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15 February 2023 / Culture


How to Overcome Language Barriers

By far, one of the most common questions people ask us is how to overcome language barriers in Turkey. Knowing spoken languages is a great skill in this multicultural world as more people move around the globe. But unfortunately, many people struggle. For example, clients who own holiday homes visit Turkey once or twice a year and lack opportunities to practise words they have previously learned.

Additionally, digital nomads and remote workers only stay in Turkey for three months. So while they attempt to learn essential words, learning Turkish isn't beneficial time-wise. Thirdly, many expats who live here all year-round struggle to remember and practise words—unfortunately, a downside of getting older. However, there are some language hacks and ways around language barriers.

                                     Overcoming Language Barriers in Turkey

Barriers to Learning Turkish

  • Time constraints: People may not have enough time to dedicate to learning Turkish due to work, school, or family obligations.
  • Lack of motivation: Some people have no incentive to learn a language if they don't see personal benefits.
  • Age: It is more challenging for older individuals to learn Turkish because the brain's ability to absorb new information decreases.
  • Financial constraints: Language classes and materials can be expensive, and not everyone has the financial resources to pay for them.
  • Learning style: Human nature means some people struggle to learn new languages due to differences in their learning styles, like visual or auditory preferences.
  • Limited opportunities to use Turkish: People may struggle to retain what they learned if they do not use the language in real-life situations.
  • Fear of embarrassment: Some people are afraid to speak new languages out of fear of making mistakes or being judged.

Language Hacks to Use in Daily Life

  • Utilize technology: Many language translation apps and tools help communicate in real time. The most common, Google Translator, has got better in recent years. We rarely find incorrect translations when using the app.
  • Learn key phrases: The 80/20 rule, also called the Pareto Principle, says 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. So for foreign languages, 20% of vocabulary accounts for 80% of everyday communication. Learn common phrases like hello, goodbye, and please. This shows respect and helps break the ice. Also, search Google to find the 100 most common Turkish words used.
  • Local interpreters: Many expats know a fixer. This person helps with living situations in Turkey, like residency applications or hospital visits, in return for a fee.
  • Google Lens: For written Turkish, use Google Lens. This app has numerous functions, including translate, so hover your phone over written words, and Google Lens automatically translates the text into your chosen language.

Skills that Help Overcome Language Barriers

  • Listening Skills: Sometimes, native Turkish speakers are fast and loud. Ask them to slow down so you understand.
  • Communication Skills: Depending on the situation, rehearse and learn words before you go somewhere—for example, a trip to the hairdresser to ask what you want.
  • Reading and Writing Skills: We mentioned using Translate Apps and Google Lens for on-the-spot translations, but they also help with reading and writing. The Turkish alphabet is phonetic, so words are pronounced as they are read.
  • Vocabulary: Pick target groups like numbers, days, colours, fruit and vegetable.
  • Grammar: Turkish grammar is hard to understand, but knowing the structure does help.
  • Cultural knowledge: For example, in Turkey, we don't switch on our mobile phones; we open them. There are also specific terms to refer to family members or close friends instead of learning their names.
  • The 3 Ps. Patience, persistence, and practise. It takes time to get used to foreign languages. Slow and steady wins the race, but try using Turkish regularly to retain what you learn and improve your skills.

Benefits of Knowing More Turkish

In the beginning, there are many ways to hack foreign languages, however, if your connection with Turkey is going to be a long one, you might consider trying to learn slowly.

  • Enhanced brain function: Studies show that learning foreign languages leads to cognitive benefits like memory, problem-solving, and multitasking.
  • Increased job opportunities: Having language business skills is valuable in today's global job market and opens up marketable skills and job opportunities in foreign trade, international business, global tourism, and translation.
  • Cultural understanding: Studying foreign languages impacts profound understanding and appreciation of other cultures and makes travel to foreign countries more enjoyable.
  • Improved native language skills: The study of Turkish strengthens grammar, vocabulary, and writing abilities.
  • Personal fulfilment: Learning a new language brings accomplishment and satisfaction. Knowing that language helps you express yourself more authentically.
  • Improved memory: Studies show that being bilingual improves memory function and delays age-related memory decline.
  • Increased brain plasticity: Language study increases the brain's ability to adapt and change, enhancing cognitive abilities in other areas.

Ways to Learn More Turkish

In Turkey, knowing the language also encourages respect from locals because their culture enables everyone to make friends easily. Positive attitudes have just as much impact as sticking your head in books for hours to learn. Learning Turkish improves communication skills, enhances brain function, increases job opportunities, and ensures greater cultural understanding.

Various methods for learning Turkish include formal language classes, language schools, private tutors, language exchange programs, and immersion programs. Practical approaches depend on goals, learning styles, and schedules. Remember learning a second language takes time and effort and is challenging, but the rewards are worth the effort.

  • Set goals: Determine why you want to learn Turkish and hope to achieve, and set specific, measurable goals for yourself.
  • Study methods: Decide on effective learning methods, like self-study, classes, online courses, or language exchange programs.
  • Immerse yourself in the language: Try to immerse yourself in Turkish as much as possible by watching TV shows, and movies, reading books or speaking with native speakers.
  • Practice regularly: Make a study schedule. Regular practice is vital to remembering words and making progress.
  • Use language learning resources: Utilize language learning resources like textbooks, grammar guides, audio and video materials, and apps to help you learn and reinforce your knowledge.
  • Focus on speaking and listening: Speaking and listening to Turkish should be a priority, as these skills help build confidence and improve communication abilities.
  • Seek feedback: Get feedback from teachers, friends or native speakers to help identify areas for improvement and get an outside perspective.
  • Stay motivated: Find ways to keep motivated, like learning with friends, joining language clubs, or setting rewards for reaching word goals.

To Study Turkish in Turkey, several options are available

  • Universities: Many universities in Turkey offer programs for international students. Some universities, like Bogazici University and Middle East Technical University, are known for their language programs.
  • Language schools: Several schools in Turkey specialize in teaching Turkish. Popular options include Istanbul Bilgi University and Sabanci University.
  • Private lessons: Hire a private tutor to help you study. Private lessons offer more personalized approaches tailored to specific needs and goals.
  • Language exchange programs: Participate in Turkish exchange programs, where students study with each other to learn the other's first language.
  • Immersion programs: Immersion language study programs mean living and studying in Turkish-speaking environments, which can be highly effective ways to learn.

When choosing language study programs, consider the location, cost, program duration, and qualifications of teachers. Also, ask for recommendations from friends or research online. Turkish is frustrating sometimes, but remain patient and persistent and you will reap the benefits.

Also About Turkey

Turkish Culture and Traditions: To summarize Turkish culture in one article is impossible because the diversity of heritage across Turkey varies, and other cultures like Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Arabic influence it. However, various traditions still exist across Turkey, and any first-time visitor will spot them immediately if they know what to look for.

Everyday Turkish Greetings: For language learners of all levels, knowing typical Turkish greetings and expressions helps in daily life. It distinguishes between striking up conversations and forming friendships or walking on by exciting opportunities. People use daily greetings in Turkey everywhere, from workplaces, conservations with friends and family, or only doing weekly shops.

Turkish Proverbs:  Often worded in simple, hard-hitting truths, proverbs appear in many cultures worldwide. Turkish proverbs are about much more than advice for travellers and ex-pats looking to settle and live in Turkey. They give great insight into cultural heritage and identity.

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