Turkish is the most widely spoken and the official language of Turkey, as per the Constitution of Turkey. Aside from Turkish, more than 30 ethnic languages exist in Turkey, however, only small numbers of people speak the ethnic languages. Thus, due to the dominance of the Turkish language, the ethnic languages are seen as minority languages.

Kurmanji, Arabic, and Zazaki: Common Ethnic Languages of Turkey

The common ethnic languages of Turkey include Turkish, Kurmanji, Arabic and Zazaki. Turkish is spoken by more than 70% of the population. Its widespread use as the official language and the educational language has contributed to its own growth, but it has negatively affected other ethnic languages by reducing their usage in daily communication. Kurmanji or Northern Kurdish is the most widely spoken ethnic minority language which consists of five major dialects: southern, northwestern Anatolian, Serhed, and southwestern Kurmanji. Arabic is popular among the Arabic community of Turkey, who use Arabic as their mother tongue, particularly the Mesopotamian Arabic dialect. The Zazaki language is spoken by the Zaza ethnic community, which has over 1 million speakers and a close relationship with the Kurdish language. Zazaki has three major dialects which have been influenced by the traditional homelands of the Zaza community in northern Iran and the Caspian Sea.

Preserving Cultural Heritage: Less Popular Ethnic Languages and Sign Languages in Turkey

The less popular ethnic languages with very few speakers include Turkish dialects, Laz, Armenian, Balkan and Circassian languages.

Aside from the ethnic languages, foreign languages that can be heard in Turkey include  English, German, French and Italian. Due to the interactions with foreigners and the western world, a need for the use of foreign languages has increased in the recent years. English, German and French are the most common foreign languages used in Turkey, with English having the widest coverage among foreign languages. Schools also offer elective courses in these languages, along with other foreign languages, such as Italian.

Turkey also has two main sign languages, the Turkish sign language and the Mardin sign language, used by more than 50,000 Turkish residents with hearing impairments. Mardin is an old sign language used mostly by older people in rural areas. Most users have instead adopted the Turkish sign language, which is the most commonly used language used by the people with hearing difficulties in Turkey.