If you want to live and get by comfortably in Turkey, anyone you talk to will recommend learning some Turkish, even if it is just a few everyday phrases.
But Why Learn Turkish?
Especially if you will be living in smaller towns that are not typically touristic or outside of major cities, you will, unfortunately, find that many locals do not speak English very well or choose not to – at least when not necessary. The younger generation is much better at communicating in English. Still, as you will see during your residence permit appointment or any bureaucratic process that involves government officials, very few clerks or workers speak English. This means learning Turkish is essential if you want to stay here long-term.
When you buy groceries from the bazaar, visit the doctor, and even use the bus, knowing Turkish makes your life much easier. If you are watching Turkish TV series, learning the language also helps immensely understand the culture and the idioms.
You may also have a personal motivation to learn Turkish, such as to make friends, or you may already have a Turkish partner. In that case, knowing Turkish on a conversational level will also drastically improve your relationships.
Learning Turkish: How Hard Is It?
When you are an Anglophone, learning Turkish will be harder, especially compared to Spanish or Italian, which comes from the same language family as English. On the other hand, Turkish is closer to languages such as Korean or Mongolian and is agglutinative, meaning that you can create many new words just by adding a few suffixes on the end of a word. It makes learning Turkish fun and quite like a puzzle.
As the syntax of Turkish is the complete opposite of English, this could be a hurdle for beginners, but once you get the rules down, you will be glad to see Turkish has a lot of grammar rules that make sense and very few confusing exceptions.
There are also many borrowed words of foreign origin in Turkish such as television (television), park, dans (dance), etc., which could make you more motivated to learn more. And the best part about Turkish is that words are pronounced as their spelled – so what you see is what you get. It is perfectly phonetic.
Experts say you need at least a year or roughly 44 weeks to learn Turkish to become somewhat fluent, and all language teachers and will tell you, being in the country the language is spoken in means you are already one step ahead.
Being forced to use a language and expanding your vocabulary by interacting with others is one of the best ways to get better. And the key is to practice, practice, practice…
You can go about learning Turkish in many ways.
If you need it for school or at work in a more professional sense, going to TÖMER (the Turkish and Foreign Languages Application and Research Centre) may be a good choice for you.
With branches in Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Bursa, Antalya, Alanya, Giresun, Samsun, Kayseri, Marmaris and many other locations, TÖMER is the country’s top language school.
The Benefits of Going to Tömer:
- A trusted Turkish language academy will educate you.
- The lesson plans provide for a structured and comprehensive learning experience.
- It is the fastest and one of the most professional ways to become proficient.
- You can take 2- 8 month courses, depending on your language goals.
- The courses focus on multiple skills: understanding (reading-listening), writing, speaking, and grammar.
- You will be in classes according to your level.
- You can spend 6 or 12 hours a week in class, depending on how big your group is.
- You can have a group or one-on-one lessons.
- You will have access to printed material as well as online hubs for learning.
Or, if you have the chance, you can always learn at school – whether through a university language course, at high school, or specialized language schools.
Public (or state) universities offer Turkish classes for students, either as part of their course or evening classes. Outsiders are also allowed to join for a small fee.
If you don't feel comfortable in a group setting or do not have a conventional working schedule, a private tutor may be the best option.
Not only will you be able to have the undivided attention of the teacher/tutor, but you will also be able to get feedback on every mistake you make.
This can be cheaper than language schools and gives you more flexibility both from a lesson plan standpoint and price range-wise.
Retired teachers, language instructors, or native Turkish speakers looking to earn some extra cash often give private lessons. It will be up to you to decide if you want someone with professional credentials or learn it more naturally.
Turkish Language Schools
Specialized language schools can provide more intense training but will be more expensive, offering weekend or evening classes.
Dilmer, for example, is a great language school accredited by the Turkish Ministry of National Education.
Importance of Audio
Once you have learned the grammar (basic or intricacies depending on your level) and have built up a sufficient vocabulary, you may feel as you are ready to converse in Turkish, only to realize that may not be the case.
Turkish also has many dialects and accents similar to other countries and languages. This makes listening to Turkish music, watching Turkish films or series, and listening to audio recordings of Turkish speakers vital to comprehend what people say in daily life.
In terms of speaking, letters such as ö, ü, ı, ç, ğ, ş may be hard to pronounce at first, but you'll grow used to them, especially if you listen and practice a lot.
Online Turkish Courses
There are many online Turkish learning platforms and programs to choose from nowadays. From Preply and Busuu to Udemy, you can find just what you need to learn Turkish independently.
For example, Hands-On, a Turkish online learning program supported by the European Commission, is an excellent free introductory course.
The Yunus Emre Institute (YEE) also has a free Turkish language learning portal.
Free vs. Paid
To pay or not to pay for a course or lesson is entirely up to you. Some people are very disciplined and determined and can learn a language by themselves in a spate of months.
However, if you have trouble allocating time to language learning or find it hard to be motivated, going to a course or specialized school would be highly encouraged.
When you pay and employ the help of a professional, you can get feedback and be taught ways to improve, which is why a lot of people prefer this route.
- Blu TV, Netflix: These are great for entertainment but watching Turkish productions (first with English subtitles and then with Turkish subtitles) is a great way to learn audiovisually. Try Netflix for TL27/month
- Youtube: Watch videos, vlogs, demos. You can even find introductory Turkish language learning videos to improve.
- Mobile apps: These have free or paid versions. Duolingo, Babbel, Memrise, and Rosetta Stone are great for building your vocabulary and entertainingly create sentences.
- Books: Read as much as you can. Read children's books, comic books, or simplified stories first and work your way up to newspapers and shorter novels.
- Dictionaries: Invest in good dictionaries such as Red House. When in a pinch, Tureng is good too.
- Podcasts: Find one for your level. 3 Yabancı 1 Türk (3 Foreigners and a Turk) is an excellent way to get accustomed to the culture, too.
- Online speaking clubs: You can find them advertised on Facebook or LinkedIn; give them a go.