Everyday expressions tell us so much about a culture: its people, its preoccupations - even its sense of humour. These phrases give a little insight into the Turkish way of thinking. Memorise them for your next trip to Turkey - you'll delight and surprise everyone you meet, guaranteed.
1. Hos geldeniz: it's nice you came; welcome
Pronounced hosh gell-din-eez
Turks are hospitable people. They like to make you feel welcome somewhere. Hos geldiniz is the greeting used by shopkeepers, waiters - or friends, of course, when you arrive somewhere.
2. Hos bulduk: I find it nice
Pronounced: hosh bullduk
This is the response to hos geldiniz. You don’t need to say it to shopkeepers, necessarily (if you said it to everyone you’d do nothing else with your day) but it’s polite when a friend greets you.
3. Buyurun: please; here you are
You’ll hear this word a lot. It’s translated to please but it’s more like a way to usher someone into a shop, or perhaps you might use it when offering someone a seat. So you could say “buyurun, teyze”, (here you are, aunty) when giving up your seat for an older woman on the bus.
4. Gule gule kullanin: use it smiling
Pronounced: gewlay gewlay koolahnin
This phrase - very funny to English-speakers - is used when you buy something. It’s as if you’re blessing the item before the buyer takes it away.
5. Tesekkur ederim: thank you
Pronounced: teshekur ederim
We all know how to thank someone. But Tesekkur ederim goes far beyond the act of offering thanks. Its meanings are varied and subtle - it can mean anything from “I’m not interested” to, well, thank you. When someone’s goes to pour you a drink but you’d like to politely refuse? Tesekkur ederim. Someone asks who you are? Tesekkur ederim. Someone trying to sell you something? Tesekkur ederim.
6. Aferin sana: good for you
Pronounced: afairin sahna
This is a way of validating something that someone has said. “I’m going for a promotion at work” - “aferin sana”. “I’m almost fluent in Turkish now” - “aferin sana”. Easy to understand and even easier to say.
7. Afiyet olsun: may it be good for you
Pronounced: afeeyet olsun
This is the Turkish equivalent of “enjoy your meal”. Foreign diners are sometimes puzzled by waiters with a few words of English who say “enjoy your meal” as you’re walking out the door. This is because the phrase actually means “may it be good for you,” and can be used at any point during or after a meal.
8. Allah Allah: good lord!
This is a very useful phrase indeed. Not a day goes by without an occasion to utter an emphatic Allah Allah! and in fact, you’ll hear it all the time. Use it in place of “wow!” or “oh my goodness”, or perhaps “I’ll be darned.”
9. Fecmis olsun: may it pass
Pronounced: gechmish ohlsun
This is usually said when someone is ill. However, you could also use it in other scenarios - not only when someone is going through a difficult time, but when someone says something like “my whole family is coming to stay - for six weeks” you could use it in a wry way, preceded perhaps by Allah Allah.
10. Insallah: God willing
This is the English version of “hopefully”, and you tack it on at the end of a statement you hope will be true. For example, “I’ll find a job this year, insallah,” or “my mother is feeling better, insallah.”
11. Eleniz saglik: health to your hands
Pronounced: eleneezey sahlik
If you want to thank someone for cooking for you, you don’t say tesekkur ederim. You would say elenize saglik. This is a phrase that’s mostly used in the home, but on certain occasions - for example, when you see the person who is cooking food for you, you might also say this.
12. Masalla: it is willed
This popular phrase is not only a way to express your joy and thankfulness, but some believe it even wards off bad spirits. You generally utter a masallah at hearing good news. “Joan had a baby boy, masallah.” It’s a way of showing thanks for a positive event.
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