As a newcomer to Istanbul back in 2008, I was excited to learn the Turkish language on my own as an independent, self-directed learner. There would be no language school for me. No tutors. No online classes. I was prepared I thought to be successful learning the language in the community among my neighbors and new friends and with the assistance of a language helper.
I set out at once to work for a few hours everyday on the language, to make sure and make regular stops at shops in the neighborhood to visit and to have lesson with my language helper.
(See Also: Two Hours With A Language Helper)
My language helper Mehmet was not a tutor or teacher, just a native speaker of the language and so I was firmly in charge of planning and preparing for our time together. He was my source for the language, my source of comprehensible input and he became my friend. I did a range of activities during our lessons, many of which can be found on the language learning activities page here at the blog and then I tried to implement all that I had been learning into any interactions I had in the community.
But something was missing.
Things were really going pretty well. But I soon began to feel like I was missing something. I felt like I was missing structure. A plan. A steady current of learning that would pull me through and give me an organized framework through which I could approach the language. And that is when I found the Teach Yourself Turkish book.
Teach Yourself is a company that makes loads of books about nearly every topic. From aromatherapy to learning guitar, beekeeping to physics, you name it and Teach Yourself probably has a book on it. But their specialty seems to be languages.
I used the old book and they have since come out with a complete new line up of their products. All the books come with an audio CD and the new series (which I have not seen or used) seems to have multiple levels for you to purchase and use. Because the old version is still available on Amazon and in most book stores and because it was so helpful to me, I would like to tell you a little bit about it and how I used it as part of my language learning journey. As I tell of my experience with Teach Yourself Turkish remember that there is a whole series of books in most languages available that use the same basic format.
The Teach Yourself Turkish book begins with a brief introduction to Turkey and to the Turkish language, explaining some of the major points of Turkish grammar and pronunciation. It is good summary that is neither too deep and detailed nor too shallow. Even if you do not use the rest of the book, looking at this first section will be of benefit to the beginning Turkish learner.
Teach Yourself Turkish has 17 chapters. Each is structured the same. An opening and closing dialogue bookend the content of the chapter and introduce the reader to most of the concepts to be covered. The book comes with an audio CD but I found it much more helpful to read through these dialogues with Mehmet. We would often take turns. I would read the first character and then we would switch and I would read the second character. Reading the dialogues with a Turkish speaker made for more valuable learning opportunities as we were able to talk about expressions, word choices and cultural topics that, had I merely listened to the audio CDs, I would not have been able to cover.
Each dialogue is followed by 6-9 language points. It is through these that the authors introduce grammatical structures, cultural expressions and the ins and outs of the language. The explanations are clear and adequate examples are given for each language point. These then are followed by 4-5 exercises that allow you to practice what the chapter has introduced.
I found that I was able to work through and master the first half of the book at a rate of about one chapter per week. I did far more than just the given exercise and worked to use what I was learning in journal entries, by writing lots of example sentence and by making an intentional effort to practice in the community with friends on a daily basis.
About halfway through the book though, the wheels began to fall off the train. It was as if for the first half I was dumping new material into the jar of my brain and by the time I was adding more material, the first material had settled nicely into place. Slowly though I began to realize that I was trying to add more new material while the old material was still swirling around in a murky mess. I needed to slow down. And so I did.
Slowing down allowed my brain the time to assimilate the new grammar forms I was asking it to learn. It allowed me to give my brain the massive amounts of comprehensible input necessary for it to make the connections that would lock the language into place. I slowed down to one chapter every two weeks and eventually to one chapter every three and even four weeks and this seemed to help me get back on track.
Without slowing down, I would quickly have become discouraged and demoralized trying to cover a chapter a week. There was just no way I could take in the language at that pace. It is this sort of on the fly adjustment that the independent language learner needs to be able to make in order to sustain the language learning journey and learn at an optimal level. Had I the time to increase my daily dose of comprehensible input I could certainly have moved through the final chapters at a quicker pace. But I didn’t.
The Teach Yourself Series is a great tool to add some structure to your personal language learning program. It will introduce you to the language in a comprehensive yet easy to digest format. It gives simple explanations supported by ample examples and is the best language specific series for getting started that I know of. Take it at your own pace and I think it will be a great resource as you get started learning a new language. If you are just getting started learning another language, I highly recommend adding Teach Yourself to your language learning resources.
The Teach Yourself series is available at Amazon in these languages and more: Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Swahili, Tagalog, Turkish, Thai.*
*All links to the Teach Yourself books in this post are affiliate links with Amazon. If you visit Amazon through one of these links and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission. This is a part of how I am able to continue to post regularly here. I only use affiliate links on products I believe in and/or have used.
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