Get By in Turkish - BBC

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Get By in Turkish - BBC

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Review of "Get By in Turkish - BBC"

published 24/06/2003 | Schmutzie
Member since : 30/11/-0001
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Excellent
Pro Very useful on holiday
Cons A brute to learn
very helpful
Helpful?
Type of Book
Quality of Text
Interesting/Absorbing?
Logical Layout?

"Bit of Turkey, Anyone ?"

(Amazon lists the course but has no copies at present, and advises potential buyers to check back regularly. No prices are given yet, but I’d expect it second hand to cost less than £10. It’s always worth asking at independent book shops, I’ve found).

Why Learn Turkish?
I usually argue that learning any major European language is worthwhile per se, including Latin, but it has to be admitted that Turkish really isn’t much use unless you plan to visit the country. Then, it’s very rewarding indeed. Unfortunately, there’s rather less Good News than Bad.

Good Points ?
There is no problem at all with pronunciation. It’s easier than any other language I’ve come across.
The alphabet presents few difficulties. Most sounds are found in English, and two in German.
You can speak ‘pidgin’ Turkish quite convincingly and get by very well, whereas with western European languages it sounds ridiculous.
The surprise and delight of the people when they hear you is almost overwhelming.

Bad Points ?
It’s diabolically difficult. Speak English, and you find links with German and the Scandinavian languages. Speak French and it helps with Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. These links make learning a new language much easier, and the more languages you speak the easier the next one will be.
Turkish has few apparent links at all, (though proxam will be happy to know that ‘beer’ is ‘bira’). Not only are there few such clues in the words themselves; the grammar is something quite new, and utterly horrible, though it has its own macabre fascination for a linguist.
Most languages seem to get easier as you progress in your learning. Turkish just seems to get harder and harder.
I have found only two books which are of the slightest use if you wish to learn, and the best for a beginner, which addresses all the problems, is the BBC’s excellent Get By in Turkish.

The BBC’s Book.
It’s tiny, just 96 pages, and small enough to slip in a pocket. I found this great, as I could tote it around and do five minutes with it when I was on a bus, at the checkout, or having a coffee. It’s divided into six units :
1. Ordering your drinks
2. Eating out
3. Shopping
4. Visiting sites
5. Travelling
6. Meeting people
All with exercises, but not too difficult or discouraging.
There follow :
A test to see how well you’ve done
Reference section
Basic grammar
Public signs
Answers to exercises
Vocabulary lists.
It’s a sturdy little paperback book with a durable cover, well laid out, has clear print on good quality paper, and pleasant black and white sketches.

The two C60 cassettes are absolutely essential, not so much to help with the accent as to drum into your head, with constant playing, the most useful phrases in this difficult language.
The horrors of grammar are introduced gradually, and one of the most frightening initially is what’s called ‘vowel harmony’. Hungarian, another pig to learn, has this too. In fact, you do get an ear for it, and in time it comes automatically, but at first you think it never will.
Turkish nouns don’t have genders, which is great. But you must pay attention to the last vowel ends. For example :
Süt=milk, sütlü=with milk, sütsüz=without milk.
Oh, easy ! If there’s a vowel, there’ll be the same one in the bit you tack on, I suppose.
No.
Seker=sugar, sekerli=with sugar, sekersiz=without sugar.
And from now on it just gets worse.
The numbers look like nothing you’ve ever seen. 1,2,3,4,5 = bir, iki, üç, dört, beþ. You can’t say ‘I have, he has, she is, we are’ anything, because the verbs ‘to have’ and ‘to be’ don’t exist. Just think how often we use them.
And if you want to order more than one item, it has to be in the singular. Turkish has its own logic, but it’s not one which is easy to get a grip on.
Every chapter dredges up fresh horrors. So what is it about this little book that keeps you going ?

Well, believe it or not, it’s fun. All the information and the dialogues are presented in tiny ‘bites’. You can go over and over each one, listening to the tape, until it gets fixed in your mind. And it’s all done with great good humour. Interspersed with the dialogues are very useful pieces of information about life in general in Turkey. Included is a guide to the many varieties of Turkish coffee, buying train tickets, how to behave in a Turkish home, different sorts of restaurants, and a lot more. Adapting your manners to Turkish customs is important. Don’t point your toes at people when you are seated, blow your nose (and certainly not pick it), canoodle in public, show bare legs and arms in a mosque, go into a house with your shoes on. The book also teaches you certain conventions in speech.
"How are you ?" they ask. But there’s no verb, so it comes out as, "Nasulsiniz?" "Howyou?"
You do not reply, "Fine, except my poor old feet are killing me." The answer is, "Tesekürederim. " "Thank you." That’s all. No other reply is expected.
When you leave company, in a home or a restaurant, you say, "Allahaismarladuk." "May Allah watch over you". There is only one reply. The people staying behind say, "Gule gule." "Smile smile". Well, I told you it was peculiar.

Bengisu Rona, a Turkish woman who lectures at London University, devised the course and explains with commendable clarity the points as they arise. There are also many mini-recordings of Turks speaking in Turkey at normal speed, but these are not long enough for you to lose track and get confused.
What you’ve learned is continually revised and repeated. Once I’d got over the shock of how alien it all seemed at first I realised how excellent the teaching is.

The first time I went to Turkey I had only the contents of this little book in my head, but I was astonished at how much I could say and understand. I could ask for more or less anything, get directions, buy tour tickets, chat about myself and ask about people’s families and jobs, and generally get along very well.
I went on a trip to a mountain village with some other westerners which included a visit to a private house. In one room sat two old women weaving a carpet, who took not the slightest notice of the visitors staring and prying round their home, obviously used to it and glad of the extra income. I looked at the carpet and said, "Bu renkler çok güzel." "Those colours (are) very beautiful."
The effect was electrifying. They jumped to their feet, grabbed me and hugged me, kissed my hands, and gave me a large glass of chilled yoghurt. I wondered about bugs in it, having seen the goats kept on the ground floor of the house, but drank it with no ill effects.
They are a most friendly and affectionate people, and hearing you speak just a little of their language will delight them.

The BBC does other booklets in the Get By series, but this is by far the best I’ve seen. There are some horrendously bad and expensive Turkish textbooks around. The only other good one is in the Teach Yourself series, but you could well be scared off that unless you had some groundwork first. Get By in Turkish will provide this. Easy it’s not, but this is as painless as it gets, and the challenge and rewards are enormous.

Here’s just a little sample of Turkish so that you can see how unfamiliar it looks :
"Afferdersiniz, Ankara’ya otobüs saat kaçta? Beþ buçukta? Otobüs duragi nerede?" ("Excuse me, what time is the bus to Ankara ? Half past five ? Where’s the bus stop?"). Well, at least ‘bus’ is easy !

Some Tips on Learning Languages.
Ten minutes a day is better than one big session a week.
Read aloud, and write brief notes.
Listen to the cassette(s) even if you’re not doing so consciously. Playing them last thing at night in bed is a good idea if you won’t disturb anyone.
When you’re out and about, comment as best you can on what you see. At first it will be very simple : "house". Then, "big house". "Big house near the town". And so on. It will surprise you how your knowledge grows.
Make and carry little cards, English word or phrase on one side, Turkish or whatever you are learning on the other. Pick them out at random, and put the ones you get right in a separate pile. Watch it grow!
Listen to the radio. You won’t understand a lot, but words you recognise will pop out, and you’ll get the ‘feel’ of it all.
You can ignore the grammar if you like, and just string words together. No-one will mind.
Have confidence, lots and lots of it. If you can only stammer out a few stock phrases it will be enormously appreciated. Just have a go !

© Schmutzie 2003

Coming soon : Sueños, the BBC’s multimedia Spanish course.

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Comments on this review

  • aysegul published 24/04/2004
    i'm turkish and i have to say a big well done to anyone who learns even a bit of the language as i can understand how difficult it is to get used to the different style of grammar. a random turkish person once said to me that the language is like maths- you can just add a few letters on to make a new word! a note though, if someone says 'nasilsin?' it's better to reply with 'iyiyim sagol/iyi degilim' (i'm good thanks/ i'm not good' btw, how many languages do you speak? ay$e xx
  • JVL published 02/07/2003
    I hear quite a lot of the language spoken over here, but Turkish has always seemed a really daunting prospect. A course like this sounds like a good idea though...
  • belinda9 published 30/06/2003
    You are very brave. I'm always shy of speaking another language. I was rubbish at french, then I just about manage, adios and ola on holiday when I go to Spain.
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Product Information : Get By in Turkish - BBC

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Listed on Ciao since: 24/06/2003