani available in English, and as noted above, it is quite awkward to use. You can order the materials from this website:

Another, much more recent, but also very awkward, book for learning Sorani is “Sorany Kurdish for English Speakers”, by Dr. Dr. Fereydun Rafiq Hilmi, published in the UK I 2000. 331 pages long, all in the author’s own Latin transliteration, and with an accompanying cassette. An idiosyncratic work, this book has lots of useful material in it, but the grammatical explanations will confuse you to no end unless you already are fairly well acquainted with Sorani grammar, which is quite different from Kurmanci grammar and, frankly, strikes me as a bit “quirky”. So while the Hilmi book may be useful for someone who’s already learned the basics, I wouldn’t recommend it to a complete beginner. It’s available from Amazon in the UK, as well as (from the author?) at

A similar compilation is the booklet and cassettes set sold by Audioforum, entitled “Easy Way to Kurdish Language”, by Soraya Mofty. Again, it may be useful as practice for someone who already knows the basics, but it doesn’t really explain anything, and will likely prove extremely frustrating if you don’t already know the basic grammar. There’s a crying need for a good introductory textbook in English, but until it appears, it seems learners will have to struggle with the Michigan course noted above and then move on to the other items mentioned. (If you know French, the situation is better; see below.)

In terms of dictionaries, the now out-of-print “Kurdish Dictionary” by Taufiq Wahby and C. J. Edmonds, 179 pages, all in Latin script, is still very useful, and is worth photocopying from a library if you can find a copy. There’s a new Sorani Kurdish to English dictionary available, entitled “The Sharezoor”, by Shafiq Qazzaz, 601 pages and in the standard Arabic script with Latin transliteration, this is very good. It’s available via Amazon. English to Kurdish, there’s a small dictionary entitled Raman English-Kurdish Dictionary”, 795 pages but not that many words per page, available from Amazon UK.

If you know French, you’re in luck: Joyce Blau has written a very attractive, up to date, and systematic introduction to Sorani, “Methode de Kurde: Sorani”, 323 pages, which includes grammatical explanations, exercises, and some reading selections. It’s available via Amazon/France or Alapage ( In terms of dictionaries between Sorani and French, here pickings are slim: there are only two small “beginner’s” dictionaries, which may help in learning vocabulary but won’t be enough for reading most texts. These are “Dictionnaire Fondamental Kurde-Francais Dialecte Sorani” by Halkawt Hakim (317 pages) and “Dictionnaire Francais-Kurde” by Halkawt Hakim and Gerard Gautier (247 pages). Likewise available via Amazon/France or Alapage.

In German, there’s a large dictionary, “Woerterbuch Kurdisch-Deutsch: Sorani”, which I haven’t seen, and which is currently out of print. I’ve been told that a reprinting is planned for the near future, however.

All in all, as you can see, materials for Sorani are less developed than for Kurmanci.
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Zaza Dil Kursu: 30 page of lessons in Zazaki (Dersim dialect), written in Turkish, as a PDF file:

A German version of these lessons:

Zazaca Kurs: 14 brief lessons written in Turkish:

Some articles in German regarding Zazaki:

Zaza Language Forum (mostly in Turkish or Zazaki, but with some postings in German or English):


I know of no easily available “textbooks” to learn Zazaki in any language.

There are two large reference grammars of Zazaki, both written in German for philologists, and both rather heavy going unless your German is quite good:

One of these is: Zilfi Selcan: Grammatik der Zaza-Sprache. Nord-Dialekt. Berlin: Wissenschaft und Technik Verlag, 1998. xiii + 730 pages. ISBN 3-928943-96-0.

A lengthy review in English by linguist Geoffrey Haig can be read at: aza.html

The other is: Ludwig Paul: ZAZAKI. Grammatik und Versuch einer
Dialektologie Dr. Ludwig-Reichert Verlag. 366 pages. Wiesbaden,

Both these grammars have bibliographies of earlier works on Zazaki.

There is also a dissertation on Zazaki grammar in English by Terry Lynn Todd, which is rather thin: Trery Lynn Todd: A grammar of Dimili. Also Known as
Zaza. University of Michigan, 1985. Second Edition, August 2002, in Sweden, Iremet Förlag, ISBN Nr.:91-973977-0-9.
Adress: Iremet Förlag: Box 4014, 12804 Stockholm,

Finally, there are a number of small Zazaki-Turkish dictionaries that have been published, most rather small and of dubious quality, available through on-line bookstores in Turkey such as Pandora ( Some of these are:

* Vate Calisma Grubu, Türkce-Kirmanca(Zazaca) Sözlük Istanbul, 2001
* Mesut Özcan, Zazaca-Türkce Sözlük. Istanbul, 1997
* Mehmeht Aydar, Zazaca-Türkce Sözlük. 2003

There are also two reference grammas in written in Turkish, not easily obtained:

Gıramere Zazaki, by Fahri Pamukçu, published by Tij Yayınları in Istanbul in 2001, 432 pages
Türkçe Açıklamalı "Kırmancca (Zazaca) Gramer", by Munzur Çem, published by Deng Yayınları in Istanbul, 357 pages
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Since the above notes were put on-line, the Harvard University Iranian Studies webpage has now posted some VERY useful materials for both Kurmanci and Sorani Kurdish, as well as various older Iranian languages, in PDF format.

The site is at:

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 Message 3 of 12
10 March 2007 at 11:34am | IP Logged 
Thank you. I didn't even realize that there were different forms of the language. A big reason I'd like to learn it is because I have met a Kurdish speaker who is interested in teaching me the language in bits whenever we run into each other but his English isn't that great and I'd like to be able to learn on my own also so that the time I spend with him isn't wasted. Next time I see him I'm going to ask him which version he speaks and then check out the resources. Thank you for your informative post.

Edited by muttix2 on 10 March 2007 at 11:35am

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 Message 4 of 12
17 June 2007 at 1:05pm | IP Logged 
Not sure if anyone is still interested, but I came across these sites that may be useful to anyone learning Kurdish. nji/
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 Message 5 of 12
19 June 2007 at 7:51am | IP Logged 

Hats off! Yours is the best outline of linguistic situation of Kurdish and difficulties you encounter when you try to learn it I've ever read.

I've been only to southern parts of Iranian Kurdistan (Kermanshah and westwards to the Iraqi border). It was interesting to notice the variety of local vernaculars (Kalhori and Awramani). In Paveh we were told that while the town itself is mainly "Sorani / Kordi" (whatever they meant by that)-speaking, in a part of it only Awramani is used.

Anyway here you can find the links to recordings in various Iranian langs, many kinds of Kurdish among them.
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 Message 6 of 12
09 July 2007 at 3:44pm | IP Logged 
Peterlin, I forgot to thank you for your kind words.

I felt a bit of hesitation in posting such a long screed, but given the difficulty of the dialect situation, as well as of finding suitable materials, I thought it might be useful to have everything in one place for those (presumably relatively few) learners out there with a desire to learn, or just a curiosity about, Kurdish.

As for Kalhori, (H)awramani, etc., I don't really know anything about them, and materials for them are even more limited. There's a book in French about the Southern Kurdish dialects that deals with them to a degree, but I don't have an exact reference with me at the moment.

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 Message 7 of 12
16 November 2007 at 3:55pm | IP Logged 
Daristani,thank you to much to much to much.
Only in hear i found realy usefull information.
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 Message 8 of 12
16 November 2007 at 7:21pm | IP Logged 
Allina, I'm happy to help. I would urge you to look first at the

site, which has very good descriptions of both dialects of Kurdish. Unfortunately, the materials there are not arranged in "lessons" for learners, but are rather in an item-by-item description of the language, but there are lots of example sentences which show the way both dialects work. The English is rather formal and not always easy to understand, however. Still, the fact that you can download all the materials for free from the internet is an advantage.

Soviet Kurdologists wrote a number of useful books on Kurdish, but these were, to my knowledge, all philological works, and not textbooks for non-Kurds, so I didn't cite them in my notes above.    

Good luck with your Kurdish studies; the language is rather frustrating to learn, because of the lack of materials, but all Kurds are very appreciative of anyone who tries to learn Kurdish, and they will give you lots of encouragement.   

Edited by daristani on 16 November 2007 at 7:21pm

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