Turkish — Türkçe — ترکچه


Türkçe is spoken by 75 million people as their first or second language. It is also a widely spoken language in parts of Cyprus, the Balkans, and in Europe, adding another 15 million people to the Turkish-speaking realm. Turkish has become the second most spoken language in Austria and Germany after German as a result of mass immigration from Turkey under the “guest worker” agreement. Including the Kurdish people, the Turkish population constitutes the largest ethno-linguistic and religious minority in Germany. Third generation Turkish-Germans play a notable role in German society and culture as politicians, artists, writers and entrepreneurs.

Proficiency in Turkish provides students of anthropology, history, sociology, migration, literature, and linguistics access to a widely spoken first language in Europe. Moreover, Turkish belongs to the Turkic language family including Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Kazakh, Uyghur, Tatar, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz, which makes it possible for students of Turkish to master these languages in a relatively short time. Since Turkish also heavily borrowed from Arabic and Persian, learning modern Turkish is the first step to master Ottoman for students whose research area falls into the provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Discover this unique agglutinative language which can convey a sentence length discourse in English only in one word as Finnish, Hungarian, Korean, Japanese, Swahili and some indigenous languages of the Americas do!

Turkey has become the world’s second largest TV series exporter after the US. Turkish also unlocks for students unique insights into material and non-material cultures of Turkish speaking people. Study of Turkish allows students to experience a rare synthesis of Asia and Europe. Istanbul is literally the spot where two continents converge, and the country has been home to a rich variety of civilizations whose historical footprints are visible all over the country. Dive into the long-lasting legacies of Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. Immerse yourself in the history of 18 UNESCO world heritage sites such as Cappadocia, Ephesus, Göbeklitepe, Hagia Sophia, Mount Nemrut, Troy among many, and in diverse cultural practices and perspectives of Turkish speaking people from West Asia to Germany. Explore this rich land of endless opportunities deeply rooted in history!


Hear from some of our Turkish students on why they study Turkish at UW-Madison by clicking on the videos below!

Funding Opportunities

Campus Funding (Academic Year and Summer Language Study)

  • Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships:
    • For the academic year the FLAS stipend is $5,000 for undergraduates and $20,000 for graduate students. Undergraduates receive up to $5,000 towards tuition each semester; graduate students receive full tuition and fees. FLAS for Turkish is supported by multiple centers on campus. See a full list here
  • The Karpat Turkish Language Scholarship
  • Kemal H. Karpat Center for Turkish Studies Small Grants Program:
    • The Kemal H. Karpat Center for Turkish Studies welcomes small grant applications from UW-Madison graduate students working in any area of Turkish Studies, broadly construed. Scroll down to see the application details.

National Funding

Proficiency in Turkish is increasingly valuable to government and other organizations in West Asia, Europe, and the US. Turkish is a critical language for the US Department of State, which offers overseas Critical Language Scholarship to US students.  Also, Boren Awards recipients have the opportunity to study Turkish  in the Turkish Flagship Language Initiative (TURFLI). Boren Scholars and Fellows selected for this flagship initiative receive funding for intensive language study and cultural immersion, beginning with a summer 2020 domestic program at the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Language Institute (MEDLI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, followed by an overseas program in Baku, Azerbaijan.


Students can work in joint companies, institutions, and organizations in Turkey.  The U. S. Embassy, Foreign Service, U.S. Military offer opportunities for employment in Turkey. Teaching English as a Second language is a job in high demanded as well. Students can explore academic and scholarly work in Turkish Literatures, Comparative Literatures, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Linguistics, and more.


The department of GNS+ at UW-Madison offers courses in the modern Turkish language (Istanbul Turkish) and Ottoman (19th and early 20th centuries), latter contingent on demand. Below is the usual sequence of courses:

Fall: 1st, 3rd, 5th semesters of Turkish

Spring: 2nd, 4th, 6th semesters of Turkish

Since classes are small, students receive individual attention from the instructors. Elementary and intermediate courses meet 4 days and Advanced course meets 2 days per week at a reasonable hour. Curriculum and materials are designed to meet students’ interests and needs. Classes are open to heritage students, students who speak any other Turkic language or students with no prior language study. Students who have not taken the prerequisite(s) can move on to the next level based on the evaluation of the instructor.

Instruction is proficiency-based at UW-Madison: Students master speaking, reading, and writing using grammar in context. Our teaching philosophy prioritizes linguistic competence integrated in intercultural competence through the lens of social justice education. Therefore, an understanding of Turkish cultures including their products, practices, and perspectives in comparison with students’ own cultures is central to our curriculum.

Click here to see the full list of Turkish language and culture courses offered in Fall 2023.

Culture Course in English: GERMAN 278/GNS 270: Berlin-Istanbul Connections: Reimagining Germany (Comm B) offered in Fall.

Please contact the Turkish Program Coordinator Dr. Nalan Erbil for more information.

See the Turkish Sustainment Page to access language learning resources: https://turfli.wisc.edu/learning-resources/


Bogazici University Exchange!

“Experience the rich history and culture of Istanbul while studying at the renowned Bogazici University, academic home to some of the best students in the country. Students interested in directly enrolling in courses in a foreign university will find this exchange program an excellent opportunity to take courses in English while learning about Turkish culture and language.”

Read more about the Bogazici University Exchange Program here!


Studying abroad is an amazing way to not only solidify your knowledge of the Turkish language, but also experience the culture firsthand.

“The adaptability and cultural sensitivity you learn from a program like this exceeds almost anything I have learned inside the classroom.”

To hear more about these programs from students themselves, head to the profiles of Matt Williams or Nicole Davis.



European Studies Certificate

Middle East Studies Certificate

Russian, East European, and Central Asian Studies Certificate


Summer Study

Study Turkish in the summer at The Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Language Institute (MEDLI)



Nalan Erbil: erbil@wisc.edu


GNS Undergraduate Advisor:

Joanna Schuth: undergrad@gns.wisc.edu



The Kemal H. Karpat Center for Turkish Studies welcomes small grant applications from UW-Madison graduate students working in any area of Turkish Studies, broadly construed. The Karpat Center promotes excellence in the study of Turkish history and society, including Ottoman studies and Turkish diaspora studies. The Center recognizes the diversity of Turkish society in its past and present, and that excellence in Turkish Studies requires approaches that are interdisciplinary and inclusive of scholars from a variety of backgrounds. The Center may also support work in fields such as Anatolian archaeology that are conducted in present-day Turkey. A selection committee will review all proposals.


Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis during the academic year (September 1 – May 1). For summer proposals, applications must be submitted by May 1. Awards will be made on a rolling basis.


Applications may be for up to $1,000, and should further the applicant’s research or professional development.


Proposals for conference travel, research travel, and language training are all eligible for funding under this program. Proposed work must be relevant to Turkish Studies, broadly construed.


  • must be graduate student in good standing in a department at UW-Madison
  • must submit an unofficial UW-Madison transcript.
  • must submit a brief statement of support from their advisor
  • must submit a brief proposal (maximum 500 words), including itemized budget.
  • must submit a final or progress report of approximately 500 to 1,000 words.


  • Conference proposals should specify the conference, topic of the paper, and whether the paper has already been accepted.
  • Research proposals should briefly describe the research to be conducted, including location and duration, and how the proposed research would contribute to the applicant’s dissertation or thesis. Indicate the status of any necessary research approvals (e.g., visa, IRB).
  • Applications to fund language training should describe how the language will be used in the applicant’s research or other professional development
  • Timeline for completion of project


Please send your completed application as a single PDF to karpatcenter@history.wisc.edu. Advisors should separately email their statement of support to karpatcenter@history.wisc.edu.


To hear from students who studied the Turkish language, check out some of our alumni’s profiles: