Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Languages of Turkey



Turkish is the main and official language of Turkey. This language has roots in Central Asia, and its modern form evolved largely out of the Ottoman language. When Ataturk reformed Turkey in the 1920s, one of the modernization efforts was replacing the Ottoman script with the Latin alphabet, which is used today.

Outside of Turkey, there are still some people that speak Turkish as a first language in the Balkans, due the the former rule of the Ottoman Empire. About 67 million people in Turkey (93% of the population) speak Turkish as a first language. Most others know it as a second language, so one could easily get around this country only speaking Turkish.

Kurmanji (Northern Kurdish)

Kurmanji is a form of Kurdish spoken in Turkey, as well as by Kurdish people in Syria, Iran and Iraq. This language has Indo-European roots, and uses the Latin alphabet. It is mainly spoken in the eastern part of this country. About 4 million people speak this language.


Dimli is an Indo-European language spoken by the Zazas, a group in Eastern Turkey. Its structure is similar to several Caspian languages. There are about one million Dimli speakers who live in Turkey.

South Azerbaijani

South Azerbaijani is also known as South Azeri, and is spoken in eastern regions of Turkey. It is an Altaic language that is intelligible with North Azeri. About 530,000 people in Turkey speak this language.

North Mesopotamian Arabic

North Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken in eastern Turkey, in the regions of Mardin, Batman, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Hatay and a few others. It is a Semitic language that is somewhat similar to Jewish Baghdadi Arabic.


English has been continually growing as a widely-spoken second language in Turkey. It began to grow popular after WWII, and today, English words are used in the media, politics and everyday communication. Many young people, particularly in urban areas, will use English words in everyday conversation. In public high schools, many students learn English as a second language rather than French or German. Many colleges and universities in Turkish cities also have classes taught in English, and lots of Turkish students go to the United States for exchange programs or language schools, partially to enhance their English skills.


German is another second language to some Turks, but is not as popular as English. Lots of Turks emigrate to Berlin and other German cities and learn it there.


Albanian is spoken largely by the Albanian immigrants as a first language. It is an Indo-European language.


2 thoughts on “Learning the Languages of Turkey

  1. And I’d add that there’s still quite a few French speakers, some native in Istanbul and near Antakya, and some who have studied in French schools like Galatasaray in Istanbul or abroad (mostly Switzlerdand). But I guess they’re a tiny minority now!

  2. I feel like it is fading. My friend said she went to private school in Ankara which was all in French but she is much better at English.

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