Turkish vs Persian (Farsi) Language: a Native Speaker Answers


My international friends usually think the Turkish language is somehow related to the Persian Language. By the way, Persian is also known as Farsi.

Some also believe Turkish or Persian languages are different dialects of the same language. As a Turkish, I want to clarify this misconception because the reality is very different.

Is Turkish a Persian language? The Turkish language is not related to Persian. Turkish and Persian are distinctly different languages. 

Turkish belongs to the Altaic and Turkic language group, and Persian belongs to the Indo-European Language group. Persian and Turkish languages have different grammar structures, vocabulary, and sounds. Yet, cultural relations between Turkish and Persian created many loanwords between these languages.

Additionally, Kurdish people in Turkey, speak Kurdish which is similar and closely related to Persian. On the other side, Azerbaijani people in Iran speak a mutually intelligible language with Turkish.

As a Turkish local, I will explain commonly asked questions that will shed light on most of your questions about Turkish and Persian Languages.

Persian vs. Turkish Languages

Persian / Farsi Turkish
Language FamilyIndo-European and Indo-IranianTurkic and Altaic
Similar toMutually Intelligible with Dari and Tajik
Closely related and some degree of mutual intelligibility with Zaza, Kurdish, Luri, Balochi, Pashto, and other Iranian Languages
Similar to Azerbaijani
Closely related and some degree of mutual intelligibility with Turkmen, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz languages, and other Turkic languages.
Number of Speakers110 million Persian native speakers (native and non-native). Source88 million Turkish native speakers. Source

If you are interested in learning the Turkish language, this is the book that most of my friends use. You can check the book on Amazon.

1. Is Turkish and Persian the same? 

Turkish and Persian originated in different parts of the world, and they are not the same language or dialects of each other. Turkish is a Turkic language belonging to the Altaic language family, whereas Persian is an Indo-Iranian language belonging to the Indo-European language family.

Turkish and Persian languages have some loanwords from each other, but there is no similarity between their grammar and pronunciation. 

Turkish and Persian have no mutual intelligibility, but these languages have some words in common due to cultural exchanges. Today, less than 1% of Turkish words have Persian origin.

Also, it is proposed that Persian is affected by the Turkish language and lost its typical grammatical features and grammatically became similar to Turkish due to cultural exchanges between Iranian and Turkic people. Source

Most Persian loanwords are from Arabic, and Turkish. Yet, even with the shared words, the understandability between Persian and Turkish is very low.

Map of Indo European Languages Source

2. Why is Turkish different from Persian? 

You may think Turkey and Iran are neighbors, and for this reason, Turkish and Persian should be similar. Yet, Turkish and Persian languages have very different paths of evolution.

The Persian language is part of Indo-European Languages. On the other hand, Turkish and other Turkic languages were born and evolved in Central Asia. Many theorize that Turkish is a part of Transeureasian Languages and has the same ancestral origin as Korean, Japanese, Siberian, and Finnish languages. Source Source

Check my guide on similar languages to the Turkish Language to learn more.

Iranian Languages are a sub-group of Indo-European Languages. Wiki

Origins of Persian Language

The Indo-Iranian language is the largest and southeasternmost branch of the Indo-European language family. This branch has around 1.5 billion native speakers.

Persian language, with its 110 million native speakers, is one of the most spoken languages in Indo-European Languages.

All Indo-Iranian languages, including Persian, are believed to have evolved from a proto-language about 5 thousand years ago.

Maybe the maps below will help you understand the difference between the geographies of native speakers of Turkic languages and Iranian languages.

Languages in Indo-Iranian Language Family Source
Turkic Languages and sub-branches of Turkic languages.

Origins of Turkish Language

All Turkic languages come from the Proto-Turkic language, and Turkish is about 3000 years old. This ancient Turkic language evolved into Turkish, Turkmen, Azerbaijani, Uzbek, Uyghur, Tatar, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and other Turkic languages.

Turkish has its origins in Central Asia. Even then, Turkish had its own unique alphabet.

There are 4 main subgroups of Turkic Languages. These are,

  • Oghuz languages with 125,400,000 native speakers.
  • Karluk languages with 38,000,000 native speakers.
  • Kipchak languages with 28,300,000 native speakers.
  • Siberian Turkic languages with 1,200,000 native speakers.

There are around 193,700,000 native speakers of Turkic languages.

You can check my guides on the Origins of Turkish Language and Turkic Languages to learn more.

Orkhon Inscriptions is the oldest form of Turkic writing surviving. (Dated around 8th century) Replica of Orkhon Inscriptions in Gazi University, Ankara. Source

Suggested Reading: Check on my guides Turkish vs Greek and Turkish vs Arabic Languages

Green Areas represent Turkic (Turkish-related) languages. Source

Turkic (Turkish) Languages Spoken in Iran

Turkic languages form the second most prominent language group in Iran. The Iranian population consists of 53% Persian native speakers, and 18% percent of native speakers of Turkic language speakers.

Turkmen and Azerbaijani languages are the most spoken Turkic languages in Iran. 13% of the Iranian population is Azerbaijani native speakers.

Turkmen and Azerbaijani languages are very similar and highly mutually intelligible with Turkish.

Native Languages in TurkeyPercentage
Turkish91%
Both Turkish and Other2%
Kurdish6%
Arabic1,2%
OthersLess than 1%
Languages Spoken by Turkish People as Native Speakers
Source EU’s Eurobarometer 2005 Survey

Kurdish is an Indo-European Language and is classified as an Iranian Language. Linguistically, Kurdish is similar to Persian.

It is estimated that Kurdish people form between 15-20% of Turkey’s population. Yet, Kurdish descendants of Turkish people do not always know the Kurdish language. I have many friends of Kurdish origin, and they are native speakers of Turkish languages. 

BBC estimates 6% of the Turkish population speaks Kurdish as their mother tongue. The main Kurdish dialects spoken in Turkey are Northern Kurdish and Zaza.  Source 

Persian and other Iranian language speakers have varying degrees of mutual intelligibility with Kurdish. Source

Languages spoken in Turkey and Languages spoken in Istanbul are good guides to learn more about languages in Turkey.

Is Turkey part of Arab or Persian worlds?

Turkish people are not Arabs or Persian. Turkish people are descendants of Central Asian Turkic people and indigenous people of Anatolia.

The Persians are an Iranian ethnic group that makes up over half the population of Iran, and they are indigenous to Iran.

Persian and Turks have different languages, cultural, ethnic roots. Yet, it is undeniable that Persians and Turkish have interacted many times in history and have influenced each other.

Additionally, Azeris and other Turkic People living in Iran, provide a substantial cultural connection between Iran and Turkey.

Turkish vs Persian Language

Turkish people used Persian at various times in history.

Many Turkish dynasties used Persian as the language of the palace and as a language of literature. This fusion created a unique culture called Turco-Persian.

For example, Turkish scholars and the government used Ottoman Turkish in the Ottoman Empire (1299–1922). Ottoman Turkish had 80% Arabic and Persian loanwords. Ottoman Turkish is now an extinct language, only used by scholars in their academic studies.

However, Persian language influence among the regular Turkish people remained limited. Most of the time, the language of the empire was not the same language as the native Turkish population.

The reform taken by the Turkish Republic around 1920-1930 and acceptance of the Latin alphabet helped the Turkish Language return to its original form and become closer to Turkic languages.

The Mughal Empire that constructed the Taj Mahal was a Turkic Dynasty

Turco-Persian Tradition

In the Middle Ages, Turkic Empires created and led by rulers of Turkic heredity, have embraced governing traditions that are Persian and Iranian. 

Safavid, Mughal, and (to some degree) Ottoman empires are an example of Turco-Persian tradition.

The Mughal Empire, which dominated Iran and India, was a Turkic dynasty heavily influenced by Persian culture. For this reason, their beautiful architectural creations like the Taj Mahal are a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Turkish, and Indian architecture elements. Source

Which is Harder to Learn Turkish or Persian?

It is hard to decide, but if you are undecided about learning Turkish or Persian, here is my short answer.

Because both Persian and Turkish have vast cultural backgrounds, to master these languages, you need to live in a country where the language is spoken natively. And if you intend to learn Turkish or Persian, think about which country you love to stay in for a year and then decide to learn that language.

Here is the long answer…

Turkish and Persian can be hard and complicated languages to learn, with each language having its own challenges. Grammatically and logically, Persian is closer to European languages because it is an Indo-European Language. Yet, you need to learn the Arabic alphabet to start learning Persian.

On the other hand, Turkish is easy to read. The Turkish language uses the Latin alphabet, and it uses nearly the same sounds as the original Latin language.

Anyone who knows how to read Latin, Spanish, or Italian can easily read Turkish with a few hours of practice. 

Unlike English, Turkish is always read as it’s written. Even English is harder to read because words are not always pronounced as they are written.

Yet, English is one of the most challenging languages for Turkish people, because Turkish evolved differently, the Turkish language’s logic is different.

The Turkish grammar structure is also very different from Latin languages, yet Turkish has fewer irregularities. Turkish grammar has straightforward rules. 

Still, Turkish only has one main dialect (Istanbul dialect), which is understandable by all Turkish speakers. You do not need to learn local dialects to use Turkish. 

I am a native Turkish speaker, so I am biased, and I believe Turkish is easier. I hope this guide was helpful to you.

Efe Genit

I am a father, a passionate traveler, and a Turkish lawyer. You can enjoy my guides and tips about Turkey that only Turkish locals would know.

6 thoughts on “Turkish vs Persian (Farsi) Language: a Native Speaker Answers

  1. As an Iranian who lives in Istanbul, I have to admit that Turkish is a bit easier to learn, as its grammar is less complex than Persian and also its alphabet is not Latin. Also, the written and spoken versions of Persian sometimes differ a lot, which doubles the difficulty. However, I do not agree that now less than 1% of Turkish comes from Persian. Lots of words used in Turkish are Persian. Why I think they come from Persian to Turkish (and not vice versa) is that they can be found in very old Persian poetry, and also different forms of them (parts of speech) exist in Persian, but only one form is found in Turkish, e.g. the word ‘sahte’ which means ‘artificial’ and comes from the verb ‘sakhtan’ in Persian, meaning ‘to make, build or manufacture’. We also use ‘sakht’ (structure), sakhte (made), sakhteman (building) and so on (You see that ‘man’ is like the French pronunciation of the suffix ‘ment’ in European languages that forms nouns like ‘apartment).

  2. Unfortunately, there is a very big mistake in this article. There is no language named Azerbaijani. All are Turkish but the difference is Turkey Turkish, Azerbaijan Turkish, Iran Turkish, etc. This is not true to count 80 million of Turkey’s population as Turkish society. It is much more than what you have written in this article. However, please consider the vast population of Turkish people living in big cities like Tehran, and then you would figure out the real number of Iran’s Turkish population. As a native Turk who knows and speaks Persian fluently (for 24 tears), Turkish is much harder than Persian.
    *These are not offending words, some truth!

    1. I agree with you, but I am not a linguist so I was hesitant to call Azerbaijan and Turkish the same language. They are %90 mutually intelligible it is true and the difference resembles American English and UK English. Yet, I did not know where to draw the line, should I include Turkmen as a dialect as a separate language or Kazakh. I could not come to conclusion.

  3. As someone who is fluent in both languages, The percentage of Farsi’s influence on Turkish humbly cannot be under 30% and it’s definitely more than that, most of Farsi’s loan words,(Farsi, not Persian, Persian is the western name of Iran and it’s not the name of the language), are coming From Arabic (Islamic influence ) and French, due to its intellectual prestige especially during Qajar dynasty, the Turkish language had much influence on the Azeri region esp during the Selcuk dynasty, Farsi language grammatically hasn’t much changed nor by Turkish or even by the Hard influence of Arabic since the old Farsi language thanks to their literature it was mainly preserved the same goes for the Arabic language by “Quran”, Iranian tend to personalize the loaned words example: shokra’a in Arabic meaning thank you, transferred to Farsi into “Moteshakeram” almost unrecognizable,
    an Iranian can easily understand scripts and poems were written hundreds of years ago, Turkish and Persian are from different linguistic branches, but still, they both have some sense of rhyming and song (last part is my personal opinion lol)

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