Azerbaijani Language – What You Need to Know

azerbaijaniAzerbaijani language is of Turkic language family (not to be confused with Turkish, which is also from Turkic language family) and because of historical events, the language has been gradually influenced by Russian and Arabic languages. That’s why you can hear many familiar words if you know Turkish, Russian or Arabic. Azerbaijani language does sound similar to Turkish, but they have many differences. However, it’s really easy to understand and learn Azerbaijani once you know Turkish.

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As Azerbaijan was one of the Soviet Union Republics, many people, especially elderly persons know basic and fluent Russian. Therefore, if you are also from the country which once was a part of USSR, it will be easier to communicate with locals. English is mostly popular among youngsters, but you will hardly ever find someone who speaks good English in city suburbs.

The official language script of Azerbaijani is Latin.

The main sounds that may sound very unfamiliar to you are Ə, Ö, Ü, Ğ, I (not a big i), Ç.

  • Ə is like the sound of the first letter ‘a’ when you say Amazing
  • Ö is the vowel sound you make when you say Hurt
  • Ü is that first vowel sound when you say Pure
  • Ğ sounds like ‘r’ in French. Spelled as ‘gh’ in English
  • Ş sounds the same as ‘sh’ (sheep)
  • I is ‘i’ without a dot. It doesn’t have alternative in English language, but is transmitted to English as ‘i’
  • Ç – is ‘ch’ as in ‘cheese’

Azerbaijani Phrases you need to know

  • To say hello in Azerbaijani say: Salam (SA-LAM)
  • How are you? = Necəsiz? (NE-JA-SIZ) or Necəsən? (NE-JA-SAN)
  • How much does it cost? = Bu neçəyədir? (BU NEH-CHA-YA-DIR)
  • (While asking taxi the price) How much do you take?  = Neçəyə apararsan? (NE-CHA-YAH A-PA-RAR-SAN)

Unlike English, the pronoun ‘You’ in Azerbaijani has two versions: informal and formal. The formal translation is ‘Siz’, which is used when referring to someone you are meeting for the first time or just the people who are older than you as a form of respect. However we use ‘Sən’ (sounds like SeN)  when referring to our friends and closest relatives.

These are the videos we found on YouTube, made by expat named Tim who did a great job with pronunciation and common words/phrases in Azerbaijani.

Part 1 (Common Phrases)

Part 2 (Numbers)

Still not enough for you? These are useful links if you want to learn more Azerbaijani:

  • Learn the basics of Azerbaijani – run by educational writer living and working in Baku: Speak Azerbaijani
  • Another useful link, with some audio materials to pronounce some main phrases: Learn Azerbaijani