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What Language Do They Speak in Turkmenistan?

What Language Do They Speak in Turkmenistan

Key Takeaway

Official LanguageTurkmen
Minority LanguagesRussian, Uzbek, Kazakh
Writing SystemLatin (official), Cyrillic (previously)
Language FamilyTurkic
Number of SpeakersApprox. 7 million (mainly in Turkmenistan)

Turkmenistan, a nation with a rich history and unique cultural tapestry, is situated in Central Asia, bordered by nations like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. With its vast deserts and historic cities, it has been a crossroads of civilizations for millennia. But what about its language? The linguistic profile of Turkmenistan is as fascinating as its landscapes.

Turkmen: The Dominant Language

Turkmen is the official language of Turkmenistan. A member of the Turkic language family, it shares many linguistic features with other Turkic languages such as Turkish, Azerbaijani, and Uzbek. The history of the Turkmen language is layered, with influences from various empires and cultures that have come into contact with the Turkmen people over the ages.

Evolution of the Writing System

EraWriting System
Pre-20th CenturyArabic Script
1928-1940Latin Alphabet
1940-1993Cyrillic Alphabet
Post-1993Modified Latin Alphabet (official)

Historically, Turkmen was written using the Arabic script. With the rise of the Soviet Union and its influence in Central Asia, there was a shift. In the late 1920s, Turkmenistan adopted the Latin alphabet. However, by the 1940s, the Cyrillic script took over. Post-independence in 1991, Turkmenistan moved back to a modified Latin script in 1993, which remains the official script today.

Minority Languages and Influences

While Turkmen is the lingua franca of Turkmenistan, it’s not the only language spoken. Due to its history and geographical location, there are various linguistic influences present in the country.

List of Minority Languages:

  1. Russian: Once the administrative language during Soviet times, Russian remains a significant minority language. It’s primarily spoken by the Russian community and by many older Turkmen citizens who were educated during the Soviet era.
  2. Uzbek: Given that Uzbekistan shares a border with Turkmenistan, it’s no surprise that Uzbek, another Turkic language, is spoken, especially in the border regions.
  3. Kazakh: The Kazakh language, spoken by the Kazakh minority, can also be heard in Turkmenistan, particularly in the northern regions.

Linguistic Influences

Turkmenistan’s location on the historic Silk Road means its language has absorbed elements from numerous sources. Persian, Arabic, and more recently, Russian words can be found in the Turkmen lexicon.

Language and Culture

Language isn’t just a means of communication—it’s a reflection of culture, identity, and history. In Turkmenistan, this connection between language and culture is evident.

  • Celebrations and Festivals: Traditional songs, poems, and stories in Turkmen are a staple during national celebrations, reflecting the pride the Turkmen people have in their language and heritage.
  • Arts and Literature: Turkmenistan has a rich oral literature tradition. Dastans, or epic poems, are an essential part of Turkmen literature and are recited in the Turkmen language.
  • Everyday Life: In day-to-day activities, whether it’s shopping in a bazaar or attending a local play, the Turkmen language is omnipresent, further establishing its significant role in the nation’s cultural fabric.

Learning Turkmen

Interest in Central Asian languages has been growing globally. Whether you’re a language enthusiast, a business professional eyeing opportunities in the region, or just someone with a passion for diverse cultures, learning Turkmen can be a rewarding experience.

Tips to Learn Turkmen:

  1. Engage with Native Speakers: Try language exchange programs or online platforms where you can interact with native Turkmen speakers.
  2. Use Language Apps: Numerous apps and online platforms cater to Turkic languages, including Turkmen.
  3. Dive into Culture: Consuming Turkmen music, films, and literature can give you both linguistic and cultural insights.
  4. Practice Regularly: As with any language, consistent practice is key.


Turkmenistan, with its compelling blend of history, culture, and linguistic diversity, offers a rich tapestry for anyone keen to learn. Turkmen, as the nation’s official language, stands as a testament to the country’s resilience and cultural pride. Whether you’re planning a visit, looking to do business, or simply curious, understanding the languages of Turkmenistan offers a deeper insight into the heart of Central Asia.