Turkey is a country known for its historical, yet modern cities, hospitable and friendly people, and distinct mixture of European and Asian cultures, making it an awe-inspiring place for language study abroad. At the center of three continents, the nation’s central geographical position makes it an even more unique place for language learning abroad. Whether you are a city dweller, history junkie, or a nature lover, Turkey offers attractive opportunities for nearly anyone. With a sea in every direction, beautiful coasts, countless bazaars (markets) to explore, and architecture that crosses time, it is no wonder that the number of foreigners traveling to Turkey continues to rise.
There are opportunities for language study abroad located in cities across the country, so it is important to decide what you are looking for in your language study abroad experience, and then decide how and where you want to begin a language program in Turkey.
Istanbul. Typically thought of as the most well-known city in Turkey, Istanbul has a lot more to offer than just a beautiful skyline; Istanbul is the most desired place to learn Turkish in Turkey. Part of the city’s allure, besides Hagia Sophia of course, is its nice climate, friendly people, and the perfect city life it offers. From the müezzins in the minarets (pillars at the mosques) to the culturally infused food and nightlife, Istanbul makes cultural immersion seem easy, even if the languages being taught are challenging to learn.
Izmir. For those looking for a city smaller than Istanbul, Izmir is the place to go. Surrounded by mountains and beaches, Izmir rests on the Aegean Coast. It is a liberal and student-centric city, with half of the population under the age of 30. With Jewish, Greek, Armenian, and Levantine heritage, Izmir has a distinct background, but it is more commonly known for its creative and modern culture. Izmir is considered to be a different entity than other Turkish cities, but nevertheless it provides equally great opportunities for language study abroad in Turkey.
Ankara. Otherwise known as the capital of Turkey, Ankara is the second biggest city in the country (aside from Istanbul). Although at first glance it might seem average, there is much to be loved about this capital city. With sites like AnitKabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (founder of Turkey), the city certainly has its own flavor. Ankara is another city with a dense student population, so there are plenty of fun things to do outside of language courses too.
Antalya. Located on the Turkish Riviera, Antalya is the biggest city that rests upon the Mediterranean Coast. This charming city offers stunning beaches, outdoor activities, and many language program opportunities. With a number of museums, historic Ottoman houses, and Roman ruins, there is plenty to explore in Antalya. Not to mention you’ll be able to check out the historical district, Kaleiçi, after spending the morning at the Düden Waterfalls in the Taurus mountains, the perfect hot spots to try out your new vocabulary.
Language Programs in Turkey
Although Turkish and Arabic are the most common languages studied in Turkey, it is also possible to take Spanish, Greek, and French classes too. Turkish has become an increasingly useful language to learn in recent years, because of Turkey’s involvement in international affairs, specifically in the Middle East. However, Turkey’s relationship with the Middle East has also made Arabic language study common in Turkey too. In general, language programs in Turkey tend to be paired with cultural classes, so students can learn cultural context and significance of each language too. It is possible to take language courses at a variety of institutions and in a diverse range of formats in Turkey.
Language schools are the most common venue for language programs in Turkey. If you are more interested in working on fluency, than smaller classes at a language school (or even private tutoring) will give you the chance to work on higher level language skills. Courses at language schools in Turkey are much more intensive than language courses at a university, but will be well worth the extra time and effort. Some language schools in Turkey provide students with up to four language lessons per day, with each lesson typically lasting around an hour.
Participating in a full immersion program is another effective way to approach language study in Turkey, which allows students to gain language fluency while experiencing the local way of life more intimately. Immersive language courses encourage participants to join excursions that are focused on further developing language skills. Similar to language schools, immersion programs typically include language lessons as well as a focus on language immersion in a cultural context. Language immersion programs are often the most intensive method of learning or improving language skills, especially since they do not typically last as long as courses offered at language schools. Not only are language lessons a key component of immersion programs, but language practice outside the classroom is also of the utmost importance.
Scholarships & Costs
Obtaining a scholarship for language study in Turkey can be a rather challenging task, but merit-based scholarships are available for those with outstanding educational backgrounds. Partial scholarships are also available occasionally, and will at least cover some of the costs of participating in language programs in Turkey. Luckily, tuition costs span a rather large range, and are therefore dependent on the language program you choose.
In general, the prices of items in Turkey are similar to those in the United States, specifically in more urban areas. A casual dinner for two will cost about $23, while dinner at an upscale restaurant will total $30 per person, if you include dessert and wine. A cappuccino in a city center will cost you the same as it would in the U.S., about $3. The upside of language programs in Turkey is that it tends to be a more affordable country in comparison to other places in Europe.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays are the most common (and recommended) type of living arrangement provided through language programs in Turkey. However, if you are studying at a university, then dormitories and on-campus housing can be a good way to become involved in your new student community. Hotels, guest houses, and apartments are all potential housing options for language students in Turkey. The most important thing to do, regardless of what housing option you choose, is to get to know locals whenever possible, so you can learn more about the cultural norms of Turkey.
Student visas cannot be issued in Turkey, so getting a student visa before arrival is essential. In order to get a student visa, you must make an appointment with your local Turkish Consulate, and provide proof of your acceptance to the university or school of your choice. Once you have arrived in Turkey, you will need to get a residency permit too. In order to obtain this permit, you must have both a student visa and passport. A student visa will remain valid as long as you are enrolled in classes, unless otherwise approved for extension.
Benefits & Challenges
Taste for Travel. Turkey is a prime location for those who want to travel before, during, or after their language studies abroad. Since Turkey is in such close proximity to countless countries, there is always an affordable weekend getaway to look forward to.
Access to Amenities. Western amenities are still available in Turkey’s major cities, which happen to be where most universities and language schools are located. Even though you will be far from home, there will be familiar things you can find in Turkey to make you feel more comfortable.
Getting the Grammar. Though this is dependent on how far along you are in your language studies, getting the hang of a new grammatical structure, such as that of Arabic or Turkish, can be a major challenge.