Oxford, Harvard students at Istanbul's Ibn Haldun university for Ottoman studies


İbn Haldun University, a newly established academic institution in Istanbul, has started attracting the attention of foreign students with its Ottoman Turkish program.

Postgraduates from Harvard, Georgetown and Oxford have flocked to the university for its language seminars that have seen a revival in recent years.

Ottoman Turkish seminars are popular among students from the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy and Hungary, specifically those attending postgraduate studies on history and the Middle East.

Rushain Abbasi, a postgraduate student from Harvard University, told Anadolu Agency that he started learning Turkish two years ago and decided to learn Ottoman Turkish as well since it was directly related to his field of study, the Middle East.

The Ottoman Empire expanded from present-day Turkey to southeastern Europe and large swathes of the Middle East during its six-century rule.

"I think that Ottoman history is a significant part of the history of Islam. Ottomans were behind important written work and the history of the empire is full of very important figures," Abbasi said.

Ottoman Turkish faded away in 20th century, and its Arabic-based alphabet was replaced with a Latin-script alphabet in 1928, five years after the establishment of the Turkish Republic.

Abbasi, who studied the alphabet for one year in Harvard, says he found out about the program after he met İbn Haldun students during a visit to Istanbul last summer.

"It is important that this program is hosted by a university in Istanbul where most of the libraries [with Ottoman Turkish texts] are located. They have an experienced staff and use different teaching methods. I think the program has been ultimately beneficial for me. I am able to read printed works in Ottoman Turkish better now and improved my writing," Abbasi says, noting that the low tuition fee also made the program attractive.

Assistant professor Faruk Yassıçimen, the academic teaching Ottoman Turkish at the university, says they selected the program's students through an exam and hold two classes based on their proficiency levels.

"We focus on 19th century documents from the Ottoman state archives and offer education in understanding the complicated contents of those documents. Ottoman Turkish is a complex language and deciphering the documents is difficult, but it is a great pleasure to be able to read and understand them, like solving a puzzle," he says.

Along with the language classes, the program also educates students on Ottoman diplomacy.

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