Long before I’ve become a Turkish teacher, I remember even Turkish people used to say that the Turkish language is so difficult. “ Türkçe çok zor bir dilmiş.” I used to hear this. But when I studied Turkish language and literature at the university, I saw that it’s completely opposite. Turkish is so systematic and consistent. Okay, honestly I did find Turkish difficult when I had to force myself to understand Ottoman Turkish at the university, it was so hard to understand because of the strong influence by foreign languages in it. We had to learn some Persian and Arabic at the same time, and most importantly we used Arabic alphabet which was very difficult in the beginning. But luckily now we use Latin alphabet since 1928, and Turkish has much less influence than it used to be.
So where did this idea about the Turkish language being so difficult come from?
I got the answer when I started to teach Turkish to people from all over the world. You may think that it’s all about the person whether she or he has the ability for learning a language or not. But actually, this has a little part in the whole picture. Because it doesn’t matter whether you have a language brain or not, you would find Turkish difficult, if you don’t speak one of the Ural – Altaic languages such as Japanese, Korean, Mongolian or Finish. Surprise!
Most of my students don’t believe it when they hear this for the first time, but that’s the truth. This makes Turkish completely different from most common languages that people usually learn. It’s an agglutinative language which means words are comprised of pieces that add to the meaning of the word. These pieces are called suffixes; so we can say that Turkish is a suffix language. Without explaining it in a very linguistic way, I’ll explain this by giving examples about the similarities between English and Turkish. In English, there are many words which agglutinate (extend) to form other words. Taking the simple word predict, it can be modified to a prediction by the addition of -ion suffix. We can further extend this word with other suffixes such as -tive making it predictive, and even more to predictable by adding -able suffix. This then is the general way in Turkish. Even the little words like in, on, at, from are suffixed to their noun thus producing extended words with different meanings. Like “ev” means house and then the suffix -den means from, so from the house becomes “evden” in Turkish. Unlike English where prepositions such as: in, on, of, by, etc. are placed separately before the word they modify.
I think this is what makes people think like “ hmm, this is difficult!”. But on the other hand, after years of teaching Turkish, I’ve been hearing about Turkish being so systematic and consistent at the same time. After the students get used to the language they notice it. This means Turkish is actually not difficult but just different.
Now let’s talk about the advantages of learning the Turkish language!
First of all, Turkish language doesn’t have any gender or article. Those don’t exist in Turkish language. Even “she/ he/it” are the same word which is “O”. Yeah, it’s just “O”. So there is no concept of gender in Turkish language. Also: “a table” or “the table” is just “masa”, so you don’t need to put an article before or after the word when it is used in the sentence. Those make Turkish quite easier than many languages. Also relatively it has much fewer exceptions.
What about pronunciation? Well, I can say that this part is also easier than many languages. Because Turkish is entirely a phonetic language that means for each sound there is one letter. When you read a word you know how to pronounce it when you say a word you know how to write it.
So, I believe that no language is the hardest language in the world 🙂 But there is something that is true if we say it a little differently: some languages are harder than others for you. After teaching Turkish for years I saw that generalization just makes the wrong idea go viral. When you don’t connect with the language, it can be difficult to break past that, making it possibly the most difficult language in the world for you.
I think regardless of what the language is, learning one requires some challenge anyway.
Then “Kolay Gelsin” 🙂