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Learning the Language in Turkey

This guide was written by Francine Carrel, Assistant Editor at Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 2 February 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about learning Turkish in order to live or work in Turkey. It covers different methods of learning Turkish and how to keep up your language skills.

Introduction

Learning Turkish is important if you're going to be spending a lot of time in Turkey.

The good news (if you're a Westerner): it is written in the (slightly modified) latin alphabet. You won't have to learn a completely new script.

The bad news: the language may not seem intuitive to most Europeans and Americans. Turkish base words can stand alone - prefixes are not part of the language - but are built in complexity by the addition of suffixes. Words can therefore get very long!

How can a foreigner learn Turkish?

There are a few ways to learn Turkish - each has its pros and cons, and combining two or several can be much more effective.

Learning Turkish from a local partner

Becoming romantically enmeshed with a Turkish person is by far the easiest way to learn the language. Never are you more motivated than when you want to understand every word coming from your new beloved!

If your spouse objects to our first plan, never fear, there are lots of other ways:

Going to school to learn Turkish

You can attend Turkish classes 'back home', when you arrive in Turkey, or both.

'Back home'

There are lots of Turkish speakers around the world. This is a very good thing for you, because it means there are lots of people teaching Turkish.

Do an internet search for "learn Turkish in [your city]", or check out the websites of your local language school.

I live in a small town in England. A Google search immediately found me a local private tutor, charging £20 an hour. Alternatively, I could take a short train journey to a bigger town and attend a language course. You'll have even more luck (and more choice) if you live in a large town or city.

If there aren't any official Turkish language lessons in your area, or they are too expensive for you, consider if you know (or your friends know) any Turkish people. You can ask them if they would be willing to tutor you. This method is likely to be a little more haphazard, but could be enjoyable - and is certainly better than nothing at all.

It's a great idea to at least get the basics of Turkish down before you move to Turkey: it will make the whole thing a lot less scary and ensure you can get set up more quickly.

In Turkey

You can visit Turkey and take courses before you move (immersion is the easiest way to learn a language), continue your studies when you arrive, or even start from scratch when you've moved to Turkey.

There are many places to learn Turkish in Turkey. Search the web and local newspapers for a private tutor, or check out a local school (some are listed below).

Courses will vary from evening classes over a period of months, to intensive full-time courses for a couple of weeks.

Prices also vary widely: the best thing to do is call up the school or teacher and find out what you'll need to pay for your specific needs. You can expect to pay around US$100 (₺377/€92/£79) for a few weeks of evening classes, or $300-$400 for a three-week intensive course.

City School Website link
Alanya Alanya Lingua Click to see this website
Ankara Mengütaş Click to see this website
Ankara Turkish Academy Click to see this website
Ankara Language Vacation Click to see this website
Antalya Babil Language School Click to see this website
Bodrum Çimen Sevanç (private teacher, good reviews) Click to see this website
Fethiye Dem Turkish Center Click to see this website
Istanbul Royal Turkish Education Center Click to see this website
Istanbul Istanbul University Language Centre Click to see this website
Istanbul Kedicat Click to see this website
Izmir Royal Turkish Education Center Click to see this website
Izmir Turkish Language Center Click to see this website
Marmaris Ozeldil Click to see this website

Learn Turkish through the internet, DVDs, CDs and books

There are many, many Turkish language courses available online and in print.

A leading example is the Rosetta Stone courses, which are comprehensive online, audio and written lessons. My favourite free course is Duolingo, which is online-only but allows you to write, listen and speak in Turkish. More below.

Websites that charge monthly will often let you 'bulk buy' months, or sign up for an extended period of time, which works out cheaper per month.

Many of these websites will also offer an app for your mobile phone.

Medium Course Price Website link
Online Duolingo Free Click to see this website
Online Babbel Free trial, then US$11 (₺42.50/£8.95/€10.50) per month Click to see this website
Online Turkish Basics Free Click to see this website
Online busuu Free trial, then US$12.50 (₺47/€11.50/£10) per month Click to see this website
Online or CD/downloaded audio Rosetta Stone Online subscription: US$49 (₺185/€45/£39) for three months.
CD or audio download (first three levels): US$129 (₺486/€120/£102)
Click to see this website
Online (lots of video content) Turkish Class 101 US$25 (₺94/€23/£20) per month Click to see this website

There are also hundreds of books and DVDs devoted to learning Turkish. A quick search on your favourite bookseller's website will show you. Books should be used in tandem with other, more interactive methods of language learning.

Learning Turkish 'on the job'

Many people pick up the basics of Turkish whilst working. This is a slow, pretty inaccurate, but free way to learn the language.

Watch out, though: your Turkish colleagues are likely to want to use you to improve their English! You can end up with weird conversations with both of you haltingly speaking in different languages.

Some jobs will offer formal lessons in Turkish. This is an excellent benefit and a good reason to consider the job.

Learning Turkish from your friends and neighbours in Turkey

Your new friends in Turkey will be thrilled if you show an interest in learning the language, and are likely to be willing to help you. Turks are famously hospitable and sometimes think that Europeans and Americans are aloof and standoffish. This is a good chance to prove them wrong. Offer to tutor your friends' and neighbours' children in return for their help!

Learning Turkish from your children

If you have young children, you will be astounded at how quickly they pick up a new language - especially if you put them into the local school system. They will fast become fluent in Turkish whilst you are still struggling - so get them to help you with your vocabulary. Just be ready for the sighs and eyerolls as you lag behind!

Keeping up your Turkish

Keep immersing yourself in the Turkish language to make sure your speech and writing remains fluent. Read Turkish newspapers, listen to Turkish radio (more of a challenge), watch Turkish movies (with English subtitles if necessary) and chat with your Turkish neighbours.

Expats' Tips

Do you have any experience with learning Turkish? Share it with other potential expats by emailing office@guides.global.

Conclusion

It's important to have at least a rudimentary grasp of Turkish if you're going to be spending a lot of time in the country. Fluency in Turkish will make your life much easier and more pleasant.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
Click to see this guide
Local Press and other Media in Turkey
Freedom of press, newspapers, radio, television
Click to see this guide

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

2 February 2017


 

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