Some time ago, I took a number of language classes, just whichever ones were available and could fit into my schedule, my idea being that while I wouldn't be likely to become fluent in any of the languages, I would at least get a better sense of how the language works, and, through them all, how languages in general work. One of the classes I took was introductory Turkish, done by the local Turkish cultural center. When I was taking that class, I picked up a book from Half Price Book called Conversational Turkish in 7 Days. I never got around to using it. But I'm currently reading Felâtun Bey and Râkım Efendi, and the Turkish language itself is used as a sort of symbol or emblem of Turkish culture. So why not pick up Conversational Turkish in 7 Days again, to go with the fortnightly book? And I might as well do some posts about it. The lessons are quite large (and divided into sabahleyin, in the morning, and öğleden sonra, in the evening, sub-lessons), so I won't be doing the whole lessons here -- just a little taste of Turkish to go with the fortnightly book.
One way in which we have it much easier than a Turkish learner in Ahmet Midhat Efendi's days: Turkish in his day used an Arabic alphabet; modern Turkish uses a Roman alphabet with 21 consonants and 8 vowels. There is no q, w, or x. The additional consonants are: ç, which is pronounced like ch; ğ, which is not so much pronounced itself as indicating that you should increase the length of the previous vowel; ş, which is pronounced like sh. Two potentially confusing letters for English speakers are c, which in Turkish is pronounced like the English j when pronounced strongly, and j, which in Turkish is pronounced more like zh sound. The eight vowels are a (pronounced uh), e (pronounced eh), i (pronounced halfway between ih and ee, like the i in 'pin'), ı (pronouned halfway between uh and ih, like the e in butter), o (pronounced oh), ö (pronounced halfway between uh and oo, like the u in 'fur'), u (pronounced like the oo in 'foot'), ü (pronounced halfway between ee and oo). Because of the distinction between the dotted and dotless ı, the capital letter for the dotted i also has a dot. The vowels are quite important in Turkish, because Turkish is a vowel harmony language -- the vowels change to agree with vowels in associated words.
So let's dive into Monday, Pazartesi, when we arrive at the airport. In the morning lesson, we learn a number of important basic phrases, of which the following are just a small sample.
İyi günler : Good day
This is a handy occasion for lesson, because in Turkish it's literally 'good days': -lar and ler endings indicate plurals.
Merhaba : Hello, for informal situations
Hoşça kalınız : Good-bye
Hoş geldiniz : Welcome, and its response, Hoş bulduk (roughly, a pleasure to be here)
These last two are really important; when I took my Turkish class, they were literally the first phrases learned, and Turks use them liberally.
If you want to say 'My name is Brandon', you say: Benim adım Brandon.
Ben is the first person pronoun. The word for 'name' is ad. Benim is 'My'. Turkish links the possessive to the noun by suffix (Turkish uses a lot of suffixes), so you get -m suffix; the vowel that goes with that suffix is determined by vowel harmony. (This goes beyond what the lesson here says, but I think it's worth a comment or two out of place here, because vowel harmony is the sort of thing you need to start getting used to immediately:The soft or ince vowels (e, i, ö, ü) go together and the hard or kalın vowels (a, ı, o, u) go together. The way to think of vowel harmony is to think that you are blurring the former vowels over the suffix. So the Turkish word for 'school' is okul. If you want to say 'My school', you'd say Benim okulum.)
In the evening lesson, which is all about hotels, I learned something very new to me (I'm pretty sure it never came up when I took the Turkish class): the Turkish word for waiter is garson, from the French, of course. 'I want to drink' is Ben .... içmek istiyorum. (The word 'içmek' is 'to drink' and 'istemek' is to want or need'.) So add some beverage words and you can order at the bar:
bira : beer
şarap : wine
çay : tea
kahve : coffee
Notice that the object goes before the verb, not after.
If you wanted to say, 'I am drinking tea', the present tense is a suffix -yor or -iyor (to prevent y from butting up against a consonant) that goes directly to the verb root, and then you add the pronoun suffix to that. So içmek is 'to drink'; we drop the infinitive ending 'mek', and add -iyor to indicate present tense and -um for the pronoun: içiyorum. And, we add the object to get: Çay içiyorum.
Tune in tomorrow, Sali, for breakfast and shopping.
Tayfun and Gillian Çağa, Conversational Turkish in 7 Days, Passport Books (Chicago: 1992).