In a 2013 advertisement for the eleventh annual Turkish Language Olympics, students, styled like life-size versions of the fetishistically multicultural automatons from Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride, gather around a picnic table in a grassy field. A Slavic-looking boy in an embroidered peasant blouse lifts a lid on a tureen, takes an approving sniff, and then announces in stilted Turkish, “Radishes, right?” An African girl in a purple hijab turns to her seatmate, who is sporting a Mongolian loovuz. “It is similar to your national dish,” she remarks, using the same formal Turkish.
Welcome to the utopian Turkish-speaking world imagined by the Turkish Language Olympics. Founded in 2003 (the same year current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came to power as prime minister), the international competition pits students from Turkish schools around the globe against one another in
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