You don’t need to know Turkish to travel – or even live – in Turkey, as many people in the seaside towns and expat corners will speak enough English (or German) for you to get by. But why would you miss out on learning a language that will open up doors to the region’s rich historical past and everyday cultural warmth (not to mention help you order some amazing food)?
Even if you don’t want to immerse yourself in Turkish for six months, you will find it quite useful to pick up a few phrases, along with basic words for food and travel. Locals will appreciate your effort to learn their language, and you’ll probably find that a few Turkish turns will land you a host of new conversation partners and plenty of local tips and advice.
So here are some of the best beginner tools for learning practical Turkish:
If you know nothing about the structure or the history of the language, Manisa Turkish offers a great one-page introduction, Totally Turkish has a brief intro alongside more extensive grammar and vocabulary lists and Turkish 101 offers just that.
Take Away Turkish Grammar, short dialogues, clear audio recordings, and practical vocabulary for both traveling and everyday life in an easy-to-understand, bright and fun format.
Fast & Easy Turkish Phrase Book and Dictionary: This is a pocket-sized phrase book, dictionary, and grammar guide in one. It’s great to throw in your bag for the day, and offers far more than just basics like,”Where is the hotel?”. The writer (B. Orhan Dogan) is also a linguist and author of several language textbooks, so he takes a much more learner-directed approach than more commercial phrase books.
Podcasts and Listening Material:
Turkish Tea Time Podcasts Each 10-20 minute lesson (with levels from novice to advanced) presents a dialogue, explains the grammar and vocabulary, and then goes through the dialogue line-by-line. “Newbie” and Beginner lessons focus mostly on practical, everyday situations.
Turkish Language Institute’s Podcast. These are basically just beginner-lower intermediate dialogues read by native speakers, much like the accompanying audio disk for a textbook. No English, no explanations; just clear and understandable Turkish.
Online Courses, Software and Lessons:
Turkish Tea Time Online Lessons Turkish Tea Time is a podcast-based service that offers lessons fully explaining the grammar and plenty of practice on its site, for a monthly access fee of $10.
Memrise Hacking Turkish Course Memrise is an online language tool devoted to learning vocabulary. Memrise uses flashcards augmented with mnemonics and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning. You can choose a pre-created vocabulary set, or easily create your own. Many words also have audio recordings, which reinforces audio-visual recognition of words. Free App also available.
DuoLingo Duolingo is an online learning practice that makes extensive use of reading, translating and dictation to teach grammar and basic vocabulary as you progress through “skill sets” and earn points. The English-Turkish version has just been released in Beta. Also accessible through the Free App.
Turkish Class 101 An energetic approach to language learning, featuring classes taught through videos, podcasts, and PDF lessons. They have free podcasts and a youtube channel, though site subscription is paid (explanation of subscriptions here).
More Grammar-Focused Books:
Teach Yourself Turkish (Free online PDF here) I wouldn’t recommend this book as a first textbook for learning the language, and some of the content is rather eclectic, but it does a good job of clearly explaining and connecting different parts of Turkish grammar. If you’ve already done the DuoLingo course or completed a beginner textbook, this would be a great resource for leveling up or solidifying your skills.
Modern Turkish: A Complete Course for Beginners If you want a simple, comprehensible, and rather complete understanding of Turkish grammar – a good base for learning the language – then I would recommend Orhan Doğan’s “Modern Turkish: A Complete Self-Study Course for Beginners”. This book lays out grammar and the structure of the language in a clear format and offers plenty of practice, with an answer key. It does not, however, have a lot of conversational language or dialogue practice. Available at bookstores in Turkey.
Online Lessons and Language Exchange
italki On italki users can participate in language forums, submit written journals for correction by native speakers, find a language exchange partner, or schedule lessons with both community tutors or professional (certified) teachers. All lessons are conducted over skype, and paid directly to italki with bank card or paypal. Most teachers offer a range of lessons and packages to meet students’ needs.
Speaky Speaky is new on the language scene. It offers users the ability to connect with language partners speaking their target language and set up language exchange sessions either through skype of their own on-site video and voice platform.