Non-native Turkish-speakers reluctant to speak mother tongue in gov't institutions

A study carried out by the Center for Socio-Political Field Studies showed that more than half of Turkish citizens who are not native Turkish speakers are reluctant to speak their mother tongue in education, health and government institutions.

This file photo shows people walking on Istanbul's İstiklal Avenue.

Duvar English

The Diyarbakır-based Center for Socio-Political Field Studies carried out a survey between 15-29 January 2022 on the “The use of mother tongues other than Turkish and their education.”

The research sought to assess the status of language courses that have been effective within the scope of the “Living Languages and Dialects Elective Course” reform that was introduced ten years ago for secondary schools.

The research spanned the cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa, Mersin, Adana, Antalya, Gaziantep, Adıyaman, Diyarbakır, Van, Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Batman, Şırnak, Hakkari, Dersim, Muş and Ağrı.

It involved interviews with 2,238 people whose mother tongue was not Turkish. 86.2 percent of those respondents spoke Kurmanji, 9.4 percent spoke Kirmancki/Zazaki, 1.3 percent spoke Armenian, 1.1 percent spoke Syriac, 0.7 percent spoke Arabic, 0.5 percent spoke as Circassian, 0.4 percent spoke Laz and 0.4 percent spoke Pomak.

Responding to the question “How often are you subject to discrimination based on your mother tongue?”, 39.5 percent of the respondents said “very often,” 34.8 percent said “occasionally,” 18.1 percent said “rarely”, and a mere 7.7 percent said they had never been discriminated against because of their mother tongue.

As to whether they “felt anxious when speaking their mother tongue in educational institutions,” 58.6 percent of the respondents said “yes”, 20.5 percent said “no”, 20.9 percent said “partially.”

With regards to the question “Do you feel anxious when speaking your mother tongue in health institutions?”, 49 percent of the respondents said “yes”, 24.9 percent said “no”, and 26.1 percent said “partially.”

Finally, responding to the question “Do you feel anxious when you speak your mother tongue in government offices?, 64.8 percent of the respondents said “yes” and 16.2 percent said “no”.