LOCAL > Turkey losing its ethnic tongues, report shows

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

UNESCO figures show that 18 languages are endangered in Turkey. Three of them have already extinct. A nongovernmental group blames ‘nation-state’ policies for the decline in cultural richnesses

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Courses are not sufficient for citizens to learn their mother tongues and families also lag behind in teaching them to kids, a civil society organization says.

Courses are not sufficient for citizens to learn their mother tongues and families also lag behind in teaching them to kids, a civil society organization says.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

As the world celebrates International Mother Language Day, an updated UNESCO report shows that 15 out of 34 ethnic languages spoken in Turkey are in danger of dying out, while three others have become extinct already.

The Anatolia Research and Culture Association (AKA-DER), a body that is active in promoting local cultures, held a demonstration in Istanbul yesterday to attract attention to this fact.

“As the people living on this soil, we have organized this rally to make our mother tongues, which are at risk of dying, live on, to say that we do exist and to call on everyone to lay a claim to their mother languages against policies to destroy them,” said Altan Açıkdilli about the event.

Açıkdilli, who is also among the pioneers of ethnic language courses, said nation-state policies were to blame for the loss of dozens of languages once spoken in the country.

“In the 1930s and 1940s we could not speak our languages due to ‘Speak in Turkish, Citizen’ campaigns backed by the state and one language-one culture policies,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News.

UNESCO ranks endangered local languages in five categories from “vulnerable” to “extinct.”
Ubykh, Masho and Cappadocian Greek have already become extinct, the body says. Hervetin is in critical danger.

HDN School education

Mother tongue education, a recent improvement at Turkish schools, should be secured well, Açıkdilli also said. “For mother tongue education to be successful we should immediately withdraw from racist, monotype policies,” he said.

Despite the efforts by the association, it is hard to learn mother tongues at schools, Açıkdilli said.

“A mother language is taught in the environment that a kid lives in, with lullabies and fairytales, but families do not teach mother languages to their children.”


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Notice on comments

alexis harvey

2/23/2013 12:22:58 AM

wow, what a surprise!?! NOT. That's what happens when you ban, fine and imprison people for speaking their language and stop them from listening to their songs. Hope it can turned around. A messy process is a understatement for the civil war and the mess that is still going on in the East.

Can Oz

2/22/2013 11:30:54 PM

Assimilation is the foundation for all national identities. Turkish identity is only a couple decades old, so it's cost can be seen. Greece is guilty of the same crimes; Rum Cappadocians became assimilated Greek during the population exchange. In contrast, what about all those extinct languages from South America? No one cares, because all those who remembered have been dead for centuries.

mara mcglothin

2/22/2013 6:08:47 PM

Old languages will tend to be lost when people do not take the time to teach them to the next generation. It is not the education system's job to teach them, but the families and parents. I, as an American worked hard to teach my half Turkish child the language and cultural things about Turkey, while living in the USA. It was a concerted effort on my part and NOT that of my Turkish husband. I saw the value of our child having more than one heritage and am proud of his Turkish blood.

Davut Mahfuzoglu

2/22/2013 10:54:37 AM

This is the result of decades of Nationalist policy.

mr who

2/22/2013 10:40:20 AM

Yes the vacuum is being taken over for some time of accusing them of being Kurdish or anybody who is dark skinned and the Kurdish language is Persian and Arabic mixture how ridiculous when Anatolian languages are magic since the dawn of time.

Bull Istano

2/22/2013 10:03:52 AM

Sad, very sad. I hope that nationalistic ideology don't kill more than languages.


2/22/2013 3:45:47 AM

Who knew these langauges existed? Yes, nation building is a messy process, but those without it usually end up in a bigger mess.
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