Staying on the Turkish road
“What’s the best method for learning a language?” people have asked me. My answer: whatever keeps you learning – whatever keeps you on the road.
I say this because no matter what methods you choose, the road will be long. In fact, there is no destination. As in your native language, you will keep learning, keep applying, keeping developing more nuanced understanding. The most important thing is to keep moving forward. I have been learning Turkish for more than ten years now, on and off. Here are some of the activities I am using right now in Vancouver to keep moving forward in Turkish.
1. Meeting with a language partner
Once a week I meet with my language partner, Ayşe. We spend half our time in English and half our time in Turkish, during which we translate a story I have written into Turkish or converse only in Turkish. We keep a piece of paper in front of us to catch new words and phrases. The primary challenge for me is to be honest with Ayşe about my comprehension. I can nod along and pretend I understand, but I actually learn when I force her to speak at a lower level and ask me more questions. Sometimes I also schedule hangouts with my friend Mamo, to add more Turkish conversation time into my life.
2. Going to classes
By luck I met Nural, a neighbor who teaches Turkish out of her home. Although my level is higher than the other students, I benefit from being in a Turkish learning environment. Nural is also kind enough to prepare special reading and writing lessons for me that are right at my Turkish edge.
3. Watching movies
Between YouTube and Netflix, there are plenty of clips, shows, and movies in Turkish to develop my listening skills. One thing I like to do now is watch a Turkish film with Turkish subtitles turned on. I can freeze the frame and break down the sentence, then listen to it again.
4. Making and reviewing Anki digital flashcards
Over the last five years, I have build up a stockpile of personalized Anki flashcards on my computer. I continue to add notes from my language meetings, language classes, and movie-watching. Almost every day, I take time to review 70 flashcards, including easy and challenging ones. To make it more interesting, I often refer to Tureng to check associations of the word, and to Google Translate to see if the word is the same in Arabic or Farsi, languages I am also interested in.
5. Teaching Turkish
I believe that nonnative speakers can and should teach their additional languages. Once a week, I meet with Maryam, who teaches me Farsi in exchange for Turkish. We use the Where Are Your Keys method to stay in immersion, using hand signs to help us guide the conversation and request help. Teaching basic Turkish has been a great way to solidify my foundation in the language.
Together, this mix of activities keeps me moving along the road of learning Turkish. One practice that I might add, that helped me in Arabic, is keeping a language journal to record struggles, questions, experiences, and breakthroughs. It would also be useful to reflect on which activities are most worthwhile and which may be missing.
Best wishes on your language journeys!