Polyglots (those fluent in multiple languages) share with us how picking up a new language is possible for anyone. Sometimes we have the idea one needs to be born with a special skillset to speak in multiple languages! Instead, it often boils down to 1) having a genuine desire to learn and 2) acquiring the language by accumulating the necessary hours of immersion and practice.
Note: This article is written for English speakers learning Azerbaijani
If you are reading this in English, you may be discouraged because there seems to be a lack of educational materials out there in the world for learning Azerbaijani. But fear not! There are plenty of resources to make this goal possible.
Encouraging tips about learning the Azerbaijani language from English
Yes there may be challenges like a different syntax (order of sentences) and agglutination (extensive use of suffixes), but there are also things stacked in your favor:
- Latin Script. While Turkic languages have used a variety of scripts historically (ie runiform, Perso-Arabic, cyrillic) Azerbaijani now officially uses the Latin alphabet. This means apart from learning a few new letters, you do not need to learn a new script in order to read and write this language.
- Gender neutral everything. Unlike Latin and Slavic languages, Turkic languages are extremely gender neutral. Not only is there no gendering of objects, even pronouns are gender neutral. “O” refers to he, she, or it. Look, your first word!
- Practical and consistent. If you know English, there are so many little rules you are probably used to by now that someone learning has a real tough time remembering. Once you start learning the rules and pronunciation of Azerbaijani, you’ll appreciate its consistency.
- Fun to speak! Azerbaijani/Turkic words have “vowel harmony”— meaning endings of words match the word. Take (my favorite) Turkish word for “see you later”: görüşürüz. It is not a funny coincidence you see all these little dots above the vowels. The suffixes are added to match the root. It makes pronunciation fun and rhythmic. Also it is common to say a word twice with a hyphen. For example “yavaş-yavaş” (slow) or “təmiz-təmiz” (clean).
- Connected to the pan-Turkic world. Once you get into the history of Turkic people, you see how far these nomadic people have ended up stretched throughout the word. Learning Azerbaijani will connect you to many new countries and cultures. As an example, you can watch this video of a Turkish person having a basic conversation with a Uyghur person living in Xinjiang, China. While they write in an Arabic script, the spoken language is still strikingly similar. Turkic speakers are found as northeast as Siberia.
In this article we will share:
1. 🇦🇿 Azerbaijani Language Resources
A list of educational resources for learning Azerbaijani.
2. 🇦🇿/🇹🇷 Azerbaijani & Turkish
Explaining similarities and differences between these languages.
3. 🇹🇷 Quick Turkish Language Resources
A short list of educational resources for the Turkish language.
Tips for Learning Language
In learning any new language, it is helpful to immerse yourself in a variety of mediums. Not just one book, not just one YouTube channel. It is like blockchain for your brain to hear and confirm the same information from different sources. It also simply helps with burnout to keep your learning process interesting and fun!
Learning any language, it is so important to speak and interact with it. So make sure you are not only listening, but actively conversing with Azerbaijani speakers.
Included below are ways to do this if you do not have someone to practice with. Also for this reason, no matter how many materials you consume, almost nothing compares to having personal Azerbaijani lessons! There are many qualified teachers giving lessons either in Azerbaijan or remote to anywhere in the world. Tips for finding a teacher is also below.
So let’s get started with the resources!
Azerbaijani Language Resources
Included below are YouTubers, Social Media accounts to follow, Podcasts, Web Resources, Books, and Films in the Azerbaijani for learning the language.
Note: Often they offer personal lessons. Visit their pages to contact them!
➡️ 1st Grade Azerbaijani Lessons book (click the green button above the book for the .pdf)
Watching classic Azerbaijani films with English subtitles is a great way to hear Azerbaijani while learning about the culture.
✨Speak with an Azerbaijani
This is listed last, but it is probably the most important one! If you do not have someone close to you to practice, there are several ways you can practice Azerbaijani with a native speaker.
The most ideal way is to set up ongoing personal lessons. There are plenty of qualified teachers that are able to teach in Azerbaijan or remotely online.
There is also ➡️ “italki” for being connected with teachers.
Here is a list of language exchange sites, where people who speak Azerbaijani are happy to exchange their time with you in order to practice their English:
➡️ My Language Exchange
➡️ Tandem (mobile app)
➡️ Language Exchange
Azerbaijani & Turkish: The Similarities & Differences
Why does it help to look at the similarities and differences of Azerbaijani and Turkish? Simply put- there are many more resources in the Turkish language than Azerbaijani and they are quite similar once you learn the patterns. On top of this, even if you accidentally use a Turkish word, or completely speak in Turkish, Azerbaijanis certainly will understand you as many of their TV channels are in Turkish. (Gotta love those 2.5 hour-long Turkish dramas!)
How similar is Azerbaijani and Turkish?
What is determined as different languages over time and histroy are often influenced by politics, borders, or other reasons. Some people will go as far as call Azerbaijani and Turkish different dialects of the same language, while others will call them very separate. Azerbaijani and Turkish are both TurkiC languages. Turkic languages span all the way from NE Russia to Eastern Europe.
Considering Turkic languages originated from Central/Eastern Asia (modern day Mongolia, Eastern China), by looking at a map you can see how the original Turkic may have gotten mixed with local languages as it stretches farther West and North.
Examples of common patterns:
🇦🇿“mən” in Azerbaijani (meaning “I”) is 🇹🇷 “ben” in Turkish
“q” in Azerbaijani (pronounced as “g”) often is “k” in Turkish
🇦🇿 qız = 🇹🇷 kız [GIRL]
🇦🇿 qadın = 🇹🇷 kadın [WOMAN]
“-yir” in Azerbaijani verbs often is roughly 🇹🇷 “-yor” in Turkish verbs
🇦🇿 istəyirəm = 🇹🇷 istiyorum* [I WANT]
*Note it looks more different because the endings match their root
How different is Azerbaijani and Turkish?
The quickest way to tell if something is written in Azerbaijani and not Turkish is the presence of the letter “ə” (which is pronounced the “a” in “cat”), which Azerbaijani has.
On a macro level, the differences are shaped by their geography and actually some politics as well.
To oversimplify the difference between Azerbaijani and Turkish: Azerbaijani is Turkic with more Farsi/Persian sounds & words, while Turkish is Turkic with a bit more European/Latin sounds & words.
Your writers of GoTravel Azerbaijan noticed this first hand while in Turkey- most often any of the words the Azerbaijani didn’t know, the other could translate- seeing it was also a French word. (We can’t tell you which came first, French or Turkish, but I’m sure there are many linguist books are there about it). Some examples of Turkish words that are also French and not in Azerbaijani: kuaför (hair salon), pantalon (pants).
Ataturk Standardizes Turkish to close the gap between the working class and the autocrats.
Above we mention how sometimes language can be representative of political motivations. This is relevant actually to the modern Turkish language. At the fall of the Ottoman Empire, there were noticeably two ways of speaking, the ‘common’ speak, and the way the ‘movers and shakers‘ spoke. Those that were in positions of power tended to sound different and use more Persian words as one example.
Ataturk is praised for being the father of what we think of modern-day Turkey. He believed in a fair and equal nation, and was an advocate for a secular government. He is responsible for standardizing the Turkish language to make the common language the official one.
So, is it worth studying Turkish in order to better understand Azerbaijani, or will it just be confusing!?
This will have to be up to you to decide. Daniella, one of the writers here at GoTravel has found it very helpful to also learn Turkish alongside Azerbaijani. Certainly with any new language there will be vocabulary to learn. However the biggest hurdle to get over in learning Azerbaijani from English is the syntax and agglutination. The more hours you hear these concepts to start normalizing them in your brain the the better.
This brings us to the final section of this article, Turkish studying materials.
Quick Turkish Language Resources
There are *many* resources for learning Turkish in-depth that can be found with a quick google search. Here we will list a few of our favorites.
➡️ Duolingo (mobile app)
➡️ Many podcasts to learn Turkish
…with a special call out to:
➡️ Let’s Learn Turkish podcast– A woman created this to teach her Spanish parter Turkish, so if you know some Spanish you will enjoy how she makes connections with this language.
➡️ Getting addicted to a Turkish drama w/English Subtitles
We hope you found this article helpful and encouraging in your endeavors to learn Azerbaijani. We often learn languages when important shifts happen in our life- maybe that means falling in love, or maybe taking on a new life adventure.
Whatever reason you are learning Azerbaijni, we wish you all the best luck and hope that you have fun!
Uğurlar, xoşbəxt ol!
—GoTravel Azerbaijan Team