Learn Turkish In One Year Without Books Or Courses

This year, I'm going to take on the task of learning a new language in a brand new way. I'm going to try something that I don't think anyone has tried before. Or perhaps it has been done, but not in a way as public and visible as this blog.

Just as I did last year, I'm going to learn to speak a new language fluently in one year. But this time, I'm going to do it without any of the traditional language learning products. No lesson books. No vocabulary building software. No instructional CDs. No LiveMocha, no Busuu, no LingQ, no Rosetta Stone, no Living Language, no Pimsleur. No classes, no tutuors. And I'm going to do this without moving to the country where this language is spoken.

How will I do this? Well... I'm still working out a lot of the details. And its possible that there are some holes in this plan, but I believe it will work. I believe that I will be able to learn a foreign language from the comfort of my home, for free, and without studying.

Quite simply, I'm going to use Google. I am going to learn all the vocabulary I need by searching for relevant content. I plan to demonstrate how a person can use Google effectively to learn words, find vocabulary, learn pronunciation, find content, meet people, make friends, and learn a language.

And moreover, I'm going to do this in a language that is unlike any other language I've learned. It won't be a Romance language or a Slavic language or a Germanic language, so there won't be any chance of me leveraging the vocabulary or grammar that I already know. I'm going to learn everything this year for the first time.

I am going to learn Turkish. After last year's language profile of Turkish, I was fascinated with the challenging new grammatical details — especially vowel harmony — that I hadn't seen before in other languages. I also became quite fascinated with Central Asia after my short visit to Uzbekistan last year, and Turkish is a relative language to many of the Central Asian languages.

So, is this going to be hard? I hope not. But I suppose it's possible. Is it going to be effective? We'll see. I hope so. But I guess there's a chance it could fail. Is it going to be fun? Oh hell yeah. I think it's going to be especially fun, finding creative ways to learn a language without using any of the tools people have come to rely on.

I can't wait to get started. And I'm already looking forward to the added challenge of beginning this crazy adventure even as I spend the next month traveling in Italy!

Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.

Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • Really looking forward to the details. My venture is Japanese and I find it a handful, mainly due to lack of Japanese people in the area (or at least people who speak Japanese) and thus have limited practice time.In any event, I plan on being conversationally fluent this year in Japanese and am committed to doing so.

  • This is going to sound a bit stupid but are you going to be using a dictionary/ online translator or are you learning words through context. For example, what I mean, is find a picture of a table and chair with the caption of "Above: Table and Chair", and then work out which words mean what or is it that you are going to look up the words in the dictionary?Also, what is a good russian virtual keyboard? At the moment I'm using a connection between my iPod and computer to write in Russian but that isn't so convenient.Finally, have you decided how you are going to learn vocabulary? Will the first and third questions by any chance be aswered in another post?

  • Good luck. Turkish is such a cool language. And the culture/history that goes with it is so extensive.You should have no trouble finding any kind of material, whether written or spoken (or sung, for that matter) online. There seems to be a lot of current interest in the language out there.

  • I'll go into a lot more detail as the year goes on — keep in mind, it's still only January 4th! :) For now, my plan is to do as much as possible from context, and to use dictionaries primarily in the English-to-Turkish direction, for the purpose of knowing what to put in Google search. But I'm not going to banish myself from using a translator... that sounds like trouble!

  • Excellent! It's nice to see people commit to a goal with a time limit. Now, just find a way to talk to people and you'll be all set.

  • I've noticed a significant Turkish presence on the web, which definitely played a big part in my interest in the language. (I don't want to learn something that's not used.)I'm just getting started, but I've already found it's not hard to find every kind of web site in Turkish, from video-sharing to furniture shopping, so I'm really optimistic about what lies ahead.

  • Are you wanting to type in Russian on your computer? I have a Mac, so I don't remember the exact way to turn the Russian keyboard on for Windows. But if you go to your setup where you can choose your desktop and screen and mouse and all that, there should be an option that has something to do with a keyboard. You should be able to turn on the Russian keyboard there. I did it on my parents computer. I think there's the option to have the regular Russian keyboard and to have the phonetic keyboard. I just use the Russian one.When I first turned it on on my old computer, I pushed the keys one at a time to find out which key was which. Then I wrote the letter on a piece of tape and put it on the key. Then I put another piece of tape on top of that so it wouldn't smear. Then someone gave me nice stickers and I used those. My new computer doesn't have any Russian stickers on the keys, but I'm familiar enough with the keys now that I can type without them.Was that what you were looking for?

  • Have you heard of Tarkan? He's a Turkish singer. He's got some cool songs. That's about my only exposure to Turkish other than briefly talking about it in my linguistics class.

  • Oh, didn't see the questions you edited in...Get the keyboard stickers. Definitely. I used the Russian keyboard stickers and was touch-typing after a month. Peeled up the stickers after 2-3 months. And now I type quite fast in Russian.And yes, I'll have answers coming to several of these questions in future posts.

  • Yeah, my friend turned me on to Tarkan. Apparently "Dudu" is popular in Russia. :)

  • Thanks! Yeah, sorry for that as well. I need to start thinking about what I'm going to say and then put as one lump, not edit in bits and pieces as I think of them.

  • Yes thanks! I'll buy myself some stickers later.

  • Wow! Very excited by this. Your second paragraph blew me away.I do agree that it is completely possible. I'm trying a similar approach with my languages. After googling grammar and basic vocabulary, I move onto YouTube music videos and online chats and the ball starts rolling. I think that this kind of approach is only effective if you've already learnt a language because you know what to look for and what to learn.Best of luck with Turkish, it sounds fascinating!

  • Sounds like a nice challenge! And Turkish is a very interesting pick - I think many people don't realize the great opportunities that language can open.All the best and looking forward to hear the stories!

  • Thank you!

  • Thanks! I'm definitely looking forward to the possibilities.

  • Super huge YES! from Istanbul. But I won't share any resources with you - I will let you find them on google.

  • I can be awfully resourceful. Especially when I've got a whole year! :)

  • Really cool. What an absolutely crazy yet wonderful idea.

  • Well you've piqued my interest, which I suppose was the point... Sounds interesting, one thing though... can't you find busuu, livemocha and lingq on google? I don't think Turkish is very compatible with any of them anyway. Well excited to see how you do, and how both your skill and your experiment progress..

  • Thank you! I really hope it turns out as well as I expect, so I can finally, once-and-for-all, put the nail in the coffin of all those rip-off products that people swear by.

  • The point is that LiveMocha, Busuu, and LingQ are, specifically, "language-learning tools." They are designed, developed, and marketed with the intention of convincing you that they will help you learn. In other words, they are "products."I want to prove that we don't need "products" to learn. All we need is curiosity.

  • Ok, this is going to be really interesting, first of all, and major props to you for doing it, second of all. Now, I have to ask, you said no "traditional tools": does that mean no dictionary? Because I really think that doing that would be unnecessarily inhibiting yourself...I mean, you could do it without one by getting the definition from the context and then slowly building up that way, buuuut.... :/Definitely agree with you, though, that learning a language now can be done in a very short period of time, completely for free, thanks to the internet.Also, do you actually plan on going to Turkey eventually? After this 1 year is up? I think this 1-year experiment needs to be concluded with a final test to see just how well it's worked, which would be going to Turkey and trying out your Turkish.Cheers,

  • I'm not excluding dictionaries or translators, because those aren't "traditional language-learning products".And yeah, I'm sure I'll end up in Turkey at some point. Otherwise, what's the purpose of learning this? :)

  • Very interesting but I think this will need a whole post to define what you mean. Much of this I have already done for Chinese and for Thai but would have broken your rules in a few places.No tutor may imply not talking to anyone, everyone who takes the time to talk to you and helps you with Turkish (even if they just make accommodations based on you being a beginner) is acting as a tutor, I assume you mean no paid tutor. If you do a language exchange with a Turkish speaker then you could be considered to have paid (bartered your language) for tutoring.I allow myself to use free learning podcasts etc. Random people on Youtube videos, are you going to count all these out? Where do you draw the line, if you watch a video of some guy on Youtube using Turkish with some explanation how does that differ from a non-commercial podcast or a free sample of commercial podcast, do you care in your system. In the amateur arena, it may be hard to draw a line between 'learning material' and other content in many areas.You won't use text-books (I don't) but if you find free text-book content on Google are you allowed to read it.What about text-book like explanations, the recent posts that Andrew made about Shakira videos were very traditional in approach (too detailed and therefore prone to being wrong in my view, so I never use anything like that, best to work these things out for yourself). If you find one of those for Turkish though can you use it?I assume that you don't distinguish between real world media that can be found off and off the web (an actual Turkish novel or DVD) that you find as compared with the same version on-line?I guess I am just saying it would be good to nail these down, I know you stated that you haven't worked out all the details yet (I am just jumping the gun). At the moment I can't tell if my efforts to date mostly fit in with what you are describing or not. I am not super rigorous though, I just don't want to spend any money...

  • Wow, that is awesome. Turkish is on my "sometime" list too (I already have quite some Greek and I heard they are related) but I don't have the time for that now. I think Turkish is a good choice because it's not one of those boring Western languages that everybody is learning anyway.As for the learning method, well, why limit yourself? It only seems rational to me to try to combine everything as long as it can help you advance your studies.

  • I'm not going to turn it into a painful, rigorous laboratory experiement, where I set up a bunch of rules and obstacles designed to make my efforts more difficult.The point of this "experiement" is to prove that people don't need to buy all of those language-learning products, in addition to last year's theme that people don't need to "study" in order to learn.

  • I don't think I'm "limiting myself" at all! In fact, my hope is to have a *better* command of the language in one year than a person who studied it would have.

  • That works for me as a spec. :)In that case though I would humbly suggest that the large part of my learning to speak Chinese experience and my more recent learning Thai fits into that criteria also and is pretty extensively blogged. The Thai is probably purer (although may you would consider the FSI course as chaeating, I have barely touched it yet though). I don't "study" in the traditional sense at all I don't even bother with grammar from any source. Don't do lessons or textbooks etc, don't spend money on materials (a couple of exceptions like buying Thai movies I like the look of and paying £15 for a subscription to extensive online TV because the quality of the service was much better than I can get from other sources).If I don't meet the approximate criteria of the experiment I would be interested in knowing where the difference is.Forgot to mention the FSI material is free of course...

  • BTW enjoy Italy, I am starting to plan my Asian excursions so I can imagine how it feels to be going to target country after you can speak rather than before... (better imho, sometimes success is dish best served cold, if you excuse the misquote.

  • Until I've walked in your shoes for a week, it would be irresponsible of me to claim that you did or did not meet the criteria of the experiement. :)

  • I love the idea of being able to speak a language before I go somewhere, so that during my travels, I can spend my time experiencing the culture rather than spending my time struggling to understand the language.

  • Are you working through the Thai as FSI recommended? Or are you doing what I've been doing and just taking sentences from it?

  • Related? Umm, no, Turkish and Greek come from two entirely different language branches, Turkish from the Turkic branch of the Altaic family, Greek from the Hellenic branch of the Indo-European family. There may be loan words, due to Ottoman Empire including the territory that comprises Greece as a whole. But that's all there is in terms of relation.

  • I have only really kicked the tyres on that one, other things came along, I intend to pursue it though but mostly for the sound and whatever of the conversations interest me the most. I expect I will skim the PDFs but I rarely if ever read grammar based info.Some of the original FSI material has very repetitive sections of audio, these I might play whilst I was working, things like that tend to sink in.

  • Do you plan on using Lang-8? I find this site far too useful, and overall it helps me much more than any textbook or specific learning product ever would?

  • Definitely!

  • Hello Randy.
    I am a like minded thinker and i plan on doing the same but for Italian. One question, i brought Assimil italian with ease a while ago as it seemed the most 'natural' learning course but i still don't like going through the lessons, as i don't like courses. I don't want to waste the course so i was planning on using Assimil purely as an audiobook. No reading the notes etc, only looking at the translation when absolutely needed. Does this fit in with the 'no language learning products' plan?Good luck with your Turkish plan

  • I think if you're using a language learning product, then no, it doesn't fit the definition of "no language learning products." :)But what does that matter? The point isn't whether or not you adhere to the same rules I've laid out for myself. The important thing is only whether or not you are learning Italian!

  • Thank you for your reply.
    I wasn't going to use Assimil as a language learning product but just as an audiobook but maybe i'll re-think that! I do want to learn a language in the same way your going to learn Turkish as i don't like language learning products, so i'll be following your mission with great interest.
    Good luck again!

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