How To Learn Turkish Listening To Tarkan

If you've been reading this site, you already know that I love using music to learn. Right from the start, one of the first things I do with a new language is find music to help me learn.

At the beginning of this year, I found several Turkish singers, one of whom was Tarkan. Admittedly I haven't found tons of music yet, but out of what I have found so far, Tarkan has been my favorite. And this song in particular really pleases my ear. So... it's time to figure out what he's saying!

Here are the lyrics. You can read along with the song as he sings, and when you want to know what it means, just hover your mouse over each line of text to see its translation. (translation source)

Ne kadar çok uğraşsan da
Beni kırmaya çalışsan da
Senden ayrılmam mümkün değil yarBazen bana darıldığında
Telefonlara bakmadığında
Seni özlemek kolay değil yarOlsun be güzelim olsun, aşkın sağı solu belli olmaz
Ben aklımı senle bozdum, hiç kimseyle işim olmaz Nefesinde yüzeceğim yüzümün kıyısına vurdukça
Sevdim yine seveceğim aşkın koynunda uyudukçaNefesinde yüzeceğim yüzümün kıyısına vurdukça
Sevdim yine seveceğim aşkın koynunda uyandıkçaBen kovaladıkça kaçsan da
Aşkımı hafife alsan da
Varlığın bin bir ömre bedel yarBeni bazen anlamasanda
Canımı dağlayıp acıtsan da
Seni affetmek bile güzel yarOlsun be güzelim olsun, aşkın sağı solu belli olmaz
Ben aklımı senle bozdum, hiç kimseyle işim olmaz Nefesinde yüzeceğim yüzümün kıyısına vurdukça
Sevdim yine seveceğim aşkın koynunda uyudukçaNefesinde yüzeceğim yüzümün kıyısına vurdukça
Sevdim yine seveceğim aşkın koynunda uyandıkça


There are plenty of interesting things to note and learn here. First, if you're a newcomer to Turkish, you'll notice as you read along that Turkish is a very straightforward, phonetic language with a highly predictable stress pattern. The only letter that behaves oddly is ğ, whose addition almost seems to actually shorten the word somehow.

Next, looking only at the text and translation, we can learn various words and expression even without any knowledge of grammar. All of the sentences ending on da are translated as "even if." And olsun seems to mean "never mind."

In the repeat of the refrain, only the last word changes, so the difference between uyudukça and uyandıkça is the difference between sleeping and waking, even if we can't make many assumptions about those endings yet.

But wait a second... actually, we can make assumptions! Why not?

When I go over to Sesli Sözlük and look up a verb, it seems that the top matches always end in -mak or -mek (there's that vowel harmony again). I can't say whether or not that's an infinitive or something else, but I can start to feel pretty confident that this is the expected verb form found in dictionaries, and from which all other conjugations are formed.

So it seems like we're learning that the -mak ending is dropped to form other endings. And apparently -dukça (the ending on these two verbs in the lyrics) would seem to indicate the thought "as [something] happens." That is, the verb uyumak means "sleep", and it's conjugated form uyudukça seems to mean "as I sleep."

And if we test out that theory, it seems to work. A quick scan of these lyrics for other words ending in -mak or -mek finds özlemek near the end of the first verse, and since "to miss" is the only verb in that translation, I'll assume this is the infinitive verb to miss. And the dictionary tells me that my guess was right.

(The result for afflemek near the end of the second verse is a little unexpected, but that's most likely a result of the translation, because the word does appear in the dictionary as expected, it just has a different meaning than what you might assume from the translation.)

We're learning! Still discovering how a language works, by observation, without any instruction or learning materials. Progress may seem slow, but you can be sure that it's sticking more securely in my head. I'm still confident and excited about Turkish! What about you? Do you think I'll reach fluency before the end of this year?

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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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  • As you guessed, translation is wrong for "affetmek".
    Seni affetmek bile güzel yar = It is beautiful even "to forgive" you (lover).In general this translation seems ok, but for some reason the word "yar = lover - beloved" is omitted.

  • Thanks for the input! I presumed the intent of this particular translation was to get the meaning rather than word-for-word accuracy, and in general I prefer that. However I must admit that it makes the task of learning from the translation a bit more difficult! :)

  • This dosen't have turkish singing in it, but never the less a very good turkish artist.

  • Ooooooo, how'd you do the little hover-translation trick? I might have to try that on my next learning-Spanish-from-music-videos post, that was nifty! :DCheers,

  • It's custom. :)
    But I've made it available to others as a plugin.

  • That's pretty neat. Too bad you don't offer a blogger version - I'd use it!

  • The new banner at the top is a nice little addition!If you didn't have the translation from that forum, what would you have done?

  • Hi Randy,Just thought to ask you - do you learn the lyrics of a song and then sing along to the original? I'd say it would be a perfect way of getting some speech practice too, wouldn't it?

  • Absolutely.I'm actually one of those irritating people who's always singing. In fact, I'm not that good a singer, and I don't even care. I sing out loud everywhere, and since I mostly listen to foreign music, my singing is usually unintelligible to others.Yeah, I think it's good speaking practice. I'm certain of it.

  • I'd have translated it myself! :)

  • Interesting!

  • How would you have gone about that? Do you think putting into google translate and then correcting the English to be more comprehensible would be effective, or would you have gone through some other method?

  • Google Translate is a generally good tool, but it's not perfect. I would verify words against their dictionary entries where possible. At this point it would be a good enough translation for me to get the general intent of the text and to learn from it. However in the case where I'm going to publish the translation on my web site, I would first solicit a Turkish speaker to verify the translation.

  • Great post. You are like the Sherlock Holmes of language learning and I keep telling people about you as a way to encourage them to think more broadly about being self directed learners. On a sad note, one of our most famous singers, Tatlıses, has barely survived an assassination attempt. Great name though and one for you to play with: Tatlı ses.

  • Why would anyone want to kill Tatlıses?

  • Interesting! I already know ses (sound) from the phrase Sesli Sözlük. Now I have it from a different angle, and I'm seeing the ending -li seems to form some kind of adjective. Must dig more and understand this!

  • Maybe it's an east-side west-side thing, like Tupac and Biggie! :)

  • Sounds like a long standing blood feud. They caught the guy though.

  • I'm glad you found it interesting. It's somewhat of an obscure topic to us westerners-- that of tuning musical scales differentley, but I think it can really sound beautiful. Especially if you consider that 99% of all other styles of music in the world are actually tuned differentley than western music. I won't get into the details, it can get kind of complicated, but is definitley a neat insight into diferent cultures to hear their diferent tunings systems.On another note, I do really love this song by Tarkan, I'm going to have to look up more of his music.

  • A few other Tarkan songs I think are worth a listen include: Her Nedeysen, Acimayacak, and Çat Kapi. Also, Bu Gece was a really popular song.

  • Loved the article! A few additions: the soft g shortens the word but lengthens the preceding vowel - just imagine the g isn't there and double up the vowel before it. It is easy to read Turkish if you split it into two letter-clusters at a time so gelecegim (I am going to come "as in arrive") is actually pronounced ge.le.ce(e).im. Smooth out the lengthening of the vowel, don't break breath. This works for all words with the soft g. Another example is dogum (birth) pronounced do(o).um.Secondly, I am a mad Tarkan fan for years, and how I learnt the above, and what Tarkan is saying, is thanks to an amazing guy that has been translating Tarkan's work for a while.

  • Thanks for your comments, and the link! 

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