How To Learn Turkish In Online Chat Rooms

When you set out to learn a new language, usually there are books, or tapes, or other learning materials to guide you through the basics — not enough to actually get you to fluency, but usually enough to give confidence to start a conversation.

However, when you're learning without any learning materials, getting to that first conversation can be a daunting task! You have no idea what to say, of course. And unless you move to Turkey (or wherever they speak the language you're learning), you're probably not going to be surrounded by enough conversations to start picking up on what people say. So what do you do?

The answer is actually pretty simple: you find chat rooms. Chat rooms offer you a place where you can see the language being used as it really would, with variety and slang, but at a slightly reduced pace and with the benifit of a transcription, so you can go back and look things up!

Chat rooms also allow you the gift of anonymity. Often, people are afraid to try out a new language because they're afraid of what people will think of them when they make a mistake. Personally, I think it's a not worth worrying about, but I understand that this thought exists, and fortunately, chat rooms can fix this for you!

If you make a mistake and offend people, all you have to do is log in next time with a different name, and you start with a clean slate. If you have trouble getting people to talk to you, you can use a girl's name. If you want to learn proper terms of respect you can add a title (like "Dr") to your name. The possibilities are endless!

I've been lurking in Turkish chat rooms, watching what happens and what people say, occasionally typing the things I see into Google Translate.

When a new user enters the chat room, I see the announcement odaya girdi. Then, almost like clockwork, that person opens with the greeting selam.

Others may greet the new user. Maybe someone will use nasılsın, to ask how are you. Answers to this question an not at all predictable, and seem to be a far more honest assessment than what we're used to in English (eg: one person's response was "my teeth are causing me trouble"). Then, as if following a script, the person who answered will then ask in return sen?

A clever observer will notice here that the word sen, which means "you", is also the ending being used on various declensions or conjugations (I'm not sure which) like "nasılsın" (how are you?). Sure enough, when I put nasıl into my Turkish dictionary, it translates as "how". So nasıl + sen = nasılsın,_ or "how [are] you". Exciting... we're learning!

After a while, someone will say hoşcakalın, which is "goodbye". Then, the chat room announces that this person çıkış yaptı, or "left". Literally, word by word, this means "made an exit". (As in the photo, I remember seeing the word chiqish written on exits in Uzbekistan, so remembering çıkış isn't going to be hard for me.)

I'm going to do a little more of this kind of observation, just to prepare myself with a few likely responses to this kind of small talk, but then in a few days, I'll start trying out some of this myself. Obviously I won't be able to have much of a conversation, but I can start by getting the feel for asking and answering basic greetings in Turkish. And then I'll be fast on my way to learning and speaking this language!

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  • My opinion might be biased by observing Russian chat-rooms, but I always had an impression that in chats people do not use proper spelling and grammar. Especially when lots of slang actually based on deliberately typing the words incorrectly. Don't know if you are familiar with it or not. Like, when they say "превед" instead of proper "привет", for example. Without an insight into how the first version of the word was born, it'll just give a wrong idea about the language to a person.While not an issue if you are fluent or, at least, experienced in a language, I feel it might cause a problem if you just discovering one. Or at least stir in the wrong direction, when you researching a word which might be spelled improperly.

  • Actually chat rooms are pretty good for learning languages with a caveat, Some people use terrible grammar, broken words and excessive slang.Answer to "nasılsın" could be a rare and the curious "iç güveyisinden hallice". Could be fun to figure out what it actually means.

  • Yes, they often use really bad grammar and spelling. That's part of the reason why they're so useful. For one thing, you're learning what people actually say, rather than what some author deemed appropriate for his book. For another thing, misspellings give you way more insight into a word than proper spellings do. As an example of this, the word you mentioned превед, shows us two valuable things about pronunciation: 1) that the unstressed е sounds the same as и, and 2) that there is little to distinguish a д from a т in Russian speech.

  • The bad grammar and slang are part of the benefit.
    Oh, and google turned up plenty of answers for "iç güveyisinden hallice". Took me five minutes.

  • Well, "chat room" bad grammar and slang is quite different than daily bad grammar and slang. But still, could be somewhat useful.Ok now, if you occasionally use "iç güveyisinden hallice", you can easily impress your Turkish friends.

  • Great post thank you!Just wondering how you go about finding chat rooms? Do you just search for the Turkish translation of chat room or are there other methods?

  • I'm sure you could do it that way. I just typed "turkish chatroom" into Google.

  • All good points. As long as the erroneous versions don't get stuck in your mind, it's a good exercise in spotting patterns and noticing errors in language you are learning. I haven't thought of it that way.I guess I'm just a little bit obsessive about writing correctly, which is why I generally can't stand chat rooms and all the ridiculous slang that is used in there (that sometimes have nothing to do with the actual everyday speech). Maybe I need to lose some of that perfectionism and try the method out for myself.

  • I'm a perfectionist too, and I place a high value on speaking, and writing, properly. But I find examples of *improper* speaking and writing to be excellent ways to gain insight into the language.

  • One result of your 'no language materials' project is that /you/ will be doing the basic grunt-work of noticing the structures and patterns that a basic course would serve up to you in a tidy form. I myself love to do this kind of analysis of raw language material, where you first have to discern the patterns and then figure out what element (in a sentence or interaction) is doing what. That said do you think it's going to be always efficient for you to use this approach? Especially when a quality text would provide you with the results of this kind of analysis and some clarification which you could then go deeper with. Basically, I'm wondering is it better to discover yourself how a language works/is used from scratch or to use the work of others to see these aspects?

  • If you simply want to understand something quickly, reading from the work of others is much faster. But if you want to *learn* something, I don't think anything beats the experience of figuring it out for yourself.

  • Which chat rooms do you recommend? Are you using a specific website or IRC?Oh, and I think this is a fantastic idea, btw, I'm off to find some Spanish-language ones, I might even do a post on them, thanks!Cheers,

  • Nothing specific. Just whatever turns up on Google. I try a few, and save the ones that are busy.

  • Great idea!
    Just make sure you don't ask 'nasılsın' to a 70yr old 'amca' or 'teyze'. You'd need to say 'nasılsınız' to show respect.

  • Of course. But we haven't reached that part yet. :)

  • I know, I know, just saying ;)

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