U students explore Turkish language, culture

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Some students decide to forgo learning languages more students are studying — such as Spanish, French or German — and venture into lesser-taught languages.

Students learning Turkish at the U are doing just that through a monthly gathering called Turkish Hour.

“Meeting often is a great way to learn the language,” said Mila Hover, a second-year graduate student in Middle East history with an emphasis in near Eastern archeology. “The classes are really small, and there are not too many people to interact with, but (by) meeting, you practice the language, learn, and it’s a great way to have a cultural exchange.”

With the Turkish Hour, Turkish-language students have an opportunity to learn about different aspects of the culture and speak the language amongst themselves.

At the last two Turkish Hour events, students talked to Korkut Erturk, an economics professor, about Turkey’s economic history and watched a famous Turkish film.

Native Turkish and Turkish-language students gathered in the Hinckley Institute of Politics on Tuesday to hear Turkish Consul Hakan Tekin speak and learn more about Turkey’s role in United States-Middle Eastern relations. The dozen or so Turkish-language students named different reasons for learning Turkish such as ties to the military, having Turkish friends or just being fascinated by the difficulty of the language, Turkish instructor Didem Havlioglu said.

“Turkish is one of those off-the-beaten-path languages, and it has its own off-the-beaten path rewards,” said Alex Hill, a sophomore in international studies. “Turkey is slowly becoming a world player economically and militarily, and I think that it’s a great language to learn.”

Turkish is the least-studied language that the Middle East Center offers, said June Marvel, Middle East Center academic program support specialist. Marvel, who studied Turkish several years ago, said that despite the language’s grammatical difficulty it is a great language to learn to understand Ottoman history and to learn more about present-day Turkish relations with the United States.

Turkey’s position between Europe and the Arab world, between the West and the Middle East, makes it an important ally of the United States in the war against terror, Tekin said. The Turkish government is also vying for a spot in the European Union as Turkey looks toward the West, he said.

The students learning Turkish agree that it is an important language despite its complexities.

“Turkish is definitely not an easy language to learn, but if a student is really into politics and international issue, it would be good for them to learn (Turkish) because of its political structure between Europe and the Middle East,” said Oniz Birsoy, a first-year student in the Master of Business Administration program.

Next semester, the Department of Languages and Literature will offer Beginning Turkish I and Intermediate Turkish I.

The Turkish Hour is held every third Thursday of a month. The final Turkish hour will be held April 17 at 5 p.m. in LNCO 2110. Students will learn about an American archaeologist’s story from southeastern Anatolia.

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