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Turkish Language

Why Study Turkish?

Turkish is the longest documented and most complex of the Turkic languages, and the one with the most speakers (more than 80 million).

It is the national language of the Republic of Turkey, a key player in the complex politics of the Middle East, and one of the largest and most dynamic economies of the area, as a major trading partner of the European Union on one side and the countries of the Middle East on the other.

Turkish was also the administrative language of the predecessor of Turkey, the Ottoman Empire, which for more than four centuries was the predominant power in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, at the peak of its power extending from Sudan to Hungary, and from Algeria to Yemen and the Caucasus.

Both the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey have produced a rich and variegated culture, from folk and elite tradition to a literature of breathtaking modernity.

As a part of the Turkic language family, Turkish is categorized as an agglutinative language, meaning that its structure is rich, highly abstract, and of fascinating, almost mathematical regularity. Written in Latin characters since 1928, its writing system matches its logical structure.

Turkish is also the most convenient stepping stone on the way to older forms of the language, such as Ottoman Turkish, the literary language of the Ottoman Empire written in Arabic letters, and other modern Turkic languages, most of which are spoken in Central Asia, such as Uzbek, Kazakh, Kirghiz, or Uyghur.

Language Program Information

The Turkish Program in the Department of Middle East Studies prepares students for a wide range of professions that entail interaction with Turkish language-speakers and new and old Turkish culture. It is structured around three consecutive years of language instruction in modern Turkish. Our courses in modern Turkish are taught communicatively, emphasizing all four basic language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing), and using original material from the beginning. Advanced courses focus on original material from media and literature. In addition we teach Ottoman Turkish and (via course-sharing) Uzbek and Kazakh. Instruction in Turkish is supported by a wide variety of cultural activities.

We offer a sequence of courses on Turkish cultures from a broad overview to more specific courses on Ottoman and modern Turkish culture, providing “cultural literacy” as the capability to navigate competently cultural contexts related to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. A four-course sequence narrates the history of the Turks from the beginnings of the Ottoman Empire to the contemporary issues of the Republic. Both sets will appeal to the future specialist in the Middle East as well as to any student interested in other cultures and non-western history.

Turkish Language Courses

Regularly Offered Turkish Courses

TURKISH 101: Elementary Turkish I (4 credits)

TURKISH 102: Elementary Turkish II (4 credits)

TURKISH 201: Intermediate Turkish I (4 credits)

TURKISH 202: Intermediate Turkish II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement) (4 credits)

TURKISH 504: Modern Turkish Readings (3 credits)


Other Turkish Course Offerings (Please note that these courses are only offered when need exists. Interested students should contact the department at

TURKISH 203: Intensive Intermediate Turkish I & II (8 credits)

TURKISH 401: Advanced Turkish I (3 credits)

TURKISH 402: Advanced Turkish II (3 credits)

TURKISH 405: Introduction to Ottoman Turkish I (3 credits)

TURKISH 406: Introduction to Ottoman Turkish II (3 credits)

TURKISH 407: Readings in Ottoman Turkish (3 credits) 

TURKISH 410: Topics in Turkish Language (3 credits)


Turkish Textbooks

There is no required textbook for elementary or intermediate Turkish courses. Students use a coursepack provided by the course instructor, who will also provide supplemental worksheets, handouts, and audio and visual materials.