Ever wondered just how far the Turkish language has spread its roots? From Istanbul to Iraq, we take a look at just how many people speak Turkish in the world.
A Brief History Of The Turkish Language
Turkish is part of the Turkic language group, along with Kazakh, Uzbek and several other languages. Turkic languages are part of the larger Altaic family, which also includes the Mongolian and Manchu-Tungus languages.
Turkish descended from Old Anatolian Turkish. The older version was used by the Seljuq Turks in the late 11th century, and later became the official language of the Ottoman Turks, who spread the language throughout their empire. During the period of Middle Ottoman Turkish — from the 15th to the early 20th centuries — Turkish was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian, as the Ottomans ruled the Islamic world.
In the 20th century, everything changed. The Ottoman Empire fell, and the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923. In 1928, the new government replaced the Arabic script form of Turkish with the Latin alphabet and removed many of the language’s foreign influences. Thus, Modern Turkish was born.
Where In The World Is Turkish Spoken?
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and one of the official languages of Cyprus. In fact, the northern part of Cyprus calls itself the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus and considers itself an independent state. In 1974, Turkey invaded the northern region of Cyprus after a military coup. Since then, Turkish Cypriots have lived in the northern third of the island, and Greek Cypriots have resided in the southern two thirds. United Nations troops patrol the border, but neither the U.N. nor any country other than Turkey recognizes the TRNC ‘s independence.
Turkish is also spoken by small groups of Turks in parts of the former Ottoman Empire, including Kosovo and Macedonia — where it has official status in specific municipalities — as well as in Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Albania and Serbia. Additionally, Turkish immigrant communities speak the language in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and France.
How Many People Speak Turkish?
Approximately 78 million people in the world speak Turkish natively, and several million more speak it as a second language. The vast majority of Turkish speakers live in Turkey — more than 74 million of them.
Due to a large immigrant population, Germany is home to about 1.5 million Turkish speakers. A relatively large Turkish-speaking population can also be found in Bulgaria, which is home to around 600,000 speakers. By population, this is followed by the 300,000 speakers in Cyprus, and specifically the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. There are about 250,000 Turkish speakers in the Netherlands; 221,000 in France; 200,000 in Austria; 130,000 in Uzbekistan; 116,000 in the United States; 113,000 in Belgium; and less than 100,000 in Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Serbia, Switzerland and Albania.
Why Learn Turkish?
As you’ve read, Turkish has a large number of speakers worldwide, which makes it a useful choice when deciding which language to learn. For travel purposes alone, Turkey is a beautiful and historic country, and the city of Istanbul is a popular destination for globetrotters.
Yes, Turkish is on our list of hardest languages for English speakers to learn, but it’s certainly not impossible, and it’ll be a challenge that proves worthwhile.