Introduction to the Kurdish Language

Kurdish is a Indo-European language as part of the Western Iranian branch with around 40 million speakers worldwide and is spoken predominantly in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. There are numerous smaller communities of Kurds in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and also parts of Europe. In this sense, Kurdish is different from languages such as Arabic and Turkish as there are more sounds, making for more difficult pronunciation.

When talking about the Kurdish language, it is probably more accurate to refer to Kurdish as a language family rather than a single language. While there are nearly 30 different Kurdish dialects, the Kurdish people typically speak one of two major dialects, Central Kurdish (Sorani) or Northern Kurdish (Kurmanji).

Although each of the dialects within the different Kurdish dialect groups are considered to be under the same umbrella of the Kurdish language, they are actually much more different than you might think. In a lot of cases, two speakers of different Kurdish dialects might even be mutually unintelligible due to the language, or in this case, dialect barrier.

Aside from Sorani and Kurmanji, there are several other Kurdish dialect groups and dialects such as Southern Kurdish or Kermanshani which is spoken in Iran by over 3 million speakers, Dimili also called Zaza or Zazaki which is spoken in Turkey by 3 million speakers, and Hawrami which is spoken by Iran and Iraq by 50,000 speakers.


Sorani vs Kurmanji

Just one of the most notable differences between Sorani and Kurmanji is that the former uses the Arabic script whereas the latter uses the Latin alphabet. Specifically, Sorani uses an adapted Perso-Arabic script. Kurmanji is the largest dialect group with an estimate of at least 20 million speakers across Turkey, Syria, and parts of Iraq and Iran while Sorani is spoken by an estimate of approximately 8 million speakers primarily in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Province in Iran.

The biggest difference between Kurmanji and Sorani are in the most basic words, that’s why Kurmanji and Sorani speakers can’t communicate with each other very well, because the most basic pronouns are different, and the rest of the words are similar.

The Sorani dialect is more preserved than Kurmanji, since Kurds in Iraq use Sorani as their main language at home, school and outside. And almost all the books in libraries are written in the Sorani dialect. On the other hand, the number of Kurmanji speakers is on the decline due to certain restrictions on the language.

Although there are considerably more Kurmanji speakers than Sorani speakers, one could say that Sorani is more unified and structured compared to its Northern Kurdish counterpart. For one, Kurmanji has way more sub-dialects than Sorani. For this reason, speakers of some sub-dialect of Kurmanji may not always be able to communicate with each other.

Learn How to Speak Kurdish Sorani iraq

Kurdish Writing System

Written Kurdish originated as a derivative of the Persian alphabet in the 7th century. Since then, the Kurdish people transitioned to an adapted version of the Arabic script until they eventually started using the Latin alphabet in Turkey and Syria. The Sorani alphabet, which was derived from the Arabic script, became the standard writing system for Kurdish in both Iran and Iraq.

Below, you'll find some examples of the Sorani alphabet. You'll notice that it looks nearly identical to the Arabic script. A few basic phrases and audio clips are included below. This will give you a good idea of how Sorani sounds like and what you can expect when you start learning Sorani for the first time.

English Sorani Romanization
What's your name? ناوت چییه؟ nawt čiiɛ?
My name's Alan. ناوم ئالانه. nawm alanɛ.
Where are you from? خه‌ڵکی کوێیت؟ xɛ‌łki kweyt?
I'm from New York. خه‌ڵکی نیویۆرکم. xɛ‌łki niwiorkm.
How old are you? ته‌مه‌نت چه‌نده؟ tɛ‌mɛ‌n't čɛ‌ndɛ?
I'm twenty (20) years old. تەمەنم بیست (20) ساڵە. tɛmɛn'm bist (20) sałɛ.
How are you? چۆنیت؟ čonit?
I don't know. نازانم. nazan'm.
I'm sorry, I don't understand. ببووره‌، تێناگه‌م. bbūrɛ‌, tenagɛ‌m.
Excuse me, do you speak English? ببووره‌، تۆ ئینگلیزی قسه‌ئه‌که‌یت؟ bbūrɛ‌, to inglizi qsɛ‌`ɛ‌kɛ‌it?

Exploring Kurdish Culture

Historically, there are pockets of Kurdish communities throughout many different regions in countries like Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria, and more. For this reason, the Kurdish people share quite a few cultural similarities with a lot of these other countries. Records show that the governments of the countries primarily inhabited by the Kurdish people, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, all actively tried to repress the Kurdish people, both politically and culturally. In spite of this, Kurdish culture has for the most part been well preserved and continues to maintain a very special and unique standing even to this day.

Kurdish people are known for being extremely generous and hospitable to one another and even to guests. They have a very strong sense of community and are incredibly loyal to their close friends and family.

Learn How to Speak Kurdish Sorani culture

Music is a big part of Kurdish culture and is something that the Kurdish people thoroughly enjoy and pride themselves in. By means of poetry, music, and song, the Kurdish people orally passed down much of their culture and tradition from generation to generation. In fact, many modern Kurdish songs are loved by music appreciators all over the world. Below, you'll find an example of a very famous Kurdish song along with lyrics so you can even sing along!

Sahe Bedo - Cavresamin

Tü pır nazık delali
Lı nava vi dıli de
Bırinek bê dermani
Lı vi canê de

Çavreşamın were bamın
Ez nexweşım tü sebebamın
Çavreşamın were bamın
Ez bêhalım tü sebebamın

Why You Should Learn Kurdish

As mentioned earlier, Kurdish culture has been extremely well preserved throughout the years and the core of which has remain largely untouched despite foreign efforts to repress it. By learning Kurdish, you will be opening the door to truly immersing yourself in and absorbing the entirety of the riches that Kurdish culture has to offer.

Again, Kurdish people are remarkably kind and hospitable to guests, even if they come from completely different parts of the world. As such, they will be very appreciative and grateful if someone takes the time to learn how to speak their language and really get to know more of their culture. This will typically result you in being accepted on a deeper, more personal level. You'll probably even be considered and treated as a fellow member of the community and family!

Kurdish is the language that most closely resembles Persian, also an Indo-European language with approximately 110 million speakers worldwide and is an official language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Kurdish, specifically Sorani, and Persian share many vocabulary words in common and even sound and feel similar to one another.

Start Learning Kurdish Today

Now that you've gotten a taste of that the Kurdish language has to offer, start learning how to speak Kurdish now! With Glossika, you'll have unlimited access to Kurdish Sorani for absolutely no cost. This means you'll be able to learn Kurdish Sorani wherever you want, whether it be on the go, while you're eating, or from the comfort of your home. Glossika adjusts automatically to your level, learning speed, and schedule so you can start learning Kurdish the most natural way right now!


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