3rd August 2014

Resources for Learning Turkish

In the United States, Turkish is among the many Less-Commonly Taught Languages. As a result, it can often be difficult to find adequate resources for those attempting to study the language. I figured I would share a list of resources that I have found useful in my studies.

Textbooks

I have only used one textbook series thus far, so I can only speak to it in terms of quality. However, I’ll mention a few others for reference.

  • Elementary Turkish by Kurtuluş Öztopçu - This is one of the only English-language textbooks for Turkish out there, and from my experience it has been a worth-while purchase. In terms of content and style, it’s nothing to compare with the offerings from the educational publishing giants: no fancy, staged-looking stock photos on glossy paper or literary excerpts. But that is not to say that this is not a quality textbook: the grammar explanations are concise and understandable, and there are a good number of exercises for each unit. Just the fact that there are vocabulary lists and that grammatical concepts are scaled from least to most complex makes this a learner-friendly series, with a familiar format that doesn’t take much getting used to. However, there are a good number of partner or small-group activities, which are not much use to independent learners.

  • Elementary Turkish by Lewis Thomas - This is practically the only other option out there for English speakers looking to learn Turkish. I had the opportunity to take a peek in the book (which is a very thin paper-back volume) and it is pretty quickly noticeable that the information inside is dated. Still, it is a less-expensive resource and much of the information should still be usable. That said, it should be noted that this is not a textbook in the sense that most students will be familiar with,rather more of a grammar book.

  • Bonus: Kurtuluş Öztopçu also publishes an Elementary Azerbaijani.

Online Resources

  • Learn Turkish Online by Panagiotis Georgalas is home to the world’s tackiest rainbow-dolphin-Bosporus graphic, but also an incredible array of helpful online activities with answer-checking and explanations. This is a great tool for putting your understanding of grammatical concepts to the test, and even includes information on Turkish culture. Definitely something worth taking a look at.

  • The Global Language Online Support System is a resource provided by the Defense Language Institute, which teaches a select few army personnel languages critical to the interests of the US. Take that as you will, the site is an invaluable resource for Less-Commonly Taught Languages. There are listening and reading comprehension exercises for most levels, and even some specialized language exercises, for example regarding security or science. Also potentially of interest to Turkish learners are exercises in Turkmen, Azerbaijani and Uzbek (all Turkic languages).

  • Princeton University Turkish Resources is a source for some useful elementary-level readers, which are surprisingly hard to come by. A glossary is included alongside each reading for quick reference. Audio readings of the stories are included as well.

  • Verbix Turkish Verb Conjugator is another useful tool for checking verb conjugations.

  • Last but not least for the web resources list, I’d implore anyone interested in the Turkish language to back the Turkish Language and Usage project over on Stackexchange’s Area 51. The Stack model works so incredibly well with language questions, and I use german.stackexchange.com every day. I would be so happy to see a community open for Turkish!

Dictionaries

Surprisingly, finding a quality Turkish-English dictionary online is pretty difficult. Here are the ones that I have found helpful.

  • TurEng has a pretty interface and produces a good number of hits for most search terms, even including categories for each entry.

  • Dict.cc English-Turkish Since I use (and love) Dict.cc as my primary German-English dictionary, it is also the first dictionary I consult for Turkish-English or Turkish-German queries. That said, the Turkish-English dictionary is pretty bare-bones at this point (I think there’s something like 5k entries at the moment), but since it is a user-contributed dictionary it is constantly growing.

  • WordReference English-Turkish while WordReference’s support for non-romance languages has, in my experience, been poor, it seems like their English-Turkish dictionary is actually pretty useful. WordReference is in my opinion the premier Spanish-English resource, with an especially active forum with plenty of specialist translation questions. The Turkish language forum has about 5k threads, which is paltry in comparison to the +700k in the Spanish-English forum but still a good resource.

  • Sözlük.net is alright, but it can be hard to distinguish the contextual use of the various listed entries.

Software

There are plenty of software suites out there for learning Turkish (including the usual suspects, i.e. Rosetta Stone and Livemocha), but I have never had much success with these tools, so I will refrain from listing those here.

  • Anki is one of the most important aspects of my study of Turkish. It’s a well-known flash-card software that is based on the concept of spaced repetition. Turkish is the first language that I have completely studied in the traditional flash-cards and grammar exercises method, but so far this has been a real hit for me. I use Anki to create and study the vocabulary from my textbook, and have incorporated the AwesomeTTS (Text-To-Speech) add-on to automatically generate spoken pronunciation guides for each card.

  • While previously I hinted at my gripes with Rosetta Stone-style language learning suites, I would encourage everyone interested in learning some Turkish to keep an eye on DuoLingo’s Turkish for English Speakers incubator, which hopefully will see the light of day sometime soon. DuoLingo is one of the few apps I’ve used that really seemed to broach grammatical concepts rather than simply having users repeat phrases ad nauseum. In the interim, one intrepid user has posted an elementary Turkish course with over 40 hours of content that seems quite impressive.

There are probably a million more things that I am missing, but all of the sudden it’s 2am. I’ll try to add on here as I come across useful things - and please share your own favorite resources too! İyi eğlenceler!

2nd August 2014
10th July 2014
Es haben,’ erwiderte nun der Biba, ‘unzählige Weise auch auf andern Sternen immer wieder nur den einen Gedanken gehabt, daß grade nur die Ergebenheit uns mit unserm ganzen Leben versöhnen kann. Auf einzelnen Sternen sterben Millionen von Lebewesen in jeder Sekunde – dieses große Sterben ist nur dazu da, damit die Überlebenden die großartigen Schauer der Ergebenheit kennen lernen. Man nennt das zuweilen auf andern Sternen auch Religion. Und es ist ja auch so klar, daß wir eigentlich stets etwas vor uns haben müssen, das größer ist als wir; nur so bekommen wir immer wieder einen Begriff von der kolossalen Großartigkeit der Welt. Würde es uns so leicht sein, höher zu steigen, so würden wir die Welt nicht so als Größeres und Ganzgroßes empfinden; wir müssen immer wieder zurückgedrückt und ein wenig erdrückt werden, damit wir merken, wie groß das Große der großen Welt ist – wie wir diese Größe niemals ganz ausmessen könnten.’

Lesabéndio: Ein Asteroiden-Roman von Paul Scheerbart (1913)

"There have been,” Biba replied, “countless beings who, on other stars as well, have always had but only the singular thought that devotion alone can reconcile us with the entirety of our lives. Millions of living creatures die each second on individual stars - this grand death exists only in order to acquaint survivors with the terrific shudder of devotion. On other stars this is sometimes called ‘religion’. And it’s also rather evident that we have a constant need for designs that are bigger than ourselves; it is only in this way that we are capable of reclaiming some kind of conception of the colossal grandiosity of the world. Were it easy for us to ascend higher, we wouldn’t perceive the world as being so grandiose and gargantuan; we must always be pushed down and somewhat crushed, so that we recognize how great the grand world is - that we’d never be capable of completely surveying this magnitude.” — Lesabéndio: An Asteroid Novel by Paul Scheerbart (1913)

14th June 2014
Their [Women authors who write at cultural and linguistic intersects] narratives are often confined to being occasions of self-discovery, self-fulfillment, and self-realization of—to state it facetiously—the ‘souls’ of minority women authors. The authors either turn into authentic subjects with experiences of patriarchal subjugation, native informants who ‘finally’ (and rather simplistically) claim their own stories in their own voices by writing (graphing) their selves (auto). Or they are aptly criticized for self-exoticization and self-promotion, in that they confirm and reinforce prejudgments, stereotypes, about their cultures—often perceived as part of the abstract oriental monolith—or their status as women: subjugated, colonized, eternal victims of oriental patriarchal malevolence with no agency for resistance.

— B. Venkat Mani, Cosmopolitical Claims: Turkish-German Literatures from Nadolny to Pamuk

22nd May 2014

A blog for academic pursuits in Germanistik

Or at the very least, fewer irrelevant photo reblogs. I’ve always wanted to maintain a blog and tumblr has, by far, been the medium through which I’ve come closest to achieving this goal, even if my ‘personal’ tumblr is much more of an experiment in cataloging than a true blog. More than anything, I’ve been inspired by tumblrs such as LatiNegr@s that present academic findings and news items in a way that is accessible and—at least to some—entertaining to read.

At any rate, we’ll see how this side-blog venture fares. Since I’m currently deep in the research phases of my spring finals (and very much using this very post as a means to procrastinate), I’ll just end this post with a spooky photograph of a horse-mounted, Gasmaske tragender WWI soldier.