Turkish Language Program

Istanbul cafe

Turkish is the official language of the Turkish Republic. It is a Southwestern Turkic (Oghuz Turkic) language, one of 30+ Turkic languages, and is spoken by 85 Million people in and near Turkey. Turkish, and its ancestor languages, possess a written history approaching two millennia, using perhaps a dozen alphabets, and spanning three continents. Modern Turkish uses a modified Latin alphabet of 29 letters (with an additional 3 which can be used for foreign words), has 8 vowels and sound harmony, a noun case system, no gender, no articles or prepositions, and numerous particles and productive suffixes that convey intricate shades of meaning. The word order is opposite that of English: Türk müsün diye sordum ↔ I asked: are you a Turk. It is closely related to other Turkic languages, and shows varying degrees of typological similarity to geographically distant languages such as Mongolian, Manchu, Korean, Japanese, Hungarian and Finnish. Though unrelated to any of its linguistic neighbors (Greek, Persian, Arabic, Slavic, Armenian, Georgian…), it has interacted considerably with these languages over the past millennium.

At a time when global socio-political, cultural and economic dynamics are in an unprecedented state of flux and quantum leap evolution, Turkey re-emerges as a full-fledged participant in the global realities of the 21st Century and beyond. As the fifth largest economy in Europe, and the 13th globally, Turkey is a country that seeks peaceful and integrated global economic, political, and strategic cooperation. At the cultural level, it has served as a blending territory for many of the world’s cultures. As for the Central Asian Turkic nations, their histories are inextricably linked with that of East Asia via the Silk Road, with South Asia via the Mughals and Ghaznavids, with Eastern Europe via the Golden Horde and the Ottoman Empire, and with the Middle East via the Safavids, Seljuqs, Ottomans, and Mamluks, to name but a few, and in more recent times, with that of the Soviet Union and its successor states, and of modern China. The foundation to foster the necessary awareness of this reality among our academic population rests upon our solid program in Modern Turkish Language and Culture, associated with our programs in Ottoman Studies and Turkic Studies.

Studying Turkish at UChicago

First-year Turkish introduces basic communicative skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and lays the foundation for a knowledge of Turkish grammar, ultimately bringing students to the Intermediate Level. Second Year Turkish builds upon this foundation, further developing reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, introduces Turkish literature, and brings the student to the High Intermediate or Advanced Level. In Third Year Turkish students improve their vocabulary, fluency, and accuracy working on a broad range of topics. Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Turkish are available during the academic year. Intensive Intermediate Turkish is also offered here during Summer Session, thereby allowing students to complete two years of Turkish in one year plus one summer session. The University of Chicago is one of the very few institutions to offer three levels of Modern Turkish every year.

Upon completion, the Modern Turkish program prepares students to work, live, and/or pursue academic research in geographical areas, or professional areas such as business or government, where Turkish is used.  A thorough knowledge of Modern Turkish also greatly facilitates the acquisition of the other 30+ Turkic languages, such as the closely-related neighboring Azeri language, Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Uyghur, and Tatar. A person fluent in Modern Turkish can learn these other Turkic languages in a matter of weeks or months. The Modern Turkish Program also feeds the Ottoman Turkish program, since Ottoman has a two-year Modern Turkish prerequisite. In addition to Ottoman, students of Modern Turkish may study Old Turkic, Middle Turkic, Uzbek and Kazakh here, and take content courses that are relevant to Turkish & Turkic themes. 

Within NELC, Modern Turkish can be used as an area language, or a research language. Turkish is eligible for FLAG and FLAS funding, and funded study can be undertaken over the summer months, as well as during the school yearOur students have had the opportunity to apply for various scholarships to experience quarter or year abroad programs in Turkey or Azerbaijan after taking first or second year with us. Our Turkish, Ottoman and Turkic languages program aims to provide students with the rigorous academic background and necessary language skills to carry out a broad range of research in Turkish, Ottoman and Turkic Studies topics. Students acquire tools for not only archival and library research, but also for fieldwork in Turkey and other relevant countries.