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Difficulties with Turkish based on your native language(s)

I'm just curious at to the native language(s) of people learning Turkish and what you find to be the most difficult. I also teach English as a second language, so I'm always interested in how people learn language differently.

I grew up speaking English, Spanish and Catalan, and I'm fluent in French, so one might think learning another language would be easy, but Turkish is hard!! While it seems logical in and of itself, it completely goes against rules in English or in the Romance languages.

My fiancé is from Istanbul and his parents only speak Turkish, so I'm desperately trying to learn it, but I'm starting to feel like I never will. I know it's a slow process, but I'm having trouble remembering what I learned and the pronunciation especially is killer. Does anyone have any little tricks or ways you make Turkish grammar rules or vocab easier? Or do you have any suggestions for other sources to practice listening comprehension? I'd love to hear.

April 7, 2015



I think my time studying German helped because it is no biggie to me now to put the verb at the end. Do I remember it all or get it all? Not really. But just wait. Do some every day, take notes if you need to, and just let yourself absorb it. I am letting myself simply enjoy and be amazed at the fact I know any Turkish at all! :D

I also have a personal little system with language learning. An internal scale. At the top of the scale is knowing words back and forth entirely between English and another language. At the bottom of the scale are words I've never seen before. Then next step up the scale are words I know I've seen in another language, but can't say I know. Up next are words I know when I see them or hear them, but only one way. Up above that are words I could use. Well, that is roughly my scale. :) I should put numbers to each level. :) What would that be?

0 = Never saw the word.

1 = Saw it at least once, but don't really know it.

2 = Know when I see it or hear it.

3 = Know the word, but only way way.

4= Know it both directions.

Well, I oughta tighten that up a bit, but you get the point. You don't need all 4's, even getting lots of your words up to 3's is good. :) Heck, I'm even proud of my 1's! This also gives me a nice ongoing feeling of upwards movement and progress.

The benefit of this course is it gives you a chance to get a feel for the language and it helps a bit with memorizing - it is getting easier to spot when we are talking about "I", "we", "he/she", "you" for example. You already know more than you realize! :) Watch the many fun videos you can find on pronunication and that is a huge step that will aid your reading and listening right off the bat. Say words out loud whenever possible and you are building your foundation for speaking.

Just be patient. It really is just a matter of time (use it wisely) and effort (never give up - that is simply not an option)! :)


I love your scale system. When I think about it like that, I feel like I actually know a decent amount of words. You mention fun videos on pronunciation; are there any specific ones you'd recommend? And thanks for giving such a long response! I appreciate the tips and, although it may sound silly, knowing that I'm not the only having difficulties is really encouraging. :)


I am a native English speaker with a solid background in a dialect of German. This being said, Turkish was really hard for me at first. A lot of the grammar seems to be about the opposite of what English does (postpositions, SOV, participles always coming before the noun they modify); however, I am also an example of someone who was able to learn Turkish to a very high level by hard work and exposure.

You are lucky that you have a fiancé. Ask him to speak to you in Turkish sometimes or to practice. There is a joke saying in Turkish: Dil dile değmeden dil öğrenilmez (I wouldn't say that to a Turk on the street, but most people find it really funny!). :) You can do it!


Do you mind my asking how you ended up in Turkey? (I assume you live there from your username.) Sorry is that's too nosy. And can you translate that saying for me? I asked my fiancé and he just laughed and said he didn't know the English (he is so useless haha). According to an online translator, it comes out to be "language language language is learned without touching"...


My first language is English. I speak Spanish fairly well and a couple of other Romance languages less well, and I've studied a bunch of other languages at various times. Except for a little Arabic in college, all of my foreign languages have been Indo-European. I've never learned a S-O-V language, nor one that uses agglutination, so Turkish is a completely new thing for me, and I'm definitely finding it challenging.

I found the vocabulary very difficult at first, but that's getting a little easier with time. (As you get to later units -- and especially as you get used to the Turkish sounds -- you'll see more words that you recognize from English and French.) The cases are a little confusing, but that, too, is improving as I start to get a sense of what "sounds" right. The verbs, on the other hand, may drive me to drink: there are so many of them, and a lot of them sound similar, and there are so many tenses, and there are all these non-tense suffixes (I am constantly missing negations!), and sometimes I feel like I'll never get the hang of them all.

The other big challenge for me is the word order: the process of figuring out what words to put where (if I'm writing in Turkish), or what information to find where (if I'm reading Turkish) is painfully slow, and I think listening comprehension will be a long time coming to me, because even when I make out all the words, I have to play the whole sentence back in my head and sort out what it meant. It's like I think in one order, and Turkish imparts information in an entirely different order. I'm sure I'll get used to it, but in the meantime, I am in awe of the people here who speak both Turkish and English, and don't have to stop to decipher every sentence of one language or the other!

Anyway, you're definitely not alone in finding it difficult. Hang in there, and thanks for starting this thread, because I'll be watching eagerly for any tips and suggestions that come up!


I'm with you about the word order being confusing and I completely understand the whole thinking in one order and seeing another. It'll be a while before I'm able to mentally translate things with any degree of fluidity. I think I'm getting used to Turkish sounds (listening to Turkish music and shows help, even though I can't understand them), but I don't think my brain will ever quite accept the fact that "c" in Turkish sounds like "j" in English haha. And I agree with you in being amazed at the people here who not only speak both Turkish and English, but seem to have such a strong grasp on grammar for both languages as well. I'm actually really curious as to how they got so good. Also, thanks for the reassurance that I'm not the only one finding it difficult, as it's always encouraging to hear. :)


For me the closest to Turkish that I tried before has been (basic) Japanese, it similarly does SOV and can string together a bunch of suffixes, so it does not seem that weird now. The relative lack of cognates makes it hard for me to memorise the vocab, have to spend time coming up with (mostly silly) mnemonics and hope they stick. Examples: makarna = Ma, carne! (Mom, I want some meatballs on my pasta) = pasta; bir = One beer please, one! = one.


this is how one of my friends memorized numbers

  • bir / beer
  • iki / ikea
  • üç (I don't remember this)
  • dört / dirt
  • beş / ❤❤❤❤❤
  • altı / alter
  • yedi /jedi (because he is German :))
  • sekiz /sex
  • and for sure he never forgets 84


Haha I'm totally gonna use those. I'm always making up weird mnemonic devices too :) Btw, I love the Dr. Evil avatar.


My first languages were Italian and English, and I am reasonably fluent in Spanish. I am learning German on here as well, so I would say that probably helps me more than the other three. I just have a Turkish notebook where I write down vocab and definitions, as well as the notes I take about each lesson. I find that that is actually really helpful, and that it helps vocab and grammar rules really stick! I like how Duolingo tries to make grammar rules second nature to you by making you used to translating sentence into English/Turkish without really having to refer to the grammar rules as much as to your own memory. However, I do find that understanding the grammar rules before starting the lessons and keeping track of the vocab has really helped me, and I highly recommend it! I just wish I would've done this for my German!


I talked a bit about what I find difficult (and what I thought I would find difficult but actually wasn't so bad) in this post. The learning curve is definitely steeper than with European languages (and particularly than going from one Romance langauge to another, e.g. Spanish and Catalan to French), but what this really means is just that you have to revise your expectations about how long it should be taking to see improvement. I'm finding that Duolingo is providing a good structure for seeing a bit of the vocab and the grammar every day and so gradually reinforcing the basics.

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