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18 March 2024

Why Learn Turkish for Business?

Understanding the prospects of doing business in Turkey is complicated and hard to predict. While geographically the country is well situated (with Asia, Europe and the Middle East at its door), its economy is also struggling, and it is adjacent to ongoing turmoil in the Middle East. 

In this article, we explore whether learning Turkish may be a sound decision for your business. We also consider whether Turkish is easy or hard to learn.  

The Business Case for Learning Turkish 

The largest economies in the world are fairly easy to predict – the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia, plus several European economies (notably the UK, Germany and France). But some of the most interesting places to look ahead to doing business in are the countries that have been recognised as future prospects for rapid economic growth: the MINT countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey). And Turkey, the ‘T’ in MINT, is the 19th largest economy in the world. 

There are all sorts of different ways to view the different emerging economies in an ever-changing world. In 2023, six more countries were added to the BRICS (previously consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa): Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia. While this group does not include Turkey, it shows an increasing number of Middle Eastern countries making waves in a world historically dominated economically by North America, Europe and Asia. And as a country that sits at the door of Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Turkey’s future prospects can move in many different directions. 

As well as its geographical (and geopolitical) location, Turkey is active in a number of industries, including electronics, agriculture, textiles, petrochemicals and car production. It is open to trade and it is relatively easy to do business in Turkey (the World Bank ranks Turkey at 33 in the world). However, corruption and political instability are risks for all MINT countries, and in recent years Turkey has experienced political and financial instability, with inflation soaring and the 2023 election leading to incidents of violence.  

European Prospects 

Turkey has been a candidate to join the European Union since 1999 and has been in a Customs Union with the EU since 1995. However, the relationship between Turkey and the EU has been uneven, and the latest 2023 report on Turkey’s progress towards meeting the EU’s membership criteria was poorly received by the Turkish government. Whether Turkey will ever join the EU remains unclear. 

On the plus side, Turkey is a major trading partner of the EU, so efforts have been made since that 2023 report to increase cooperation with Turkey on political and economic issues in the hopes of boosting regional stability. EU membership may be further along the road than anticipated, but continued communication is a good sign that relations will improve. 

Getting to Know the Turkish Language 

Turkish is a Turkic language with around 85–90 million speakers worldwide, and it is one of the top 20 most spoken languages in the world. The majority of its speakers reside in Turkey, but small populations also live in countries such as Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Uzbekistan and Bulgaria. This geographical spread aligns with Turkey’s position as an economic and geographical gateway between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. (A small percentage of people in Turkey also speak Arabic.) 

Turkish may at first glance appear to be more challenging than the romance languages we find closer to home (such as Spanish, French and Italian), but it actually uses a variation of the Latin alphabet, just like many European languages (including English). The alphabet will therefore seem very familiar, though it drops a couple of letters and adds in some others to represent different sounds (for example, there are two letters each to represent the ‘u’ and ‘o’ vowels – ‘o’ and ‘ö’, ‘u’ and ‘ü’). You also may notice that ‘q’, ‘w’ and ‘x’ are missing from the alphabet.  

Turkish is a phonetic language so each letter makes only one sound, which actually makes the language easier in principle to learn than English. (For example, consider the way read and lead are context dependent and so can be pronounced to sound like ‘reed’ and ‘red’ and ‘leed’ and ‘led’ – English can be confusing from a language-learning perspective!) Once you know what the letters are supposed to sound like, you will be well on your way to learning how to speak and read the language. 

The other wonderful thing that makes learning Turkish relatively easy is that it is logically organised. The sentence structure of subject-object-verb may seem odd at first if English is your first language (which more often follows subject-verb-object, though it breaks the rules often and has plenty of exceptions!), but with a little practice and language immersion, it may soon feel perfectly natural to follow that word order.  

Our verdict? Turkish uses virtually the same alphabet as English, and because it is phonetic there are fewer exceptions to the language’s rules. If you learnt English as a second language, Turkish might seem quite easy in comparison! 

 

If you would like to find out more about learning Turkish, contact us today. We can develop a bespoke, blended approach to language learning that takes into account the needs of your business and gives you the option to learn both virtually and in person. 

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