How to speak Turkish like a native

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The best ways to learn Turkish

Spoken by around 75 million people, Turkish is among the 15 most widely used languages in the world. It is not just spoken in Turkey, either, with people speaking Turkish across countries like the Caucasus, the Balkans and Germany. In addition, the language is closely linked to other modern Turkic languages, such as Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Tatar, Uzbek, and Uighur, so it can act as a gateway to speaking those other languages too. Since these countries play an important role in the world’s culture and economy, knowing the language can be extremely beneficial. Indeed, the Republic of Turkey is the 16th largest economy in the world, so if you are interested, you will find many career opportunities in multiple business sectors such as technology, energy, finance, hospitality and business.

Turkey also has a rich culture. Historically, Turkey is very significant, with Anatolia renowned for being the cradle of civilisation, featuring some of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, such as the ruins from the oldest settlement known to man: the city of Troy. Even if you are just going to Turkey to enjoy these sights, it’s still worth learning how to speak Turkish because, unlike in most other European countries, English is not as widely spoken - so if you don’t know any Turkish, in some places you will find it pretty difficult to get by.

Speaking Turkish like a native

When learning a language, many people often want rapid results and try to identify the single best method or technique for learning the language. However, in reality, there is no one best way to learn how to speak Turkish. But, there are some failsafe things you can do to improve your chances:

1. Speak the language from the start

This may seem obvious, but many language learners find it hard to follow this tip. Instead, they try to learn through books and/or films with English subtitles. In addition, because they continue to speak English with family, friends and colleagues, it is no surprise that learning Turkish is a slow and laborious process!

2. Speak freely, and without fear of mistakes

Like any skill, conversation in Turkish needs practice. It is simple: let the words flow and do not be afraid of making the odd mistake. Babbel can support you with this, with our teaching methods bringing the language to life and encouraging you to speak straight away. By following our approach, you will be able to have real (but possibly imperfect) conversations with natives much sooner than you thought.

3. Immerse yourself in Turkish

In order to break through any barriers to learning, you really need to find ways to immerse yourself in Turkish. You can achieve this not only by speaking the language as much as possible but also by finding opportunities to stop speaking English! For example, try committing to a period of speaking no English at all. Obviously, not all situations will be conducive to doing so, but immersion need not be an all-or-nothing approach. Depending on your career and lifestyle, simply try to minimise the English you speak, even if total elimination may not be possible.

4. Engage with the Turkish media (critically)

You can learn well by engaging with the Turkish media such as the TV (the Turkish public broadcaster is TRT) the newspapers (Habertürk, Hürriyet, Posta, Sabah, and Sözcü) and other forms of content, e.g., online blogs or forums. This approach will ensure you participate in the language, although it is no substitute for true speaking practice. Do be careful to engage critically, however, as Turkey sits in 157th place in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

5. Summer-school courses

Consider going on a short course in Turkish at a language school. Many language courses offer the opportunity for immersion, as you and your co-learners will usually live on the premises where the course takes place. This is very conducive to only communicating in Turkish.

6. One-to-one tuition

If you can afford to have a few sessions with a personal tutor, this is highly recommended. You could use these lessons to practice your skills and gain expert tips to complement your learning with the Babbel app. One-to-one Turkish lessons are not necessarily better than online lessons, but they do have the same convenience factor of being able to study from your own home.

7. Summer-school courses

Consider going on a short course in Turkish at a language school. Many language courses offer the opportunity for immersion, as you and your co-learners will usually live on the premises where the course takes place. This is very conducive to only communicating in Turkish.

8. Find a language buddy

Find a Turkish language partner near you and arrange to have a chat. If they live further afield, this is not a problem. You can still chat via Skype, for example. In this way, you will benefit from the thousands of people seeking language partners to help them practice.

You can set up your language exchange to suit you. Maybe you would just like some casual conversation. Consider the structure of switching languages at a set interval while chatting (e.g. every 10 minutes). Or, work through some language exercises together. The choice is yours!

9. Attend Turkish conversation groups

Conversation groups for Turkish, where members get together to speak and practice their skills, will exist in many cities. Since Turkish is a popular primary and secondary language in many countries, you are bound to find a group near you to attend. If you cannot find a group near you, however, you can always start your own. There are several good websites like Meetup that allow you to do this. Be aware of a potential drawback here: initially, you might end up having the same conversations with the people you meet, such as “What is your name?” or “Where do you come from”, “What do you do?” etc. The best conversation groups get around this issue by structuring their meetings with, for example, language games or talking about specific topics or conversational themes.

Learning Turkish with Babbel

Another option (and our preferred one!) is to use our app, Babbel. Unlike classroom learning where people tend to move at the pace of the slowest in the group, Babbel lets you go at your own speed through structured and interconnected lessons that encourage you to speak the language from day one. The main advantages of learning how to speak Turkish with Babbel are that you will:

And, to raise the boring issue of money, Babbel also has a flexible and very affordable pricing structure. When you initially sign up to the app, you can choose periods of 1 month, 3 months, 6 months or 12 months. What is more, you can even change the language you are learning during these periods if you finish a course early or decide you wish to learn a different language. With Babbel, and the tips outlined above, you’ll be on to a winner.