Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Turkish Studies

three cups of turkish coffee on a red rug


Turkish is a member of the Turkic language group, a branch of the Altaic language family. The language and its sister Turkic languages are spoken by over 200 million people. Turkish, the national language of the Republic of Turkey, is also spoken in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, and various communities in the Balkans and Central Asia, as well as in immigrant communities around the world.

The Department of Middle Eastern Studies offers a minor in Turkish and opportunities for undergraduate students to study Turkish/Turkey within its BA degrees in Middle Eastern Studies, Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, and Islamic Studies.  Students majoring in International Relations and Global Studies, Government, History and Economics often choose to study Turkish. Students interested in advanced degrees concentrating on Turkey may enroll in programs such as Middle Eastern Studies, Government, History, Comparative Literature, Ethnomusicology or Anthropology.  Masters students in the UT Center for Middle Eastern Studies Dual Language Track Program often choose Turkish as one of their two Middle Eastern Languages.

All students taking Turkish have the opportunity to study the language for 3 years with the goal of achieving a minimum of advanced proficiency. The first 1.5  years of the language learning focus on building vocabulary and grammar. In the 4th semester, students transition to content classes taught entirely in Turkish.  Students may continue to take Turkish-language content courses in their 3rd (or even 4th) year or may choose to study abroad in Turkey or Azerbaijan.

Training in the Turkish language is accompanied by related course offerings in Middle Eastern Studies, European Studies, Slavic and Eurasian Studies, and the Butler School of Music.  Students may also pursue further area studies coursework abroad via UT-Austin’s full campus exchange program with Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, which allows them to apply their scholarships and financial aid packages toward summer, semester or year-long study abroad and receive transfer credit for their coursework upon their return.  The UT College of Engineering also runs a college-wide exchange program with Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, enabling engineering students to study abroad and graduate on time. Boğaziçi University and Middle East Technical University, Turkey’s premier English-language campuses, offer our students both rigorous coursework in English and excellent Turkish language training.  Students who complete Turkish language coursework elsewhere and wish to continue in UT Turkish language courses must take the DMES Turkish placement exam. Details on the placement exam can be found here.

Turkish Sequence

The core Turkish curriculum consists of three years (six semesters) of language-centered coursework that aims to build skills in reading, listening, viewing, speaking, writing, and culture.

First Year Second Year Third Year
TUR 601C TUR 320K TUR 329 (varied topics)
TUR 611C  TUR 329 (varied topics) TUR 329 (varied topics)

Content Covered

These courses offer a proficiency-based curriculum based on the methodology of the Türkçe ile Yaşam I-II and Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar textbooks, which focus on developing learning and comprehension strategies in addition to the active acquisition of vocabulary and grammar. The program is demanding, and requires a significant time commitment on the part of the student, but the reward for that commitment is steady progress toward Advanced proficiency and beyond (based on the scale of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).

Students are expected to reach Intermediate Mid proficiency by the end of the first year, Advanced Low to Mid proficiency by the end of the second, and Advanced Mid to High proficiency by the end of the third year.

Beyond the three-semester core, students take upper-division Turkish-language content courses on Turkish cinema, literature, news media, culture and thought.  A different TUR 329 course is offered each semester, so that continuing students explore new content, including new vocabulary fields and forms of discourse.

Graduate training in Turkish (currently offered on a graduate conference course basis) stresses cultural training, linguistic proficiency, and sophisticated use of research methods and theories, preparing students to research, analyze, write, and teach in their fields of specialty. Graduate conference courses conducted in Turkish are offered in the areas of language, literature, and culture.  

Course      Material Covered
TUR 601C Units 1-10 of Türkçe ile Yaşam I (and corresponding online materials)
TUR 611C Units 1-7 of  Türkçe ile Yaşam II (and corresponding online materials)
TUR 320K Units 1-2 of Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar by Jeannette Okur (to be published by COERLL in 2020)
TUR 329 Additional units of Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar by Jeannette Okur (to be published by COERLL in 2020), including authentic material (articles, short stories, videos, films and plays)

Oral Proficiency Interviews

Please note that at the end of the 611C course, you may be asked to complete an oral proficiency interview (OPI). Each year Middle Eastern Studies is required to administer OPIs to a pool of randomly selected students, to verify that we are meeting curriculum goals in our first-year language courses. This process is dependent on voluntary student participation. The interviews are extracurricular and will not figure into your course grade, but students selected to participate will receive a notification letting them know their proficiency level in the language. The test is administered over the telephone (or Zoom) and rated by an ACTFL Certified Tester. OPIs can be rated according to the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines 2012 or the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale.

Heritage Learners, Bilingual Students, Native Speakers

Anyone with any knowledge of Turkish written and/or oral must take the placement exam (given prior to the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters) to correctly identify which level student belongs in. Details on the placement exam can be found here.

Students who want to receive credit for TUR 601C and TUR 611C may take the CBE test which is only offered once a year in the Fall. Details on the CBE can be found here.

Heritage Learners, bilingual students, and native speakers interested in taking Turkish content courses should see the Turkish Program Coordinator, Dr. Jeannette Okur, to determine their eligibility.  Such students are also welcome to participate in the weekly Turkish Tea and Conversation Hour (for Intermediate, Advanced and native speakers of Turkish) and volunteer with Turkish Studies cultural events.  Students interested in volunteer opportunities should contact Dr. Okur.

Student Highlights

The majority of UT students who study Turkish abroad or pursue research in Turkey or Azerbaijan do so with the support of federally funded scholarships, because the U.S. government has classified Turkish as a Critical Language, ie. a foreign language that is critical to our national security and prosperity. Recent graduates of the Turkish language program have secured jobs with the U.S. State Department and acceptance into top-notch doctoral programs. (See Student Profiles below.)

Fulbright Scholarship Awardees:

(2012-13) L.R. Rodriguez, (2014-15) A. Kreger, (2015-16) Z. Wingham

NSEP Boren Fellowship Awardees:

(2014-15) K. Guiler, (2017-18) N. Teale

Critical Languages Scholarship Awardees:

(2015) K. Wilshusen, (2015) M. Bacci, (2016) M. Burns

American Research Institute Award for advanced language study:

(2014) L.R. Rodriguez, (2015) E. Koymen, (2016) M. Chovanec, (2016) M. Aminpour, (2018) J. Sullivan

Institute of Turkish Studies Summer Language Study Scholarship Awardee:

(2014) E. Koymen

Redhouse Award for Best Progress for a First-Year Turkish Student on the East Coast:

(2014) F. Kerns, (2015) Marc, (2016) K. Wilshusen, (2018) G. Frazor

The Halide Edib Adivar Award from the Ottoman & Turkish Studies Association:

(2017) E. Nelson

Turkish Coalition of America Study Abroad Scholarships for American Students of Minority and Heritage Communities:

(2012) L.R.Rodriguez, (2012) D. Carr, (2012) E. Luna, (2013) Z. Wingham

Benjamin Gilman International Scholarship

(2012) B. Williams, (2013) Z. Wingham

Summer and Academic Year Foreign Language Acquisition Scholarship (FLAS) Awardees:

(2012) L.R. Rodriguez, (2012) D. Carr, (2013-2014, 2014) K. Guiler, (2014, 2016) A. Kreger, (2014, 2014-2015, 2017) E. Koymen, (2014, 2018) S. Bartels, (2015-2016) K. Wilshusen, (2016) N. Teale, (2016-2017, 2018) M. Bacci, (2018) G. Frazor

Student Profiles

Elizabeth (Nelson) Tay graduated from UT in 2017 with a B.A. degree in Government and a Minor in Turkish.   In the summer of 2017, she studied at Ankara University's language school in Izmir, Turkey, thanks to the support of a Halide Edib Adivar Award from the Ottoman & Turkish Studies Association. Elizabeth has now found  a job that allows her to utilize her Turkish language skills and her love of travel:  she works with a digital marketing firm in Munich, Germany.

Zavier Wingham graduated from UT in 2014 with a B.A. degree in Middle Eastern Studies and International Relations & Global Affairs.  His positive experiences studying abroad at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul (in Summer 2013 on a Gilman Scholarship) led him to pursue research on Afro-Turks as Fulbright Scholar in Istanbul (2014-2015).  After participating in the Summer 2015 Critical Language Scholarship program in Ankara, Zavier completed his M.A. degree in Near Eastern Studies at New York University (2016), where he is currently a doctoral student in the History/MEIS program, interested in racial formation(s) and deformation(s) in the late Ottoman Empire. See why Zavier chose to study Turkish here!

In this January 2018 video, CMES Aluma Joanna Schenke describes her daily work in the Political Affairs Division of the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey, where she has served since 2016.  Ms. Schenke recounts (in flawless Turkish) how she and her Turkish colleagues regularly travel to the 22 provinces of South/Southeast Turkey in order to meet with local government officials, civic society organization representatives, and business leaders to field their concerns and convey accurate cultural, socioeconomic and political information to the U.S. government.  She and her colleagues regularly host American diplomats and dignitaries who travel from Ankara and Istanbul to Adana; and she also provides consular services to American citizens living and working in the South/Southeast region of Turkey, including U.S. military personnel stationed at the nearby Incirlik Air Base. Ms. Schenke clearly enjoys living in Adana and working at the U.S. Consulate to strengthen U.S.-Turkey relations.  Prior to her assignment in Adana, Ms. Schenke served the U.S. State Department in Bangladesh and Oman. She began working for the U.S. State Department immediately after graduating from the UT Center for Middle Eastern Studies M.A. program with Advanced Proficiency in Turkish and Arabic in May, 2011. Catch Joanna describing their job here

A 2016 graduate of the UT Center for Middle Eastern Studies M.A. program, Mitch Bacci is currently a doctoral student in the joint History and Middle Eastern Studies PhD program at Harvard University.  His research focuses broadly on the social and economic history of the modern Middle East.  He is particularly interested in the political economy of drugs and narcotics, the history of state and institutional formation, and the history of public health and medicine in the late 19th and 20th centuries.   Since 2017 he has also served SRC Coordinator of the Middle East Science, Religion and Culture Working group at Harvard Divinity School. A two-time FLAS Fellowship recipient in Turkish while at UT, Mitch continues to hone his Ottoman Turkish skills at Harvard University and its joint summer program with Koç University in Cunda, Turkey.

Turkish heritage learner Erol Gregory Köymen, a 2016 graduate of the UT Musicology M.A. program, continues to research Turkish musical history in the Ph.D. Program in Ethnomusicology at the University of Chicago.  Erol has since continued his study of Ottoman Turkish at Koç University’s ANAMED program, published numerous articles on the politics of music in Turkey, and most recently, introduced kanun virtuoso Tahir Aydoğdu and the ORBIS Quartett’s rendition of composer Hasan Ferid Alnar’s works at concerts in Berlin, Germany.

Program Contacts:

Kelly Houck
Undergraduate Coordinator

Dr. Jeannette Okur
Turkish Language Coordinator
(512) 471-1280
CAL 508

UTurk Haber: Student Turkish-language newspaper

  •   Map
  • Middle Eastern Studies

    The University of Texas at Austin
    204 W 21st Street Stop F9400
    Calhoun Hall (CAL) 528
    Austin, TX 78712