As Turkey gradually cements its place in the international community as a stronger actor among global affairs, the country's prominence also increases interest in its language.
Yunus Emre Institute, a state-run agency set up to promote Turkish culture, boasts teaching Turkish to more than 99,000 people in 40 countries since its foundation in 2009. The institute, named after the 13th century poet and mystic known for his simple but thoughtful verses in pre-Ottoman Turkish, operates 50 centers around the world offering language, artistic, social and scientific programs and hosts cultural events to promote Turkey and the Turkish language.
Şeref Ateş, the president of Yunus Emre Institute, told Anadolu Agency: "There is an interest in Turkish language and Turkey all over the world. Both the Ottomans as historical heritage and modern Turkey attract attention."
"The work we do is not just teaching Turkish, [it is also] to educate people who love Turkey and who would be in contact with Turkey and to be able to explain Turkey's arguments to the world," Ateş said, adding that each of their employees is also a cultural ambassador.
He said the Yunus Emre centers abroad employ 322 personnel, including 189 local nationals, carrying out projects to popularize the learning of the Turkish language, adding, "At present we have agreements with more than 80 countries abroad. We send Turkish teachers through the Council of Higher Education in Turkey."
Ateş also pointed out that the teaching of the Turkish language to foreigners was a subject not much discussed before and said this changed with Yunus Emre Institute.
He said they had first started a certificate program at their headquarters in Ankara about how to teach Turkish to foreigners and then they started practicing in the field abroad.
Currently, the Yunus Emre centers give Turkish language courses such as business Turkish and academic Turkish using modern methods, Ateş said.
A new center in Moscow will open in early 2017.
"We employ people abroad who have especially graduated from a course in Turkology. Thus, the number of people who prefer Turkish is increasing. Because, when they graduate, they have a chance to work at Yunus Emre," Ateş said.
"Turkish TV series and cinema have a great impact" in spreading interest in the Turkish language and culture abroad, said Ateş.
"Thanks to these series and movies, the [Turkish] lifestyle is being promoted abroad. These series are followed particularly in the Balkans, the Arab world, and even in Latin American countries as well as in Russia."
"There are even people who learn Turkish in order to watch Turkish TV series," he added.
The institute now plans to teach Turkish to Syrian refugees in the country. Turkey hosts nearly 3 million refugees from war-torn Syria in the fifth year of its conflict. Facing prospects of a stay longer than they thought, Syrians struggle to adapt to their new lives in Turkey and learning the language is key for integration. Starting next week, the institute will distribute books on learning Turkish to some 600,000 Syrians, Turkish media outlets reported. Books are part of a project held in coordination with the Ministry of National Education and the United Nations.
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