Thousands of expats, repeat holidaymakers to Turkey, and those who own a property in Turkey would like to learn the national language. Being fluent in Turkish bridges the social and cultural gaps but for expats or people in mixed cultural relationships, it also makes daily life much easier when you speak the native tongue.
Some people have learned the language without difficulties, but most of our expat customers say it is hard, and they would love to find easy ways to learn Turkish. It would help them when they are shopping at the weekly market. They could also converse with handymen for jobs around the house, improve relationships with their neighbours, and easily read the local newspaper for country developments.
We decided to find out why some people learn Turkish easily, while many others seem to struggle. So we set about asking friends, customers, and colleagues. The results were impressive because most focused on the approach used and not the actual outcome. Many of the methods are all about simplifying and making it easy. Also known as language hacking, here is what we learnt.
How to Learn Turkish the Easy Way
1: Use the Pareto Principle
One daunting prospect about second languages is learning the millions of words, an impossible task in itself because of alternatives like plurals, verbs, or adjectives. Also, what is the use of knowing words that are hardly used in everyday situations?
Instead, use the Prato Principle, also known as the 80 / 20 rule. It states 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. So when applying this to learning Turkish the easy way, learn the most common words spoken to have more conversations.
Do a quick search on Google to find “500 most common words used in Turkish” and an extensive list of websites appear. You can also set goals to learn numbers, days of the week, everyday supermarket items or traditional greetings. If you are a football fan, learn words related to the sport or if your passion is cooking, opt for words most commonly used in the kitchen.
Once you have collected your most commonly used words, think about the easiest way for you to learn them. Some people sit down for 8 hours every day and absorb information like a sponge whereas other people have commitments or learn better in small chunks. If you have a short concentration span, list two words a day in your diary to recite, listen to, and use. By the end of the year, you will have quickly learnt 730 of the most common words in the Turkish language!
2: Mind over Matter
Mind over matters commonly refers to the use of willpower over practical and logical issues. Many people have achieved great things against all the odds by using this principle. If you tell yourself learning Turkish is hard, you are setting yourself up for failure before you have even started.
To get rid of a negative belief, we need to look at the benefits instead. Experts say there are many advantages to learning a second language. Overall it makes us smarter because we challenge the brain, therefore keeping it active and fresh. Cognitive science studies say learning a second language can help to fend off mental diseases. According to a study from the University of Chicago, people who are bi-lingual, also make better life decisions, because they are more logical and practical with decisions.
Aside from that, think of learning Turkish as a hobby, and it can be fun. It can also help us to make new friends. Be motivated and look at the positive side of learning Turkish. Motivation is a key aspect to sticking with learning the language so list the reasons why you want to learn it and the benefits it brings.
3: Start Hanging Out with Turks
Many experts say the best and easiest way to learn a language is to throw yourself into the deep end by speaking with, listening, and talking to native speakers. Practising by yourself does help, but conversing with a native speaker helps to gain momentum leading up to a point where the subconscious part of our memories takes over.
This part of our brains is where we perform actions without being acutely aware of it. Therefore, start hanging out with Turks, and speaking the lingo becomes second nature. As we listen, the subconscious part of our brain absorbs words and parks them in our memory banks for later use when needed.
Some expats living in Turkey confine themselves to expat circles and English-speaking Turks, so they limit the amount of practical experience available to them. Instead, get out of your comfort zone and learn words to use with non-English speaking Turks such as your neighbours and local shopkeepers.
4: Get Used to Making Mistakes
If anyone knows quick and easy ways to learning a language, it is Benny Lewis. Calling himself a full-time techno mad language hacker, he is fluent in seven languages and can have intermediate conversations in many others. His bestselling book “Fluent in 3 months” lists many easy language-learning methods and one of his top tips, is to accept you are going to make mistakes and don’t make a big deal out of it.
For the expats hanging out with Turks, the most common fear is making mistakes. We do not want to look stupid, be laughed at, or encounter moments of misunderstanding. However, mistakes are unavoidable, and some people may laugh at your attempts. Some conversations may go completely awry to the point where you have to revert to speaking in English.
Look at the flipside instead; every mistake you make is one step further towards learning the language properly. Drop the self-conscious fear and learning Turkish suddenly becomes fun and easy to do.
Further Reading: You may also be interested in “13 unspoken Turkish rules you might not know.” Listing the social norms of culture and traditions in Turkey, our tips can help language learners and new expats about life in Turkey.
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