Baku - Post Report Question and Answers

How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Google translate is your friend. Russian and Azerbaijani is nice to have but not need to have unless you will actually use it in your work e.g. Consular or (maybe?) public diplomacy - Sep 2023

You definitely need to know or learn the local language to get around. People here primarily speak Azerbaijani and Russian. They speak some English, but they mainly know common words like, “yes, no, thank you, you’re welcome, and bye,” If you live in the Absheron or close to fountain square/downtown area more locals speak better English, but if you leave outside of that area you need to know a basic amount of Azerbaijani or Russian to get you around. Google Translate will become your best friend. - Aug 2023

Azeri is spoken more so than Russian, which is spoken more so than English. Getting by on English alone is quite challenging. Not sure about local language classes/tutors for people outside of the Embassy community. - Aug 2023

I received training in Azerbaijani and came with some Russian as well. I think it depends on the type of job you are doing, but most locals definitely don't speak English and it is worth learning a few words in either language to get around. Once you leave Baku especially your need for Azerbaijani increases. Yes local classes or tutors available for an ok price. - Jun 2023

That's been the one drawback for us as USAID is that we didn't get any language before coming here. You can get around without it, but knowing Russian or Azeri opens up so many doors that were closed to us. When you get out of Baku it can be hard to navigate and find things. People are happy to help, but you need to be able to communicate. Trying to find 1000+ year old Albanian churches in the middle of nowhere was extremely difficult. Classes and tutors are affordable and available, but if you don't put 5+ hours into learning and study per week you just won't ever get anywhere with the language. - Jun 2021

You can get by with just English. The Embassy does offer spouse language classes and classes for officers too. Local tutors are readily available. - Jan 2019

Of course it’s always helpful to know the local language, but we did survive with the most basic Azerbaijani. We usually just spoke English with people or used hands and feet, and rarely had a problem. Young Azerbaijanis learn English now and can understand basic English. Most Azerbaijanis speak Russian and/or a little bit of Turkish, too. Many products at the stores are imported from Russia, so Russian might be a little bit more helpful to learn than Azerbaijani, especially if you like to travel to other post-Soviet countries. The embassy offers group classes every once in a while, and tutors are at the embassy to help employees. - Jul 2018

I always think learning the local language is helpful, and much appreciated by Azerbaijanis. I have an Azeri language tutor twice a week, and the language is useful in taxis, markets, restaurants, when traveling, etc. because you will definitely encounter people, especially taxi drivers, who don't speak English and there will be products in the supermarket with only Azeri/Russian/Turkish labels. However, my spouse has not learned any local language and gets around perfectly well. Learning Russian is perhaps more useful than Azeri, because Azeris assume foreigners speak Russian, and Russian is helpful for personal travel to Georgia, Armenia, or other parts of the former USSR. However, Azeri is closely related to Turkish, so Azeri is more useful for personal travel to Turkey or Turkic-language countries. - May 2018

I don't know any of it, but it would be helpful for getting gas, grocery shopping, ordering food, etc. You can get by without it, but it makes things harder. It's especially difficult when trying to communicate with the house helpers/drivers. - Mar 2017

Not required if you don't interact much but it is good to have a few words or phrases in Russian or Azeri. - Jul 2015

I came without a word of Russian or Azeri and have learned about fifteen words since I've come. That said, I stay home all day most days and so have very little contact with the locals. My husband speaks both, so when I go out to the grocery store he's with me. If I need a translator, I call my housekeeper. Most people have drivers who will act as translators. - Jan 2013

Well, most people more than 30 years old know Azeri and Russian. The younger than 20-year-olds only know Azeri. I learned some Russian before coming. It really is necessary to know one of the languages. I know enough words to get me by at the markets, etc. - Dec 2011

A little Russian is helpful, especially with taxi drivers. If you pick up a few phrases in Russian and/or Azeri you should be ok for shopping, eating out. - Sep 2010

You need Russian at the very least. Not many people learn Azeri (except for the numbers, which you will need in the markets). Most labels are in Russian or Azeri. - Aug 2010

We got by with none but it is very difficult. The older generation speak russian and azerbaijani, but the younger generation only speaks azerbaijani. - Oct 2009

A little helps but you can usually get away with non if you are willing to find a translator. - Nov 2008

It is fairly easy to get by day to day in English but having basic Russian or Azeri will be helpful. - Sep 2008

Azerbaijani really helps you get around and garners lots of good will, which makes living in Baku much more pleasant. You can also get by on Russian in Baku, but it doesn't inspire the same positive reaction. - Sep 2008

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