cyprus language

Do You Know What Language is Spoken in Cyprus?

Do You Know What Language is Spoken in Cyprus?

(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

Language Spoken in Cyprus

Did you know that there are 8 languages spoken in Cyprus? The official language of Cyprus is Greek, but English and Turkish are also commonly spoken here due to the large immigrant population. If you’re visiting or moving to Cyprus, it’s essential to learn some of the basics of the language spoken here so that you can converse with others easily. What’s the language spoken in Cyprus? Let’s find out!

Languages of Cyprus

The island of Cyprus has a long and complex history, which is reflected in the diversity of its languages. Official languages of the isle are Greek and Turkish, but there are also many other languages spoken by minorities. These include Cypriot Arabic, Armenian, Maronite Arabic, and Cypriot Turkish.

Standard Modern Greek is the native language of most Greek Cypriots, while Turkish Cypriots typically speak a Cypriot dialect of Turkish. British rule also left its mark on the island, with English being widely used in public notices and standard Greek being taught in schools.

However, most people in Cyprus still speak their native language at home. Greek Cypriots typically speak Standard Modern Greek and some Greek regional variants like Pontic or Cappadocian.

At the same time, Turkish Cypriots tend to speak a Cypriot dialect of Turkish (with some Anatolian influence). All these languages are considered natural and official under the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. Nevertheless, they do not have any status in public life: all Cypriots study only Greek and Turkish.

According to the 1960 Constitution of Cyprus, when written vernacular languages were excluded from school curricula despite earlier promises to provide education in all living languages, much attention was given instead to the use of both Greek and Turkish through media such as newspapers and radio broadcasts; however, this was primarily for propaganda purposes rather than out of any genuine desire for linguistic equality.

It wasn’t until 1974 that parents began to organize in favor of vernacular education. They got permission to teach Arabic, Armenian, Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Maltese, and Urdu at the primary level.

A few years later, primary education became available in Hindi, Malayalam, and Sinhalese. A policy of forced assimilation continued after the end of British rule: compulsory lessons were imposed on subjects such as Geography, Mathematics, and Science in Greek. Under military occupation during 1974-1979, however, some bilingualism was introduced where Turk Cypriots learned Greek and vice versa.

As a result, the number of children attending bilingual schools increased substantially, with over 500 pupils studying together irrespective of ethnic background at one mixed school alone.

cypriot language

The History, Language, and Culture of Cyprus

Cyprus has a long and complicated history, which is reflected in the diversity of its people and their languages. The island was first settled by Greek speakers, who were later joined by Armenian and Maronite refugees from the Ottoman Empire.

Turkish Cypriots also agreed on the island, and today there are four central communities: Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots, Armenian Cypriots, and Maronite Cypriots. Each community has its language and culture, but all share a love for Cyprus’ unique heritage. One example of this is Limassol House, a Georgian mansion that’s home to exhibitions about how many different peoples have influenced Cypriot life.

In one room, historical photographs show how European settlers bought land and lived alongside native Cypriots. In another room, more recent pictures depict civil unrest in Northern Cyprus – when the United Nations took over peacekeeping operations from British troops in 1964, it established a ceasefire line to separate North and South Cyprus. In 1967, Turkey intervened militarily and seized territory north of the island.

What followed was an exodus of Greeks from the area and an ethnic cleansing campaign against Armenians, leading to an event called The Armenian Genocide. But things changed again in 1974 when the Turks invaded; this time, they gained control over almost half of Cyprus, including Nicosia.

Today North Cyprus remains unrecognized as a state with borders under military occupation; although the constitution guarantees equality between Turks and Greeks, there is tension between both communities.

Additionally, most citizens are now forced to hold two passports- one from the Republic of Cyprus and one from the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. These factors make integration into local society challenging for foreigners. A notable exception is Limassol House, where cross-cultural understanding takes place daily.

How many languages are spoken in Cyprus?

Turkish and Greek are the two official tongues of Cyprus. Turkish and Greek Cypriots dwell on the island, which is divided in half. Minority languages Armenian and Arabic are spoken by about 2.7 percent of each and are primarily combined with Greek.

what language do cypriots speak

The Official Language of Cyprus

The official languages of the Republic of Cyprus are Greek and Turkish. However, the majority of the population speaks Greek as their first language. In addition, many Cypriots also speak English and Cypriot Greek, which is a dialect of Greek spoken on the island.

As a result, it’s possible to see signs written in all three languages around town. The first became autochthonous in the 11th century BC. This is evidenced by the surviving written monuments.

The Greek language was brought to Cyprus by waves of Greek colonization. Here it is used in the Arcadian Cypriot dialect and is spoken by 80% of the population. The second official language of Cyprus, Turkish, came to the island at the time of its capture by the Ottoman Empire (late 16th century). Until 1976, members of the Muslim community used both dialects. Today they speak only Turkish.

Do not forget that there are two states on the territory of the island. Here is the Republic of Cyprus and Northern Cyprus, occupied by the Turks and recognized as part of Turkey. These zones have different rules. For example, in the Republic of Cyprus, Greek is considered the state and national language.

As for Turkish, it is common in the northern part of the island and also has its dialect. Turkish citizens living in Cyprus speak a form of this language. This dialect used to be heavily influenced by Greek, but now it is becoming more and more like literary Turkish.

Unofficial Languages of Cyprus

Having dealt with the state languages, we can study in more detail the issue of foreign dialects in the region. The island lives mainly due to tourism, and therefore those who work in this industry know English well. Another language of communication in Cyprus is Russian.

It is fluently spoken by about 40 thousand people, which is 7% of the entire Cypriot population. This prevalence is associated with an abundance of tourists from Russian-speaking countries. Most of all, Russian speech is heard in Limassol since this southern city is very fond of people from the Russian Federation and the CIS countries.

There are also some linguistic minorities in the republic. They include the Maronite Arabs. They speak traditional Arabic and the disappearing Cypriot-Arabic dialect. In addition, the Armenian diaspora is also represented on the island. It has its language, formed based on the Western Armenian dialect.

People from all over the world flock to the Republic of Cyprus. Someone stays here to live and even starts families. Schools are widespread on the island, where teachers communicate with students not only in Greek but also in foreign languages:

  • English;
  • Armenian;
  • French;
  • Italian;
  • Arab;
  • Russian.

Over the centuries, Old French, Venetian, and even Courbetian languages have taken root in the territory of Cyprus, but Greek has always been dominant.

Cypriot Dialect of Greek

As such, the concept of “Cypriot language” does not exist. The population of the southern part of the island speaks Greek, more precisely the modern Greek language and, more specifically, its dialect.

The Greek language is included in the western group of Indo-European languages, which is represented by a separate branch. The most ancient population of Cyprus spoke one of the forms of the Arcado-Cypriot dialect. In a slightly different “version,” this dialect was common among the inhabitants of Arcadia (the region of the Peloponnese).

This fact is very unusual, considering the distance separating Cyprus from the area from which the dialect came. In ancient times, Cyprus had its written language, replaced by common Greek only in the 4th century BC.

For centuries, there has been an ethnic, cultural, and religious connection between Cyprus and Greece, despite the significant remoteness of the two countries from each other (for example, the distance to the nearest Greek island of Rhodes is 400 km, and to the coast of Greece itself – more than 700 km). Know here the list of languages spoken in Greece.

This connection could not be broken by the numerous foreign conquerors who seized the island. In this regard, the language of Cyprus developed in line with the common Greek language and now differs slightly from modern Greek, retaining only the features of a dialect.

The remoteness of Cyprus from Greece has affected the fact that the Cypriot dialect is one of the purest among the existing forms of the Greek language, having largely preserved the ancient and medieval language forms (the endings of nouns and adjectives, the doubling of consonants, etc.).

A distinctive feature of pronunciation in the Cypriot dialect is the presence of hissing consonants, which are absent in the primary language of mainland Greece. At the same time, in some Greek words, Cypriots pronounce the letter “x” as “sh.” So, the term “exet'” – “you have” in Cyprus will be pronounced as “eshis” and not as “ehis.”

The island’s vocabulary contains many words that are used only in Cyprus. This is because for many centuries, while Cyprus was under the rule of different rulers (Venetians, Ottomans, British), words were actively borrowed from the languages of the conquerors.

According to the testimony of residents, the Cypriot dialect is preserved in its purest form in the dialect of the inhabitants of the Paphos district. Greek is quite difficult to learn. However, it is much easier for the Russian-speaking population to learn than other foreigners. According to the grammatical composition and some words and letters, the Greek language is somewhat similar to Russian.

official languages of cyprus
What language is spoken in Northern Cyprus?

The official language in the so-called. Northern Cyprus is Turkish; it also conducts all office work and draws up official documents. However, most of the population also speaks English, which is the second official language, since the division of the island took place after the independence of Cyprus. In most tourist areas, German and French are widely used, which is explained by the significant number of tourists arriving from these countries. And in recent years, the Russian language has also become almost universal. As a country that was under British rule or colonial rule until the mid-20th century, English is widely spoken in Cyprus, with about three-quarters of the population (76%)  able to speak English.

Russian language in Cyprus

The spread of the Russian language in Cyprus deserves special attention. In the resort centers in most hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and shopping centers, there is a staff who speaks fluent Russian. As a rule, these are people from the former Soviet republics or Bulgarians. Recently, more and more Cypriots are learning Russian, so even if you do not know any language other than Russian, you can explain yourself without any problems.

A relatively large number of people speak Russian in Cyprus – about 6-7% are Russians and Russian speakers. The Russian language is taught in Russian and English schools in Cyprus. More and more often, you can hear Russian speech on the streets because every year, there are more and more visitors from Russia to rest and work. As of 2018, about 120,000 Russians live permanently in Cyprus.

English in Cyprus

While Greek is mainly spoken in the south and Turkish in the north of the island, most Cypriots also speak excellent English. This is because Cyprus was a Greek colony from 1878 to 1960. Many Cypriots have lived, worked, or studied in the UK. Even proficiency in US English is often considered a sign of sophistication, and many Cypriots strive to perfect their English skills.

So it is not necessary to learn Greek, even if you want to work and live in Cyprus. However, knowledge of Greek is without a doubt always an advantage and essential if you want to integrate into Cyprus and also adopt the pleasant Cypriot way of life for yourself.

Unfortunately, because so many Cypriots speak English, few foreign residents of Cyprus make an effort to learn more than basic Greek. Often such adoptive Cypriots live in seclusion without much contact with the locals as if they were on an extended vacation. While it is possible to live and work in Cyprus without knowing the Greek language, it is far from ideal.

language in cyprus

Minority Languages of Cyprus

There are three minority languages spoken on the island of Cyprus: Turkish, Armenian, and Cypriot Arabic. The Turkish language is the largest minority language, spoken by 18% of the population. Armenian is the second-largest minority language, spoken by 8% of the population. Cypriot Arabic is a minority language spoken by just 1% of the population. All three minority languages are officially recognized by the government of Cyprus. The majority language of Cyprus is Greek.

When Cyprus was under British rule, English was also an official language of the country, but it lost its status when Greece won its independence from Britain. Today, English is only spoken by a small percentage of the population who have gone to universities abroad or have had some other form of extensive contact with the West. Since 1974, there has been no significant use of English as an official language in any part of Cyprus.

Armenian

Armenian is spoken by the ethnic Armenians living in Cyprus. These people have lived in the country since the 6th century, but a new group of Armenian immigrants also arrived in Turkey in the 19th century after the Armenian Genocide. Currently, 20 people in Cyprus speak Armenian as their first language. Many ethnic Armenians living in Cyprus are bilingual in Armenian and Greek.

Cypriot Arabic

Cypriot Arabic is a variant of Arabic spoken by the ethnic Arabs living in Cyprus. The language is dying fast and is spoken by about 900 Cypriot Maronites living in the country, most of whom are in their 30s. Most Cypriot speakers of this language are bilingual in Greek and Cypriot Arabic. Kormakitis in Cyprus is believed to be home to a significant population of Cypriot Maronites.

Kurbetcha

Kurbetcha is a little-studied minority language of Cyprus. The language is spoken by the Roma people living in the northern parts of the country. The language uses Romani vocabulary and Turkish Cypriot grammar. Little is known about this minority language, and it is not protected by the country’s law.

Immigrant Languages Spoken in Cyprus

Several immigrant languages are spoken in Cyprus. These languages are spoken by the immigrant population of various ethnicities residing in the country. English, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, etc., are some of the immigrant languages of Cyprus.

Foreign Languages Spoken in Cyprus

English is the most popular foreign language spoken in Cyprus. The Cypriots have an excellent knowledge of English. According to a Eurobarometer report, 73% of the population of Cyprus can speak English. The language is used in street signs, advertisements, and public notices in the country. During the British colonial rule in Cyprus, English served as the country’s official language. It was also the country’s lingua franca until 1960. English was used in the courts of Cyprus until 1989 and in the legislature until 1996. Other popular foreign languages spoken in Cyprus are French and German, spoken by 12% and 5% of the population of Cyprus, respectively.

FAQ’s

What is the most popular language in Cyprus?

Cyprus’s two official languages are Cypriot Greek and Cypriot Turkish. However, the numerous languages that the various colonial groups who came to Cyprus over the years spoke profoundly influenced the development of Cypriot Greek over several centuries in the nation.

Is English widely spoken in Cyprus?

76% of Cypriots can speak English, 12 percent can speak French, and 5 percent can speak German, according to the Eurobarometer.

Is Cyprus Europe or Asia?

Although Cyprus technically belongs to Asia, it is frequently regarded as having political and cultural ties to Europe and has been a member of the EU since 2004. Despite being a split island, only the Republic of Cyprus is recognized globally.

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