Author Archives: fluentinturkish

Turks living in Germany

a capture from the movie “Willkommen in Deutschland” (2011)

Why so many Turks live in Germany?

German industry was booming and the country desperately needed manpower. 50 years ago large numbers of Turks started streaming into Germany in order to help country’s labor shortage. Millions of them and their next generation remain there today. German may not have expected the Turks to settle, but they did after some generation. Today, 3 million Turks live in Germany and some of them feel Germany as their home.

Turkish-decent students go through the German education system with their German classmates. Statistically, they don’t have a bright future ahead as much as German classmates. There is one main reason for that: Language. In order to get a proper education, a student must speak German as though it is the mother tongue. If not, uneducated students having integrity issues have been created. However, the vast majority of Turks lately generates bilingual students.

Which problems do Turks face in Germany and other European countries?

Language is not the only burden that the Turks are facing. Many Turks believe that the prejudice is still widespread. Some of them have suffered from discrimination due to the difference in their cultures. Stereotyping against a minority group is a thing that everybody does without even realizing. Numerous German citizen and right wing consider Muslim immigrants as a threat to their culture, civil balance, and ‘western values‘.

Media, tv shows, and newspapers reinforced the stereotypes especially after nine eleven. The religion of people began to be more important than ever after nine eleven. In German tv series or fictional media, you never hear a Turk without a forced accent. The Turkish never have a proper job in proper living conditions for the fiction. How much of these things are made consciously or unconsciously? That’s another controversial topic. After all, people living in Europe should have the right of deciding who is going to enter their country.

Latest statistics show that remigration rates are at peaks. In the late history, Turkish people consider not to go to Germany anymore or if they live in Germany, they prefer to turn back to their motherland. The main reason for that is Turkey have improved social and economic conditions compared to the past. Today, however, there are new issues in Turkey such as poor freedom of speech, anti-democratic and oppressive government. Even though these conditions do not cause large numbers to migrate, we hear, that a journalist or a lawyer having problems with the president takes refugee to Germany or England. Politics in Turkey have always been intriguing. Integration efforts to modernity surprisingly result in anti-democratic acts. We will wait and see in the future whether Turks continue to stay in their motherland or strive for living abroad in seek of welfare.

Turks in the Era of Byzantine Empire

A Turkish actor (Cüneyt Arkın) is captured by Byzantine soldiers in a movie.

Turks in the Byzantine Empire

In his “Story of the Warrior and the Captive” Borges tells us about Droctulft, a
barbarian Lombard who abandons his own culture and dies defending Ravenna, the city that he had formerly tried to raid. Something of this incomprehensible yet meaningful passage is certainly present in the relationships between the Byzantine and early Turkish cultures.

Many reasons represented an obstacle to the closeness between the Greeks and the Turks: they had very different languages, Islam was not an acceptable religion for Byzantines. The lifestyle of a Turkish raider was remarkably different from that of the Byzantine cities dweller. At first sight, it would seem that Turks and Greeks were mortal enemies. And yet a significant number of Turks were integrated into the Empire, even in their higher ranks.

The introduction of an individual Turk into the Byzantine society required several
steps. The first of all was baptism, whereby the man abandoned his old life and was reborn a new person. It would seem like it was a hard step to take, but we should bear in mind that Islam was a relatively recently adopted religion to the Turk people and they cohabited in Anatolia with a population which was predominantly Christian. After baptism, they would receive titles and gifts, wealth that might have seduced them more than the nomadic lifestyle. Education on the Occidental culture would also play a key role, but the fullest stage of incorporation would come with marriage bonds.

Famous are the stories of Tatikios and John Axouch, who were introduced into
the very bosom of the imperial family and achieved high relevance in politics and warfare. There is also the singular case of the refugee called Koutloumousios by the Greeks, who became a Christian and founded a monastery on Mount Athos.

Finally, it is true that it would seem silly for some the idea of leaving the rising
Turkish force on behalf of the dying Byzantium. But it is not less true that from the tenth to the twelfth century the Empire did not seem on the verge of collapse, quite the contrary. However, as well as Borges’ story has its other side, this one has its too, for plenty of the Byzantium citizens decided to proceed likewise and abandon the Empire in order to join the Turkish power.

(Source: Brand, C. M. (1989) “The Turkish Element in Byzantium. Eleventh-Twelfth Centuries”,
Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43)

Agustin R. Avila

Studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, AR where he currently makes his research. He speaks four languages and currently learns German and Turkish. He also teaches the Spanish Language at several Argentinian secondary schools.

What is a language?

morse code machine, distinct language

We will take a closer look at what is a language on this page with some informative terminology.

Wikipedia defines ‘language’ as the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and a language is any specific example of such a system.

In other words, language is the method of communication; a set of words, symbols, and rules for combining them in a structured way. It can be spoken, written or signed. There is even whistled language in Black sea region (see the video below), in Northern Turkey and in many places such as Canary islands, Mexico and in a tiny village in Greece. According to linguists and psychologists, in order to for something to be referred as a language, it has to have for components:

1. Symbolic (Phonology): We use symbols to represent the world around us. Words, signs, alphabet are all symbolic. It allows us to imagine things that we are not seeing. Because a language is symbolic, we are able to describe things that we are not showing. It allows us to comprehend the notion of religion, democracy or any kinds of things.

2. Semantics: This allows symbols to have a meaning. It is also called semasiology. Semantics, from the linguistic aspect, is the study of interpretation of symbols, signs, words etc.

3. Generativity (Pragmatics): By the combination of symbols, we can generate unlimited numbers of meaningful phrases. Daily life talking consists of less than one thousand words for an average person; However, one can express almost anything with such a limited number of words. Animals are not capable of doing this while comunicating with each other although they can distinguish different symbols having different meanings.

4. Structure (Syntax): Everything so far have to follow rules. Languages have structure and rules. We call this set of rules ‘grammar’. Grammar may differ depending on the language but it exists in every language.

Video: Whistling tongue are in danger of extinction.

Video 2: Whistling tongue in Canary Island (UNESCO)

Video 3: Morse code. How does it work? (documentary)

First Language Acquisition

What are the stages of language learning?

How humans learn their mother language is quite complex and interesting. No matter which language you learn, all human beings go through the same stages from the infancy to the adulthood. Let’s take a look at first language acquisition and its stages in detail.

The first stage when acquiring your first language is ‘Crying‘. This may not appear as such a use of a language; However, it is the first step for communication. If you ask any parents whether it is a sort communication, they would tell you that there are different kinds of crying. A baby cries differently when it is wet, hungry or bored. Then, it is a communication and in a way language.

The next stage is ‘Cooing‘. After two months, children start doing vowel sounds. By about six months of age, there come consonants. This stage is called ‘Babbling‘. You can observe combinations of vowels and consonants even if they don’t make any sense. In this stage, you may hear your baby ‘talking’ happily in its crib.

These stages we have mentioned so far are commonly observed. Even the baby is deaf. Deaf babies cry and coo and babble even they don’t hear anything. Parents, therefore, don’t understand whether their baby is deaf or not in the first six months.

When you speak, you don’t speak in the same tone like a text reader. For instance, when you ask a question, the pitch goes up in the end. After 6 months, babies start to pick the melody of their mother language. This is because, even though they don’t speak the language, they pick up the pitches, melodies, voices and emotions. By the age of one, you can hear single words. Moreover, babies would use these words as sentences to communicate.

Can we learn a second language like we do our first language?

By about eighteen months, we observe multi-word sentences. However, the sentence would be overly shortened. For instance, if baby wants you to get water from the fridge and give him or her, it would say, ‘give water fridge’. Starting from this stage, children between the ages of two and six can learn ten new words only just hearing them. They simply acquire so fastly the vocabulary of their first language. They don’t have to work at it like people work when they try to learn a second language. Because by puberty, human beings lose the ability to pick up words simply by hearing it. We have to work at it! We, adults, won’t pick it up as naturally and easily as babies do. That’s why new education systems are beginning second language teaching from the kindergarten. In kindergarten children will acquire the vocabulary even without realizing it.

You also may find interesting this article: What is a language?

Written Turkish Language

orkhon script

Göktürk and Orkhon scripts

If you read any Turkish newspaper nowadays, you’ll find that the vocabulary is quite similar to occidental languages. Certainly, the alphabet they use is not very different than the ones used in Occident.

But it was not always like this!

The old Turkic language was written in its own alphabet, which looks very similar to the Germanic runes (although there is really no relations between them). The Göktürk or Orkhon script is thought to derive from the Aramaic alphabet or perhaps from Chinese scriptures. About two hundred inscriptions are preserved and they all stem from the area of Mongolia, dated from the 7th to the 10th century.

Which scripts have Turks adapted to their language?

Ottoman Turkish Alphabet

When Turkic peoples began to move south to Anatolia region in the following centuries, they came into contact with the Byzantine, Arabic and Persian cultures. The Ottoman Empire official script was the Ottoman Turkish alphabet, an adaptation of the Arabic alphabet which worked quite good for the words loaned from Arabic and Persian, but not so well for the vernacular.

Modern Turkish Alphabet

Finally, this script was relinquished officially in 1929, when the westernization of the nation was in full swing. In its place, it was adopted the Latin alphabet that was used in most of the European countries and in whole America. Of course, it needed some attaches and modifications to suit the Turkish language, but only seven new characters appear. To us, this is an obvious advantage since we don’t need to deal with some complicated writing system to communicate within Turkey. However, this represented a severe shock for the Turks of the first half of the 20th century. The work of schools was the key factor in this point and nowadays the adapted Latin alphabet’s use is fully extended in the country. Actually, there is an incredibly small number of people who is able to read a newspaper from… less than a century ago! Imagine such an obstacle, for example, to study a document of 90 years old.

Agustin R. Avila

Studied Ancient Greek and Latin at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, AR where he currently makes his research. He speaks four languages and currently learns German and Turkish. He also teaches the Spanish Language at several Argentinian secondary schools.

2017 Referandumu (Referendum of Turkey)

Red cities “No”; Blue cities “Yes”

The referendum has resulted. No campaign that is led by Erdoğan narrowly won with 51% “Yes”. Erdoğan won another victory. This victory involves more powers on him. Even though he won this referendum, numbers show us that his party (AKP) is not able to form the government alone in the next elections but by some kind of coalition with another party.

The biggest three cities of Turkey, Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir voted for “Hayır”. Votes coming from provinces and Europe (Turks living in Germany, Austria, France etc.) were in the favor of “Evet”.

The boom of conservative thinking surprisingly is being widespread in the world. On the Turkish media, It is quite controversial if Turkey needs a radical political change right now. We will wait and see if this constitutional amendment will be good for Turkey or a leap in the dark.

Yeni bir yıl, 2017!

iyi yillar, happy new year!

iyi yillar, happy new year!

We wish you a happy new year! We hope 2017 will be a better year than 2016 for all the humanity and all the world!

Herkesin yeni yılını kutlar, 2017’nin 2016’dan daha iyi bir yıl olmasını dileriz! Bütün insanların daha mutlu olduğu bir yıl olması dilekleriyle.

İyi yıllar!