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Why are Kuwaitis learning Turkish?

Students learn Turkish at a local educational institute in Kuwait. Photos by Abdulla Al-Sherif

In Kuwait one of the most popular languages for locals to learn, after English, is Turkish. Travel to Turkey, which is within a few hours’ flight and relatively affordable has become popular among locals and residents in recent years. Kuwaitis who visit Turkey often want to learn the language – or at least its basics – before traveling as neither Arabic nor English is widely spoken there.

Many locals including young and old, male and female, take up the language after a visit to Turkey has sparked their interest in the language. Most chose to learn it for the love and interest, not for a certificate or qualification or future job prospects.
This is unusual for Kuwaitis. We have never with such fervor adopted the study of another Middle Eastern language before, and certainly not one outside our heritage. So Kuwait Times decided to ask some young Kuwaitis why they choose to study Turkish. Here are their answers:

Each student was asked:
1. Why did you want to learn Turkish?
2. Did you feel your interaction with the Turkish people change?
3. Do you perceive it to be easy?

A student from GSI, who became a new father, (A E) answered:
1. “I love Turkey from a long time ago, and I like to acquire languages, so I chose Turkish.”
2. “YES! They [the Turkish people] are very supportive of anyone who tries to learn their language.”
3. “It gets easier”.

A female student, AK, had this to say:
1. “The first time I stepped in Turkey’s airport I heard the announcement saying “Lutfen dikkat” [which are all words in Arabic], I started to gravitate towards learning more Turkish words that had Arabic roots.”
2. With a smile she said “Many Turkish people are surprised at how well I speak Turkish, this leads them to ask more questions, that allows us to communicate more.”
3. ” It depends on how much love there is for the language.”

LA had more direct answers:
1. “I loved learning it because of my love for Turkey and due to the lack of knowledge in English.”
2. “I felt a lot of difference by how supportive Turkish people are.”
3. “It is easy because it has a lot on Arabic and English in it.”

Mr. Mohamed Al-Abraham responded:
1. “Not only that I love Turkey but I own a property over there and they seem to not know a lot of English nor Arabic.”
2. “I felt them to be more closer to me when they knew I understood a Turkish word, here and there.”
3. “I feel it gets easier, when I followed a lot of people in the social media teaching it!”

Their answers seemed to carry passion and enthusiasm. Speaking with a Turkish language teacher, Imrah Orhan bey from GSI, however I forgot to mention that I myself am a Kuwaiti who took Turkish courses as well.
KT: Are there a lot of Kuwaitis trying to learn Turkish?
Imrah bey: “99% of my students are Kuwaitis, mostly females. Kuwaitis have a lot of companies and properties in Turkey, and they keep on traveling to Turkey, that its people are not very familiar with English.”

KT: Are they learning Turkish quickly?
Imrah bey: “It depends on the students themselves, he or she might empower themselves by other means.”

There are lots of ways to learn Turkish nowadays including free apps for your smartphone like Duolingo, websites and videos on YouTube as well as courses taught at local educational institutes.

By Jeri Al-Jeri

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