The Most Romantic Language? Turkish For Lovers
Are you getting ready for a date and want to impress your beloved by whispering sweet nothings in a foreign language? Forget French or Italian. Find out why Turkish could be the world's most romantic language.
Illustration by Mary Delaney
TV soap operas, Turkey’s biggest cultural export
From Mexico to Morocco, Russia and India, Turkish soap operas have become a cultural force to reckon with. As Turkey’s biggest cultural export, they bring millions of dollars in revenue from overseas sales every year.
Aşk-ı Memnu (Forbidden Love), one of the most popular TV series in Turkish television history, is about the forbidden love between a handsome young man and a beautiful woman who is married to his uncle. The show is on the air in 46 countries. When Binbir Gece (One Thousand and One Nights) was broadcast in Latin America, Chilean parents started naming their babies after Onur and Şehrazat, the two main protagonists. Every year, more and more TV soap operas see the light of the day, as Turkey is moving to become the world’s fastest-growing TV series exporter. In recent years, it has even managed to surpass Mexico and Brazil to become the world’s second biggest TV series exporter, after the United States.
And if the names of those shows are anything to go by — Aşk ve Ceza (Love and Punishment), Bir Aşk Hikayesi (A Love Story), Dila Hanım (Lady Dila), Fatmagül’ün Suçu Ne? (What is Fatmagul’s Fault?), Küçük Kadınlar (Little Women), etc. — there is a common underlying theme in all of them. They all talk about beautiful, romantic stories, forbidden desires, blind passion, revenge and tragedy. They talk about kara sevda, an untranslatable Turkish concept that literally means “black love" and alludes to how uncontrollable desire and unrequited love can render someone hopeless and broken. The very essence of kara sevda is deeply rooted into the Turkish psyche but etymologically, this Turkish expression has a very interesting story to tell as kara means "black" in Turkish and sevda, an old Turkish word for love, comes from the Arabic سَوْدَاء (sawda)… which also means black!
How to express your love like a true soap opera hero
The first thing to know if you want to be the Turkish Romeo or Juliet is that, unlike English, French, Italian or Spanish, Turkish uses two different words to express love. Aşk is used to describe the romantic, erotic-type love that you may feel for your partner, and sevgi, where the poetic seni seviyorum (I love you) comes from, is the kind of love you feel for a friend or a family member.
When addressing the objects of their affection, the Turks always use the possessive “my," so you wouldn’t call someone honey, beautiful or darling, you would call them my honey, my beautiful or my darling. In Turkish, it is very common to create meaning by adding a suffix to a word. Based on the above, the way to create the possessive form in Turkish is by adding the suffixes -ım, -im, -um or -üm at the end of a noun. When deciding which of these suffixes you need to use each time, you need to keep in mind the "vowel harmony" rules. In other words, look at the final vowel of your noun and choose the appropriate suffix. Words with a or ı as their last vowel take the suffix -ım. Words whose last vowel is e or i take the suffix -im. Words with o or u as their last vowel take the suffix -um and finally, words whose last vowel is ö or ü take the suffix -üm.
But, since the whole purpose of this article was to put you in a romantic mood in time for your date, and not to bog you down with pesky grammatical rules, here is my cheat sheet for Turkish romance:
|Noun||Turkish Sweet Talk||Literal Translation|
|aşk (love)||aşkım||my love|
|bal (honey)||balım||my honey|
|tatlı (sweet)||tatlım||my sweety|
|güzel (beautiful)||güzelim||my beautiful|
|gül (rose)||gülüm||my rose|
The other thing to remember is that Turks also like to refer to their loved ones as "my breath," "my eyes" or "my life." As strange and unconventional as this may sound to an English speaker, you can agree that there is nothing more precious than your own life, your own breath, or your eyes — and so what better way to express your love to your significant other than by uttering words like:
|Noun||Turkish Sweet Talk||Literal Translation|
|hayat (life)||hayatım||my life|
|can (soul)||canım||my life; my soul|
|gözler (eyes)||gözlerim||my eyes|
|nefes (breath)||nefesim||my breath|
And yes, all the above are really just ways of saying sweetheart, honey or darling! Can you get more affectionate than that?
You may still think that French or Italian is the most romantic language in the world, but Turkish has a way of seducing you with its linguistic intricacies and underlying lyricism. Turkish is for lovers, and, if all else fails, you at least got a free grammar lesson out of it!