6 Interesting Facts about Turkish

Turkish is spoken by around 81 million people today. The number is not only limited to the country that shares a name with the language because significant smaller groups of speakers exist in some European countries, for example, Germany. Almost 3 million people speak Turkish there.

The language belongs to the Altaic branch of the Ural-Altaic family but it has also had a lot of influence from Arabic (for example, the words Kelime, meaning word, Sıfat, meaning adjective) and Persian (take Ateş, meaning fire, or Zil, which means bell).

Even if you’re a beginner level in Turkish, you can easily make a sentence just by following the subject – object – verb structure. Actually, this sentence structure makes Turkish stand out from most major European languages which follow the subject – verb – object model.

Below you will find even more interesting facts about the Turkish language.

1. Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeye-bileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine

Believe it or not, this is just ONE word in Turkish, with the quite prosaic meaning as if you are the ones we quickly will not be able to make unsuccessful. This word really consists of 70 letters. Yes, you read that right – 70 letters. And you thought German had long words.

And also, there are so many similar examples to give. Just take these: Kuyruksallayangiller (Motacillidae) is a Turkish word which consists of 20 letters, Emememe (inability to absorb), yamayamamama (inability to patch), mayalayamamalıyım (I shouldn’t be able to yeast).

There is also no holding back when it comes to names. Kocakethüdaoğullarından is a 23-letter surname, Afyonkarahisar is a city in Western Turkey, and Şereflikoçhisar is a district name consisting of 15 letters.

2. All you need to know is a verb

In Turkish, there is a verb Çıkmak, which has 58 different meanings in daily usage. Some of these meanings in English are go out, get out, exit, leave, climb, walk, increase, spend.

So, if you are translating any of these words from English into Turkish (or the other way around), you will always come across the same word. This sometimes causes trouble for learners of English whose mother tongue is Turkish.

3. 29 or 23 letters?

Turkish alphabet consists of 29 letters. There are modern Latin letters, yes, but you’ll never see a Turkish person using x,q, or w. In addition to these widely recognisable symbols, there are also letters unknown to most European languages, such as ç, ğ, ş.

Similarly to German, Turkish makes use of umlauts to signify vowel quality, in addition to other diacritics. In simple terms, that means that small markings change c, g, ı, o, s, u to ç, ğ, i, ö, ş ,ü, which have a different sound.

4. Letters equal sounds in Turkish

If the previous points have started to make Turkish look difficult, there is also some good news for prospective Turkish-learners.

You may have noticed that, in English, one letter sometimes equals two sounds. The letter c can be pronounced as s or k (you can see both of these in action in the word cycle). The same is true for French, for example with the letter f, which can either be ff or ph. As you can expect, this can cause a lot of confusion for anyone learning these languages. But you will never experience this in Turkish.

In the Turkish language, one letter can only represent one sound, eliminating a lot of confusion for beginner language learners.

5. Turkish words are essentially sentences

Another interesting aspect of Turkish, which sets it apart from languages like German or French, is the way this particular language produces words and sentences.

In Turkish, yazmışmışım is just one word, but when you want to produce exactly the same idea in German, things are quite different. That is because you need to use no fewer than six words to convey the same meaning: Ich soll, wie es heisst, geschrieben haben.

And again, dinlemektesiniz is just one word in Turkish in French the thought requires five words: Vous êtes en train d’écouter.

6. Namesake!

Like in every culture, some children’s names in Turkish are more popular than others.

If you’re a guy living in Turkey and have the name Mehmet then you’re just one of the 2,8 million people sharing that particular name. Similarly, if you name your daughter Fatma, she will be one of two and a half million Fatmas living in the country.

This article was written by Sevde A – our English and Turkish teacher in Budapest.

For more interesting language facts, check out our posts about Cantonese, Bulgarian, or Arabic. Or, if this has made you want to learn more about this fascinating language, you can sign up for private Turkish lessons below: