Turkish delight – language learning on a formal course

October 5, 2011 by 16 Comments

Turkish Language in The Balkans

Whenever I meet people and they find out about my language learning, I am often asked how I go about learning a language.   My answer to that is, “it depends on the language”.  I have never been one for refusing any method, well except for subliminal learning… 😉

It’s always good to try out new things, even if just to keep life interesting.

On that note, I have enrolled into a Turkish course.   I have now done three weeks of the language on the course and I love it.  There are pros and cons to learning a language on a course.

The main reasons for and against language courses:

PROS – you get:

  • lots of practice listening as things are repeated a lot
  • to hear other people make mistakes and get corrected
  • to ask questions of the teacher where things are unclear
  • a goal set by a teacher for you to reach at the end of the course
  • to meet other people learning the language
  • to do homework and have feedback on your progress


  • it takes time and effort to attend
  • you may get bored/lost if you choose the wrong course
  • you may get a bad teacher/teacher you don’t like
  • you may not get on well with the other students
  • it can be expensive

Fortunately my course is very reasonably priced, the other students and I have a good laugh together and the teacher is a native with lots of patience.  I therefore see only benefits from this method of learning Turkish in my case.

Like me, you might be studying a new language in a country you are not originally from.  My course is conducted in Turkish for the most part, though my fellow students do ask for translations into Macedonian.  That said, the teacher is using less and less Macedonian with us as the course progresses.   We are also encouraged to speak only in Turkish.

OK, so what do I do to aid my learning? 

  1.  I look ahead in the book at new words and structures, so when I hear them in class I am reminded of them.  That way I get the most from the teacher.  When you learn something for the first time there are inevitably things that falls through the cracks.
  2. I create flashcards of the new words I learn to go over them again after class.
  3. I look up words in my dictionary and have a scan of the words surrounding what I am looking for.
  4. I watch/listen to Turkish TV every day for about 30 minutes.
  5. I try to construct phrases in my head all the time.  I name everything I can around me or think of a theme, say fruit, and name all the words I know associated with it.
  6. In class I try to use all of the aspects of vocabulary and grammar we have covered in exercises to play with the language.  Making a mistake is part of the learning process and I am happy to do it, especially in class.
  7. I try to use the language as much as I can.  I am lucky because I can speak to some people in town in Turkish, read signs/food labels in Turkish and buy Turkish papers here.

What are my goals?

All students need some sort of goals for learning.  It could be a simple goal like learning to introduce yourself, buy something in a shop and order at a restaurant for your holidays.  It could be more formal, like taking an exam in the language.

On a course your goals are usually dictated by the teacher, though you can add in your own too.  The goal for my course is to pass the A1 exam in Turkish in two months time.  We then move on from there to A2 and then B1, which I should sit in May next year.

If I manage to complete those first three levels successfully, I will be very happy.  🙂

If you sign up for italki and buy a coupon for language lessons through them, you can use the Promo Code below at checkout to get $5 OFF your order! So a $10 coupon costs you just $5! Use Promo Code: RICHARD

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This post was written by Richard


  • Matthew Howie says:

    I can understand where you are coming from with this article. It’s very interesting to know you are doing a course in Turkish. I did Japanese for two years as a part of my High School curriculum which involved going to a different high school once a week from 5-8pm with high school students from around my city to study Japanese. It was quite tedious and tiring, and honestly, I think there were a few more cons than pros. I do agree with your pros, but to me, it was a bit tedious, especially after a long day at school. Honestly, there were many people who did not want to be there, and often brought the class down, but I tried to push ahead as fast as I could because I was so enthralled in it, but I often felt quite restricted in what I could study with the teacher’s help. I’m going to try Japanese at university from next year. I hope that I’ll find it a bit more challenging, and active so that I can go at a faster pace (:

    Also Richard, how are you finding Turkish as a language compared with other languages? Are you picking it up reasonably easy? I have heard that the structure and grammar is quite off-putting for many people, but then again I guess any language’s grammar can be off-putting until you have studied it enough and become more comfortable with it. I also heard it is a very logical language, in the way it is structured. Do you agree with that?

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with your Japanese course. Sounds like motivation was an issue and that it had a negative impact on the morale of the class. I have been in those types of classes myself in the past.

      Turkish is a funny one. It is quite different to other languages I speak, but it is oddly familiar too. I had studied a little before now, but it was a long time ago and it was to be able to make sense of it written. This time it is to speak the language properly. There are a LOT of shared Turkish words in Macedonian and Turkish also has many French words. Having done some Arabic, I have also found the odd Arabic word I knew from years ago too. The word order is a little strange, but I am getting used to it. It is definitely early days for me in my learning. It is going well so far and I thoroughly enjoy speaking and learning it. The language does indeed seem quite logical to me, though the dialect spoken natively in Macedonia is a bit different to the standard Turkish we learn on the course.

  • customic says:

    Hello Richard! I remember you from your YouTube channel and I recall you talking about learning Turkish – I was really looking forward to it, as I also happen to study Turkish, apart from English and German, which are my more advanced foreign languages.

    I can’t say that I’ve done a lot of studying so far – previously I had studied Turkish on my own, but since last week I began Oriental Studies at University and I chose to major in Turkish language and culture. Therefore I have now a perfect opportunity to study Turkish in a more structured manner (during a 3-year language course) as well as to study it on my own. Having said that, I will follow your blog even more eagerly!

    You wrote that you spend 30 minutes every day to listen to Turkish TV. If you are a beginner (if I understood you correctly), how do you benefit from that? Is it about just getting used to the rhythm of the language or can you already understand some part of the broadcast?

    Take care and greetings from Poland,

    • Hello Piotr,

      First of all, thanks for writing and I wish you the very best of luck for your new Turkish course. You are completely right, I have looked at some Turkish before. There is a great deal of Turkish vocab in Macedonian already and I needed to get an overview of the language at the time to make sense of what I saw in Turkish. My motivation then was entirely different to now. Right now, I am learning to produce Turkish in a meaningful way, so I need to memorise structures and vocabulary to convey my thoughts and ideas. The course is intensive, which I find helps to build up vocabulary and ability to communicate quickly. This is one of the main reasons why I like courses.

      You are right that I cannot follow everything in Turkish on the TV, but it would not be accurate to say that I am completely lost either. The reason I have listening to it is to listen out for words, phrases and structures I have learnt so far. Though it is one of those activities I can cut if I don’t have time. Concentrating on learning vocab and language structures for my level are much more important to me. I find that the more I hear them and pick them out of normal Turkish, the easier it will be for me to understand the language as it is spoken in Turkey. Exposure to the language as it is used is key to ensure a real grasp of the way it is used in-country. It also helps to catch the rhythm of the language, as you quite rightly said. Personally I find listening to the language I am learning helps to boost my desire to speak more and it aids my pronunciation. Speaking like a native is not something I ever set out to do per se, but I do like to speak with a clear and understandable pronunciation.

      Using languages in real contexts for me is paramount, even from the beginning with basic phrases. Fortunately Turkish is a language spoken by quite a number of people in Skopje, so I get quite a bit of exposure to the language and use it whenever and wherever I can.

      Please do update me on your progress in the language. I will try to make a video to demonstrate what someone should know by the end of an A1 course in Turkish. My impression has been that the idea of fluency and beginner’s level is not always clear to everyone. The EC Language Framework gives a good description of language levels, but perhaps a demo of the level might be handy too, what do you think?

      All the best,


  • Fabian says:

    Hi Richard,

    Do you use any material to track learned vocabulary words over the long term, i.e. 1-3 months? (E.g. with a notebook)

    You mentioned you use flashcards. Do you just use it for a few days after you first come across a new word, until it gets stored in your long-term memory?

    Thank you for making those excellent videos, and for your advice.


  • kahlua drink says:

    This really is a very intriguing post to learn. Many thanks for writing this and please come up with more articles like this.

  • customic says:


    thank your for commenting on my previous message. I do sympathise with your attitude towards language learning and your focusing on the practical language use. I will most definitely try to devote more time to listening to the Turkish radio because I find it beneficial as well. I must admit that I pay a lot of attention to learning the correct pronunciation in all of my languages because I wouldn’t like to sound like a foreigner or to grate on my interlocutors’ ears. And more importantly, the way a given language sounds like has always been my major motivator for studying it.

    As far as CEFR is concerned, I find it very helpful for assessing my own language skills and for setting long-term and short-term goals. Interestingly enough, I have managed to find such “demos” of students speaking their languages on every single one of CEFR levels.

    Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/6xgs9rj

    I don’t really speak French (yet!), but you should be able to find more detailed descriptions of their levels somewhere on the site. Let me know what you think about it!

    All the best,

  • Robert says:

    First of all, let me say I don’t know how I’m going to forgive myself for not having found my way to your blog earlier 😉 ;-)) Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa 😉 I have read through all your articles and they are simply splendid. There is so much valuable information in them but the best part is that enthusiasm for languages which is more than obvious from every single word you write. I love it (being a language addict myself this is quite understandable, I guess)!
    Turkish is a language I have been interested in for a long time and I have promised myself several times to finally get started and study it (hopefully, this is going to be at the beginning of next year). Living in Austria, I would have plenty of opportunities to practise it (even in my small hometown we have a reasonably sized Turkish speaking community).
    I, too, think the language sounds wonderful and in addition it will, as you noted yourself, open up lots of doors to many other languages.
    I also happen to agree with your thoughts on language courses 😉
    It is all about finding the right one. I have had some good ones and some really terrible ones. I might try and get at least a private tutor for Turkish. Studying by yourself is great and I have done so extensively, but having a good and passionate tutor or an equally passionate study partner can sometimes make all the difference.
    Another thing is that I don’t really like the way some language learners sort of even ridicule the services offered by language instructors. Of course, there are good and bad ones but this increasingly spreading attitude that everything and anything should be for free and if you are ready to pay for a service provided to you (in our case, language tuition), you are either stupid or inacapable of doing things on your own, is something I am strongly opposed too.
    I have had some bad teachers at school but I also had one Italian teacher who was one of the most inspirational people I have ever met in my life and who undoubtedly played a major role in my getting interested in more languages.
    I’m currently in Taiwan (I have been here for a couple of weeks and am staying for another two weeks) but I hope to talk to you soon again. Once I’m back in Austria, things will get a bit busy during the following couple of months. Nevertheless, I’ll try to stay in contact more often. There is so much to talk about and so much to learn. I look forward to our conversations. Best wishes, Robert.

  • Gregore Gigs says:

    Thank you for one more essential article. Where else might anyone get that sort of data in such an entire means of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and i am on the lookout for such information.

  • Fasulye says:

    Richard, we both know what makes mskes the Turkish language fascination and what makes the language difficult to learn for somebody with a native Germanic language.

    As you know I have put my study of Turkish aside to focus only on one target language – which is Danish.

    In my case I was highly motivated to learn Turkish – but my general circumstances were unfavourable. Like for example I have no contact to Turkish people and my Turkish teachers at VHS spoke always entirely in German during the lessons. With self-study alone I could not achieve a thinking level of Turkish.

    So I am looking forward to get detailed infos about your Turkish course and your learning experiences there on Skype. I find it an excellent descision that you are willing to prepare Turkish language exams. I know that the “Anadolu Ünivertesi”
    (website: http://www.anadolu.edu.tr/) also offers exam preparation courses for Turkish which can be done in countries outside of Turkey, but I would not have the money to do such courses, not even one of them..


  • mlhpolling says:

    For me self-study is the choice because I don’t have much money to take a course. I spend my money only on taking language tests regularly.

  • Eder says:

    Hi, ask on your facabook page about how to learn vocabulary, i’m now learning japanese, it’s a very alien language for me becasue my mother tonge is spanish so i would like to know how to learn vocabulary since i don’t like studing grammar because is difficult, i try to focus on vocabulary,. i hope you can answer and share all your knowledge with us thanks.

    Eder Gallegos

  • luisa arana says:

    Hi richard,
    Im trying to learn turkish, i already know english and I’m a Spanish native speaker,
    so tell how did u learn that well turkish please

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