Simple Trick To Make Friends In A New Language

For the last three days, the Chicago Turkish Festival has been happening in the plaza downtown. Turkish people from all around the Chicago area come to celebrate their culture. There are information booths with travel information about Turkey, and tourism details from Turkish Airlines. Oh, and plenty of great food, too.

I saw this as a great opportunity while I am learning Turkish, so I've been going to the festival — in fact I am there now, as I write this. Sure, I use the opportunity to ask for food in Turkish, and to use "yes, no, please, and thank you" in Turkish, but my level is still not great and what I really want to do is hear it spoken and learn more!

How to get people to talk to you

Today I'm going to tell you about a trick I'm using to meet new people, to make new friends, and to hear their language. It's a really simple trick, but it works well.

I arrive early, just as the booths are opening and before any music or dancing has started. There are no lines and no crowds. I get some food, I find an empty table, and I sit. And I stay there. That's it. That's what I do. It's easy, anyone can do it.

As the festivities go on, and as the crowds start to arrive, seating is scarce. People want to sit, especially if they have food. Several people will come along and ask if they can sit at my table, and of course I tell them "yes."

Learning Turkish from the families at my table

Over the past few days I've had several groups of Turkish speakers share my table, including one group of three who stayed for several hours talking to me. And in that time, I've picked up a lot!

One example is when someone asked saat kaç? which literally means "hour, how much?" — in other words, what time is it? This one phrase taught me a lot about how questions are formed, and it also taught me a valuable, extremely useful phrase.

The response was on iki, which I recognized to mean ten two. I knew it was noon, and therefore "ten two" must be the Turkish way to say twelve. I pulled out my Sözlük app on my iPod and looked up thirteen, sixteen, etc, and found that is indeed how numbers are stated. Like so many things in Turksh, it's very simple!

I've also heard many people say efendim when they can't hear someone. Google says it means sir, but the way it's being used seems more like pardon? to me.

I'm learning a lot just by being around Turkish people, speaking to them occasionally, but mostly just listening. And I don't even need any special social skills to make this work.


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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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  • When you see someone working at a booth, say "Kolay Gelsin."  It's a heavily used greeting meaning . . . well, I'll let you figure that one out.  Great post and I am excited for you.  What a great opportunity.

  • I went to a Turkish restaurant once in Chicago during the Turkish festival, and the food was fantastic.  After dinner all the ladies got up and danced together.  They were so pretty doing this together! That one night made a wonderful impression because where am I living now and learning Turkish? Istanbul! I love it.

  • Nice tips, I just tried that in my university in Spain, even speaking the language, did not work out. I mean, they just sat, not talk to me. XD. Anyway, I do not study turkish but have this turkish friend, and I always can identify "efendim" they use it so much. And something like "tamam" that means ok, no? :)

  • The number system reminds me of the Japanese one. Nine hundred and ninety-nine is pronounced "kyu-hyaku-kyu-ju-kyu", which literally means 9-100-9-10-9. Although I have no interest at the moment in learning Japanese, it didn't take me long to learn to count (probably 5 minutes, and that isn't an exaggeration).

  • Korean does the same with the Sino-Korean numbers.  Korean does have its own words for 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 when using pure Korean numbers, though, but it is still vastly simpler than English or Spanish (e.g., 12 is the word for 10 then the word for 2 in both Korean systems, not a unique word like English and Spanish both use).

  • Thanks, Aaron! It's definitely quite nice to be surrounded by Turks, even for just a short time, while I'm learning. It's helps a lot to hear their pattern and rhythm. 

  • Yeah, it reminded me of Esperanto in its simplicity.  But unlike Esperanto, I've actually heard real people speak Turkish! :)

  • Yeah, tamam is okay.If people sit with you, talk to them!  :)  Take the opportunity to say something. Anything. 

  • We have some fantastic Turkish restaurants here.  A Turkish friend once spent an afternoon ranting to me about how people talk about Greek food, and that it's not really Greek... He insisted that everything we think is Greek is really Turkish.  I remember laughing hysterically at his tirade.  But after that, I started going to Turkish restaurants and everything is so much better. I love the food, and that largely influenced my interest in learning the Turkish language this year. :)

  • Turkish food isn't known in America at all.  It should be.  It is very healthy. One of the vegetables they use a lot which American underuse is eggplant.  I'm enjoying eating those.  They also use lentils, especially red lentils, in wonderful ways.  I love their red lentil meatballs which are healthy and onion-y and delicious!

  • I was passing through the windy city in June 3 years ago when the festival was on. Doe it move around the calendar?I still regret not buying the Turkish flag t-shirt.... 

  • I'm not sure if it moves around. This was my first time going. 

  • Or you can be active and just go up to people and start a conversation. If you like a girl, or example, that's a sincere way to start and go beyond 'language practice'

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