If you’re just starting out at IU, you’ll quickly find out that there are many things to study here that you would have never even considered before. Turkish is probably one of those for you, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth your time. Though a lot of people have no idea where Turkey is or what language they speak there (“Arabic, right?”), in fact, Turkish has about 80 million native speakers, and a bunch of reasons that make it a great language to study. I was lucky enough to learn Turkish both here at IU and abroad through the Turkish Flagship Program, and I’ve come up with a few points as to why you should think about doing the same!
- Turkish is a critical language: Turkish is considered a critical language by the U.S. Department of State, meaning that it’s important for America’s national security and business needs. It’s easy to understand why: Turkey is at a crossroads between Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, and an important political actor across the region. It’s also a growing economic power, with a number of multinational corporations setting up operations there. Studying Turkish means opening yourself up to all sorts of opportunities with a vital world player.
- Learning Turkish is actually fun: If you’re used to the high school language learning experience of boring grammar lessons and worksheets, don’t worry, because IU’s Turkish program is nothing like that. Turkish classes at IU are generally pretty small, so students get a lot of speaking practice and attention from the instructor. Speaking of which, IU has a number of phenomenal Turkish teachers that try their hardest to make classes engaging through games, music, and even Turkish soap operas! My Turkish classes were definitely some of the most enjoyable classes I took at IU.
- You’ll get to study abroad for a full year: Most study abroad programs barely give you time to get used to a new country before you have to come back home. With the Flagship, each student gets to spend a whole year abroad! I personally was able to spend a summer and then a full year in Turkey working on my language skills, taking classes, doing a professional internship, hanging out with my host family and friends, and otherwise having the time of my life. Let’s not forget about all my travel either: Turkey is a breathtakingly beautiful country surrounded by seas on three sides, with all kinds of gorgeous scenery in between. I had a lot of time for independent travel, and fell in love with every place I visited.
Currently, a few of my friends from Flagship are studying abroad in Baku, the capital and cosmopolitan center of Azerbaijan. They’ll be coming out of the program with skills in two critical languages, since Turkish and Azerbaijani are very closely related. The Flagship program in Baku is a mix of Turkish language and culture immersion with insights into the language and culture of Azerbaijan. I can’t wait to hear about their experiences!
- IU Turkish is a community: I came to IU from out of state and was worried at first about how I’d find my place on such a big campus. Fortunately, being in the Flagship made it easier for me to meet both students with similar interests and members of the Bloomington Turkish community. There’s tons of ways to meet people outside of class, including cultural events, Turkish conversation tables, and even a weekend camping retreat. I’ve also been invited over for meals at my Turkish friends’ houses more times than I can count!
- It will help your career: Nothing stands out on a resume quite like “Professionally Proficient in Turkish.” It’s definitely been a subject of fascination during my job interviews, and it’s great to be able to set myself apart from the crowd by talking about my experiences with a lesser-known language and culture. And aside from the language skills I’ve gained, studying Turkish with the Flagship has also given me a lot of soft skills I’ll be able to use in my career. For example, spending a year abroad has made me more adaptable and a better communicator, qualities employers are looking for. After being in Flagship, I feel confident that I’ll be able to succeed in any field I choose.
These are just a sampling of the many great reasons to study Turkish at IU. I hope it’s given you some inspiration to explore a less commonly-taught language during your time here!