Friday, February 18, 2011

Helpful hints for learning Turkish - HDN

Helpful hints for learning Turkish

The decision to move to another country is often done with a healthy dose of blind passion, just like falling in love, so that it’s only later that one realizes the pitfalls of one’s decision, if any. Moving to Turkey must have seemed like a great idea for many, that is, until they realized they just had to learn Turkish to integrate and enjoy the country more.

That’s when it gets interesting, to say the least. With the Turkish lexicon having so little crossover with most expats’ languages – which are often Indo-European in their roots and not Turkic like Turkish – even remembering the word for “thank you” can be difficult for most, not to mention pronouncing it.

It’s easy to fall into a mood of despair and feel like “I’ll never learn this language! It’s too hard!” But do not despair, make yourself a “nescafé,” grab a “sigara” if you need one, de-stress and read the helpful hints below which, if practiced regularly, will have you able to converse in light conversation sooner than you can say Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Listen 1: There are two parts to this because it is so important. Learning a language is primarily about listening and repeating what is said, like a parrot. We’ve all seen how babies and toddlers do it. At the age of 3 they are learning a handful of words a day. There is no reason why you can’t do the same. Often as a language learner, you can be caught up with what you want to say and saying it correctly with the result that you haven’t actively listened to the person you’re speaking to; so haven’t heard exactly how they said what they did. By listening intently, eventually, you catch not only the gist but also the separate words that were said and hence will be able to repeat later when you need them.

Listen 2. If you have a CD of Learning Turkish, which is recommended, put it on every morning for half an hour while getting ready for the day. If you don’t have that, switch on some talk radio. Getting used to the sound of the language is very important. It’s like exercising that part of your brain, as we would a part of our body. For the first month or so it will seem like one big sound with no words distinguishable but as you learn some vocabulary alongside, suddenly you will have moments of “Eureka!” as you spot some familiar words amid the blanket of sound. The payback from this exercise is enormous, for not only are you absorbing the sounds but also the rhythm and intonation of the language, which become important in time.

Speak. This may seem obvious but it is often the thing that the learner most resists for fear of sounding silly. The next time you feel like this, just listen closely to the English your Turkish compatriot spoke to you and hear how mixed up their verb tenses, grammar, syntax and so on is. Do you or they care? Of course not, you’re having a conversation, not a language class; so it’s primarily about communicating with each other – and enjoying it. At a later stage of learning, ask your friend to correct you as you speak, this will speed up your learning process.

Be patient. This can’t be stressed enough. It takes quite a while for the brain to absorb and reproduce the new sounds, especially with Turkish since they are completely unrelated to your mother tongue. You will understand the basics after a time, yet still not be able to speak; that is very frustrating, but bide your time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Give yourself at least three months to be able to speak sentences that make grammatical sense!

Master the basics. To help yourself enjoy the chitchats that you may have during the day, try to familiarize yourself as much as possible with all the main greetings, requests for things, responses to common courtesies and so on. Your confidence will receive a boost when, for example, someone suddenly responds to your “Nasılsın?’” with “İyiyim, sen nasılsın?” You’ll be skipping all the way home and inspired to continue the slog.

Read. Every day, as you go about your business, read everything you see. Read the shop signs, road signs, the signs for 10 percent off on washing products, the menus, the leaflet you were just handed, the advertisements, the packaging on your food and anything else. It helps familiarize you with how the language looks as well as making you familiar with your surroundings. Buy children’s books that you are already familiar with from home, such as classic fairy tales. Watch movies with Turkish subtitles. Make sure your dictionary is well thumbed by constantly looking up words you don’t know and writing them in your little notebook, that, as a language learner, you should always be carrying.

Study. Yes, the boring truth about learning a language, like mastering an instrument, is that you have to hide yourself away quite regularly with your exercise book and dictionary and just practice and master the basics. The Internet can be hugely helpful in this area. These are two sites that are highly recommend: .

Last but not least, thank your lucky stars that Turkish uses the Latin alphabet today and not the Arabic one! Your work is halved, at least!

Kolay gelsin!

*** Kate Fennell speaks native Irish and English; fluent French, German and Russian and passable Spanish, Italian and Turkish.

SOURCE: Hurriyet Daily News


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