Interview with

Umut Ugrak

Rare Language Specialist - Adyghe (Circassian)

Name: Umut Uğrak
Nationality or Ethnicity: Turkish / Turkish of Circassian origin
Representative of rare language: Circassian(Adyghe) language

1. What’s your story? How did you get exposed to this rare language?

I’m  from Izmir, Turkey and I was born and raised in this city. I wasn’t  exposed to Circassian culture in any sense until university. During  university studies in Istanbul, I had the chance to meet with my  relatives who were also of Circassian origin and other people of  Circassian background, some of whom were studying in the same university  with me. My interest in Circassian language and culture began since  then in university. I was able to read the Cyrillic alphabet back then  but Circassian language has different rules when it comes to being read,  so I could only get a general understanding of the language. It was  only last year when I travelled to the Northern Caucasus region in  Russia where Circassians live, I could grasp the language a bit. Since  then I’m constantly improving my knowledge via online learning materials  for Circassian language.

2. How would you describe the efforts being made, at the civil, social, and governmental languages, to preserve this language?

If  I had to talk for Turkey, Circassian civil organizations are showing  even more effort for the preservation of the language. In recent years,  more and more language courses are being opened and there is a lot of  interest among the youth to attend the courses. Nowadays, teachers who  have graduated from the department of Circassian language and literature  are teaching in those language courses so we can certainly talk about  an improvement in teaching methodology. Also, there is a civil  organization in United States called NASSIP Foundation in United States,  which also tries to preserve the Circassian language. They have a  cartoon project called “Little Aslan” which aims to teach the language  to children, and I fınd it very useful.

3. How often do you get the chance to use this language in your daily life?

I  get the chance to speak the language when I’m together with the members  of the Circassian community. This happened best when I’ve visited the  native homeland of Circassian people in Northern Caucasus of Russia. I  was in the city of Nalchik. There you can hear Circassian being spoken  in the streets. It really helps you out when you use the Circassian  language in daily life.

Other  than this, I have some chance to practice the language in Turkey, when I  gather together with the members of the Circassian community.

4.  Are you satisfied with the response of students in your department and  your university to the available offerings in your language?

Speaking  for the university in which I’ve studied, the Circassian language  wasn’t offered as a lesson. However, currently Circassian language and  literature is taught as full-time studies in a few other universities in  Turkey.

5. What is your message to young people who wish to learn this language?

In  my opinion abundance of materials available online for learning the  Circassian language isn’t that much, although there are many attempts to  increase it. There is one book written by John Colarusso for learning  the Kabardian dialect(East Circassian). And there are many videos  available on the Internet prepared by those who are trying to preserve  the language. But of course, the very best way would be to come together  with people in the Circassian community who also speak this language or  attend Circassian language courses.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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