Yonja: A Social Network To Help You Learn Turkish


As you know, social networks are a large parts of my learning strategy. They're very useful to the learner because they involve real people using the language in real ways, rather than the formulaic dialogs and robotic vocabulary memorization that you find in books, flashcard systems, etc.

Today, I'm only going to look at the welcome page of Yonja — there is already a lot that can be learned just from that. Later, I'll go through the process of joining, and I'll write more about how you can actually use the social network once you're a member.

Yonja: Yeni Arkadaşlar

When you go to Yonja, the first thing you see is their tagline across the top: Yeni Arkadaşlar. A quick visit to Google Translate reveals that this is new friends, and that -lar ending on the second word should tell you which word means friends.

On the right, we see the login area, easy to recognize on any site, even in a strange language. There are two tabs: Üye Giriş and Yeni Üye. Since the word üye appears in both tabs, it's pretty obvious that it means members. We just learned the word yeni means new, so that second tab is clearly for New members. The only missing word is giriş, but look at what's printed on the "log in" button... it's that word giriş! So pretty clearly, that first tab is for Member login.

There are two fields in that login form. The first is e-posta, which is clearly asking for my e-mail, rather than a user name. And the second is obviously for a password, which we now know is the word şifre, no doubt related in some way to the word cipher. (Incidentally, knowing this word şifre will make it more fun for me the next time I watch Casino Royale.)

The Facebook button is always easy to recognize, though the button text now says Facebook ile giriş yap. Quick one-word translations reveal that ile means with, and yap means in, so we're starting to get an idea about Turkish word order, which feels like English in reverse. (Yoda would love it.)

I'm not sure why you can say giriş or giriş yap and both mean Log in, but frankly, I'm not going to worry about it. I'm sure it's a style thing, and it will make sense to me later when I understand the language better. It's best not to sweat over details like that right now.

The new activity stream

That's already a lot of new (useful) information we've found about Turkish today, but that's not even the best part! The main section of the page is a constantly flowing stream of member activity updates, from which one can learn a lot about word order, vocabulary, and verb tenses, just by watching!

Here are a few of the activity notices that might scroll by:

{name} yeni bir fotoğraf ekledi. : {name} added a new photo

{name} bir itirafta bulundu. : {name} found a confession

{name} bu itirafını destekledi. : {name} supported this confession

{name} bu blogu beğendi. : {name} likes this blog

{name} ile {name} arkadaş oldular. : {name} is now friends with {name}.

Once again, we're getting a good look at the Turkish language's SOV word order: subject, then object, then verb. This is somewhat unnatural when compared to English, but it's not terribly difficult to get used to. In fact, I can imagine that the ability to look at the word preceding the verb would help to make a few common misunderstandings more clear.

In the last example, it appears that the two new friends are being presented as the single subject of a reflexive verb. This is just a hunch, based on word order and word count.

When I type several different combinations into Sesli Sözlük, I learn some interesting things, but no specific answer to my question. (One must get comfortable with that feeling when one is learning by discovery!) The autocomplete feature lets me know that ol and oldu are words: the former translating as become, and the latter as happened. Since I already know the -lar ending makes nouns plural, I'm tempted to think it has some effect here too, and that oldu+lar is something like a plural form of become, or maybe even a reflexive.

A clear advantage for investigative learning

Well, that's the fun thing about learning through discovery... each partial answer just creates more questions. This is actually exactly what I want! This feeds my curiosity, and also gives me little moments of excitement to help me remember.

When you're always just given the answer, there is only memorization involved. Those free, easy answers are easy to forget. But when you have to work to learn and understand, the things you find stick with you. Having only taken the time to break down this page one time, I'm already certain that I will not forget any of the words or concepts I've learned. That seems a lot more efficient to me than repeating some exercise to learn a word 20 or 30 times...

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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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