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.