Kurdish nationalists within Turkey won a small victory recently when they were granted the right to use their own language in court. Kurdish populations comprise large minority groups in several Middle Eastern countries and have long been agitating for more autonomy or outright independence. The decision to allow Kurdish language in court has come as a surprise to many and marks the beginning of a change in policy by the Turkish government, some believe. Until recently, the official policy of the Turkish government has always been to try and assimilate the Kurdish population and suppress the Kurdish language. Those policies have put the language under threat, making it difficult for Kurdish people to educate children in their own language on any large scale.
The increasing demands for Kurdish rights and the concession given by the Turkish government in this matter may indicate a seachange in the way Kurds are treated. As pressure continues to mount, more significant changes are inevitable – either in the form of more liberal treatment for Kurds or a crackdown and return to assimilation policies.
When it comes to Turkish itself, the language appears to be growing in popularity amongst English-speaking students seeking to study and learn a language overseas. More and more students are seeking to break with tradition and study a more ‘uncommon’ language in order to get a unique and memorable experience during their youth. Turkish universities are now participating in a moves to create more English-language courses in order to make themselves more attractive to students seeking a more unusual overseas study experience. Some ‘study abroad’ programs already in existence in Istanbul and Ankara also give overseas students the opportunity to learn Kurdish.
On the flipside, huge numbers of Turks are showing a consistent demand for learning English. English teaching is a big industry in Turkey, with parents willing to pay significant money to send their children to private schools where they can learn good English skills. Due to Turkey’s geographical placement as a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East and Asia, big opportunities are available for professionals who can become fluent in English, the major language of international business.