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Living in Turkey: Will The Language Barrier Be a Problem?

As Turkey becomes one of the top destinations in the world for expat living, potential real estate buyers often ask us about the Turkish language. When people are on holiday, they take it for granted that restaurant, bar and hotel staff speak fluent or reasonably good English. However living here is a different concept and expats are right to question how the language barrier will affect their day-to-day lives.  

When considering household chores such as paying bills, maintenance, as well as communal issues if you choose to buy on a complex of apartments, it is guaranteed that at some point, you will come across someone who doesn’t speak English. 

Then of course, there are more serious issues such as urgent healthcare in the case of an accident or sickness, and communication with the police if you are the victim of a crime or happen to be involved in a car accident. 

Unfortunately, many experts stand by the notion that the best time to learn a language is in our childhood years. While adults can learn other languages, it is viewed as harder task and the brain has problems retaining the new information it has learned. 

So how do the thousands of 40 Plus expats living in Turkey, get by?
Living in Turkey
 

Can you live in Turkey without speaking the language?

If you settle in one of the touristic resorts where many locals speak English, then yes, it is possible to get by without speaking Turkish. In fact, many expats have said to me, that when they try to speak the language, their Turkish friends and neighbours want to converse in English because they in turn are learning our language!

In the event of dealing with government red tape or official dealings such as water and electric connection, many expats employ the services of a management company or at this point, have made friends with locals who translate for them. 

If you choose to live in an area where tourism or international business is not the dominant trade, then you are likely to run into problems. Even if you are quite efficient at dealing with the system, psychologists say that social interaction and participation is an important part of managing our emotions, feelings and train of thought. Isolation or the inability to converse with your neighbours may have an effect on your moral over the long term. 
Language skills not needed on a beach resort
 

Should you attempt to learn the language?

Even though expert say our ability to learn languages decreases as we get older, you should not let this deter you from learning simple words such as polite greetings, which are an integral part of daily Turkish life. Other subjects include shopping items such as meat, milk, bread etc. 

While you might not be able to piece a sentence together, any attempt to speak the language is viewed favourably by Turks. Indeed, while my Turkish is at best, intermediate and at times, my grammar would make a school child grin, I can use it in everyday situations to my advantage. 
Turkey
 

So what is the best way to learn Turkish language?

In many towns and cities, where expats have settled en-mass, the local council has set up free Turkish courses that specialise in beginner’s language skills.

Books are provided free of charge and a teacher is on hand to help with the vocabulary and pronunciation. Dates and details can be obtained from the local council. 

Another trick that many expats use is to learn one word a day. While this may not seem productive, at the end of one year, they have learned 365 words.

Repetition is an important part of the process, therefore repeating the word throughout the date helps the brain to retain it. This technique and process works extremely well with numbers, days of the week and months of the year. 

No doubt, the best way to learn is by actually listening and talking with locals. Situations where this can be done, is in your local bar, at the market or by inviting your new Turkish neighbours around for dinner. 
Merhaba
 

Helpful Words and Phrases to Get You Started

 
ENGLISH WORD TURKISH WORD
   
HELLO MERHABA
GOODBYE GÜLE GÜLE
HOW ARE YOU? NASILSIN
I AM GOOD IYIYIM
GOOD MORNING GÜNAYDIN
   
CAN I HAVE? ALABILIR MIYIM?
WHERE IS...? NEREDE...?
   
WHEN NE ZAMAN
HOW NASIL
WHO KIM
   
LEFT SOL
RIGHT SAG
   
PLEASE LÜTFEN
THANK YOU TESEKKÜR EDERIM
   
YES EVET
NO HAYIR
   
ONE BIR
TWO IKI
THREE ÜC
FOUR DÖRT
FIVE BES
SIX ALTI
SEVEN YEDI
EIGHT SEKIZ
NINE DOKUZ
TEN ON
   
MONDAY PAZARTESI
TUESDAY SALI
WEDNESDAY CARSAMBA
THURSDAY PERSEMBE
FRIDAY CUMA
SATURDAY CUMARTESI
SUNDAY PAZAR
   
JANUARY OCAK
FEBRUARY SUBAT
MARCH MART
APRIL NISAN
MAY MAYIS
JUNE HAZIRAN
JULY TEMMUZ
AUGUST AGUSTOS
SEPTEMBER EYLÜL
OCTOBER EKIM
NOVEMBER KASIM
DECEMBER ARALIK

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