It’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases in the local language when you travel overseas. Knowing how to say ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and other everyday expressions is appreciated by those in your host country, as well as making life simpler for you.
If you visit Antalya on holiday, you’ve no doubt marvelled at how well many Turkish people in the resort areas speak English. In the more remote or traditional neighbourhoods, however, that won’t necessarily be the case. And if you’ve decided to live in the province full time, you’ll need to know a bit more Turkish than if you stay in a luxury holiday villa in Kalkan for a couple of weeks each year.
It’s a good idea to invest in some lessons to really get to grips with the language but, to start you off, here are some everyday Turkish words and phrases you’ll need.
Saying hello and other greetings
If you can shout a cheerful ‘hello’ to your neighbour or wish the shop assistant a good day as you pay for your groceries, that’s a reasonable start.
- Merhaba – mare-ha-ba
This means ‘hello’ and is a useful catch-all for any time of day when you meet someone.
- Günaydın – goo-nigh-dun
‘Good morning’ tends to be used early in the day – for example, if you’re walking your dog first thing, or buying bread and pastries for breakfast from the local bakery.
- İyi günler – ee-yee goon-lair
Around mid-morning, switch to wishing people ‘good day’.
- İyi akşamlar – ee-yee ak-sham-lar
‘Good evening’ is used from around 6pm onwards. You might notice people saying it even late at night – the sentiment is that the rest of your evening will be pleasant.
- İyi geceler – ee-yee gej-e-ler
Saying ‘good night’ is more formal and used with people you don’t know very well. It also signifies the end of the day’s activities.
- Hoşça kal - hosh-cha kal
This form of ‘goodbye’ is used by someone as they leave a restaurant or other place.
- Güle güle – goo-lay goo-lay
Also meaning ‘goodbye’, this is used by those staying behind – for example, if you’ve had friends round for dinner, you would say this as they leave at the end of the evening.
- Görüşürüz – gur-roosh-oo-rooz
‘See you later’ – an informal farewell, used cheerfully with people you expect to see again before long.
It’s our nature to be polite to people we meet, or to enquire after their health. This is no different in Turkey.
- Lütfen – loot-fen
Even if you use English for the rest of your sentence, the person you’re talking to will be happy if you say ‘please’ in their language.
- Teşekkür ederim – tesh-eck-oor ed-air-im
‘Thank you’, when expressing your own thanks. If you are thanking someone on behalf of others too, you need to use the plural – teekkr ederiz (tesh-eck-oor ed-air-iz). Other variations include ‘tesekk
- Evet ve hayır (ev-et vay high-ur)
Yes and no. Two basic words that are extremely useful!
- Nasılsın? – nass-ul-sun
Use this to ask, ‘how are you?’. If someone says it to you, you can reply, ‘iyiyim’ (ee-yee-yim), which means ‘I’m fine’.
- Memnun oldum – mem-nun old-um
Literally, this phrase translates to ‘I’m glad’, but it’s used to mean ‘pleased to meet you’ when you are introduced to someone new.
Phrases you will hear often
- Rica ederim – ree-ja ed-air-im
When somebody says ‘thank you’, this is the standard response. They may also say ‘birey deil’ (beer-shay day-eel), which means ‘it’s nothing’.
- Buyrun – booy-run
You’ll hear this a lot, as it has many different uses. In the market, a stallholder will say it to indicate he’s ready to serve you; if someone gives up their seat for you on public transport, it means ‘go ahead’. In someone’s home, they may say it to indicate a meal is ready – a bit like ‘come and get it’.
- Hoş geldin – hosh gel-din
This means ‘welcome’, and the standard response is ‘ho bulduk’ (hosh bull-duck), which translates as ‘we found it well’.
- Afiyet olsun – aff-ee-yet ol-sun
You will hear your server will say this when presenting your food in a restaurant or café – it’s the equivalent of ‘enjoy your meal’.
- Eline sağlık – ell-in-ay sa-a-luck
The literal translation is ‘health to your hand’. It’s used as a toast or acknowledgment to someone who has done good work, but especially if they have prepared a meal. Saying this to the person who has cooked your food is a real compliment.
- Kolay gelsin – ko-lie gel-sin
You would say this to someone doing a job, especially if they are working hard. It means ‘may it come easy’. It’s a way of appreciating or empathising with their efforts.
- Geçmiş olsun – gech-mish ol-sun
If someone is sick, this is how to express your wish that they recover soon. It means ‘may it pass’, and is used in any unhappy situation, for example if someone has received bad news.
A few useful extras
As well as lessons, there are some great apps and online resources to help you improve your Turkish, such as Duolingo or Memrise. It’s also a good idea to listen to other people talking as often as you can, to pick up tips on pronunciation and expression.
It takes time to really learn a language, but here are a few extra phrases you will find useful as you go about your daily life in Antalya.
- What is it in Turkish? – Türkçesi ne? (Turk-chess-i nay)
- I need help – Yardıma ihtiyacım var (Yard-um-a it-tee-ya-jum var)
- Where is the bus station/chemist/toilet/hospital? – Otobüs/eczane/tuvalet/hastane nerede? (Otto-boos/ez-ar-nay/too-val-et/hass-tan-ay nair-eh-day)
- Where are you? – Neredesin? (Nair-eh-dess-in)
- May I have the bill? – Hesap alabilir miyim? (Hess-ap al-a-bill-ear me-yim)
- How much is it? – Ne kadar? (Nay kad-ar)
- Excuse me – Affedersiniz (Aff-eh-dare-sin-iz)
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