Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Soap operas increasing Iraqi interest in Turkish literature

The popularity of Turkish TV series on Arab channels, is attracting students at Iraqi universities’ Turkish literature departments. The Turkish Language and Literature Department has become one of the most popular faculties at Iraq University’s Foreign Languages Department. The phenomenon is part of a growth in Turkey’s ‘soft power,’ a sociologist says

It has long been known that Turkish television series aired in Arab countries have resulted in an increased interest in Turkish culture, yet the shows have also begun attracting more students to the discipline of Turkish literature, according to academics. In Iraqi universities, Turkish literature now trails only English literature in terms of popularity.

“The ever-developing relations between [Iraq and Turkey] and Turkish soap operas on Iraq TV have triggered this new trend. Students are eager to learn Turkish, while families also want their children to learn Turkish,” Professor Talib al-Qurayshi, the head of the Iraq University Foreign Languages Department, recently told Anatolia news agency.

When Turkish Literature and Language Department head Ziyad Tariq Abduljabbar took over his new department’s management in 2008, there were only 60 students but there are now 730 undergraduate students, 17 post-graduate students and three PhD students in the program.

Speaking about the links between Turkish soap operas and the country’s literature, Nilüfer Narlı, a sociologist at Bahçeşehir University, said Turkey had increased its “soft power” in the Middle East and Balkan countries.

“As the circulation of soap operas in the international arena has increased, learning Turkish language and culture have become very important in the Arab and Balkan countries. This is what we call ‘soft power,’ within the context of the culture industry,” she said.

Of course, there are other reasons for the increased interest in Turkish in Iraq, especially economic ones, said al-Qurayshi. “Growing investment and business opportunities draw people to learn Turkish in Iraq. Students are concerned about their future and the current investments have triggered the education in Turkish.”

Still, there are plenty of cultural reasons for the increased interest, Narlı said. “Turkish contemporary Nobel Laureate writer Orhan Pamuk’s presence [on the scene] and the increasing translations of his books also affect this situation.”

As more Turkish novels are being translated into different languages, the interest in Turkish literature is being raised, Narlı said. “The literature is not a part of the ‘soft power’ theme, but it is very important.”

Commenting on Turkish literature and its impact in the Balkans and the Middle East, Marmara University Turkish literature professor Nihat Öztoprak said: “Turkish soap operas such as Aşk-ı Memnu [Forbidden Love], Yaprak Dökümü [The Fall of the Leaves] are adaptations of famous classical Turkish literary works. People in foreign countries watch those series and they become interested not only in the series and the cast but also with the people who wrote them.”

As such, people become acquainted with writers such as Reşat Nuri Güntekin and Halit Ziya Uşaklıgil, according to Öztoprak.

“With the rising awareness in Turkish literature, the neighboring countries have realized that Turkey is not a ‘desert’ country,” he added.

People in Arab countries have started to do research on Turkish writers as they seek to learn more about people like Güntekin. This situation, according to Öztoprak, leads students to learn about the Turkish language and Turkish literature.

At the same time, Pamuk’s Nobel award greatly helped in spreading awareness of Turkish literature.

Growth of Turkish departments at Iraqi universities

The founder of the Turkish Language and Literature department at Iraq University, Çoban Hıdır Uluhan, said the department was established in 1971 with only four academics. “Today we have a total of 17 academics.”

Noting that they were hoping for the support of foundations and universities in Turkey, Uluhan said the university needed more books and sources on Turkish literature.

“We also want to send our students to Turkey on an exchange program during the summers,” he said.

“Turkish language and visiting Turkey is a must for our students in order to experience the country and Turkish culture,” Uluhan said.

* Hatice Utkan contributed to this article.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Italian students find relief in Turkish

Nalan Kızıltan, who is an Assistant Proffessor at the University of Salento, told Today’s Zaman: “The number of students has doubled since they discovered the Turkish language was written in the Latin alphabet.”

In a southern Italian high school, many students have deemed the introduction of Turkish classes as an effort in vain because of the language's supposed difficulty due to what they mistakenly thought was caused by the use of the Arabic alphabet.

Apparently Asian and Middle Eastern languages are thought to draw in less interest compared to western European Languages. Still there have been a number of students who have wanted to learn Turkish and a campaign promoting the language doubled the number of those interested in Turkish. "The number of students has doubled since they discovered that Turkish is written in the Latin alphabet," Assistant Professor Nalan Kızıltan told Today's Zaman.

Kızıltan, a linguist, was assigned by the Turkish Embassy in Rome to give lectures in the department of Turkology at the University of Salento, Lecce, as part of an intercultural dialogue program. Her journey in Italy took her to Aristosseno High School in Taranto, two hours by car from Lecce, when she and the dean of the university's department of foreign languages and literatures decided to run a joint program with the school for students to take part in the Turkish Olympiads. The project was helped set up by one of Kızıltan's students, Severine Mafrica, also a teacher at the high school.

"I went to their school once a week to conduct a two-hour Turkish class in March and we launched the project. We made an announcement at the school and asked who would like to learn Turkish. We told them about the success the students had had the previous year [at the Olympiads], what the previous participants gained, and the contribution they would make to their country and Turkey if they attended the Turkish Olympiads. Several high school students in the 12-19 age group registered to join the classes," she explained, adding: “As part of the program, a language laboratory was given to them and they began studying Turkish. The first month passed with phonetic exercises as several sounds in Turkish do not exist in the Italian language. The students loved Turkish. Now you cannot differentiate their accents from a native Turk.”

Later the group continued by studying Turkish grammar. During their studies, one thing that students told Professor Kızıltan caught her attention. "They told me when they don't feel good, they feel the need to read something in Turkish and this comforted them," she said, adding, “This means Turkish has a rhythm, a beauty to touch the hearts of children; it is attractive." She thinks the words of her students are important to understand the psychology of children.

Olympiads about winning people over

Five students were selected from Aristosseno High School by an Italian committee to represent the country at the Turkish Olympiads. They were divided into different groups according to their talent. Among Kızıltan's students, those who were not selected by the Italian committee were still invited to Turkey as guest students by the organizers. "These Olympiads are not only competitions. They are there to win people over," the professor said.

Kızıltan also said the popularity of Asian and Middle Eastern languages has increased and that she had taught 106 students Turkish at the university in Lecce, and furthermore claimed that it made her proud that Italy is taking part in the Turkish Olympiads. While noting that the Italian group came to Turkey with the support of the Turkish Embassy, Kızıltan explained that the countries that are not represented at the Olympiads must also be invited. "It would contribute to the Turkish language if all embassies paid attention to the Turkish Olympiads and developed projects to do with it," she said, thanking the Turkish Embassy in Rome, which specifically supported Kızıltan's contribution to the Olympiads.


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