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Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Fredericksburg...
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Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

I am contemplating a solo independent trip to Istanbul in the spring.

As a rule when I travel overseas I like to speak some of the native language, however I don't know any Turkish and will have to start from scratch. Can a traveler get around Instanbul and western Turkey with very very basic Turkish (what I can l learn in about 5 months) and a whole lot of English.

Perrysburg, Ohio
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1. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Hi tedva,

You can definitely get around Istanbul with very basic Turkish and a whole lot of English. You could actually get by with no Turkish, because most waiters, shopkeepers, hotel owners and staff at the major sites speak at least enough English to get by on...although the Turks always appreciate it when you try to speak their language at little bit. Also, while many of the people on the street may not be fluent in English, they frequently speak enough of it to give directions, etc. If the first person you ask doesn't understand you, just ask the next one. Sometimes, of course, this has to be accomplished with hand signals and pantomines, but that makes the trip all that more interesting!

I'm sure you'll love Istanbul. It's a truly magical and wonderful city, and you'll find the Turks are extremely welcoming, friendly and hospitable. Let us know if you have any additional questions, and I hope you'll come back to the forum and share your experiences with us after you return.

Jo

Cirali / Antalya
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for Antalya, Cirali
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2. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Hi all and good morning,

Here are a couple of links for useful information about the turkish language;

turkeytravelplanner.com/details/…index.html

turkeytravelplanner.com/details/…index.html

hope this helps

plus read this previous post as it provides a lot of useful info;

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293974-i368-k1192…

I would try to learn just a bit of turkish...just the important words as it makes an impression upon the turks that at least you are trying to learn and use their language...

Many travellers come here and do not know any turkish a lot. I admire you that you are interested in learning a bit before your arrival. Also most touristic places you will get by or should get by without having to know Turkish..however Turks know many different languages as well and sometimes ( especially children ) they are happy to practice their english...

There are a few posts that you might want to read about independant and solo travel in Turkey...

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293974-i368-k1372…

also this page as well

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g293969-c3421/Turkey:…

have a great trip

Vancouver, Canada
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3. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

I am all about learning the language but my mom and i were in 4 different countries with four different languages in a month. We couldn't learn much and we had no trouble at all. so you should be fine. Since you have time to learn some then your already ahead of the game.

Madi

Mount Dora, Florida
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for Istanbul
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4. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

You do not need to speak Turkish to manage well in Istanbul or the tourist areas in southern Turkey. You will find that almost any place where you may go, hotel, restaurant, night club, shops and bazaars, in addition to historical attractions will have at least one, and often more employees who speak English.

I would recommend that you follow canmom's excellent advice and focus on learning a few Turkish phrases. The Turkish people appreciate your efforts when you just say Merhaba rather than hello.

The Turkish language was literally created, kind of by committee after Ataturk ushered Turkey into the 20th Century. It is an amalgam of several different languages, occasionally even English. We lived in Turkey for two years. My husband became proficient in what I like to call "survival Turkish". I could never master much more than saying hello, good-by, thank you and how much is this.

After we returned from our latest trip to Turkey in the spring, we immediately started planning for our 2008 trip. My husband decided to expand his Turkish skills. He is using several different programs, but organizes his learning sequence around the Rosetta Stone.

He studies several hours a day, and is about 1/3 of the way through the second unit. I tell everyone that if we see a girl on a white pony following a pink car we are going to be in great shape! I really wished there were a language course that focused on things tourists need to know. I am almost positive that we never saw a pink car in Istanbul and I am equally sure that we did not see a girl on a white pony; although the Rosetta Stone program seems to focus on these two phrases.

I would pick up a phrase book and learn a few words so you can demonstrate your intentions, and I know you will be fine with very limited Turkish.

Kamloops, BC...
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5. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

tedva --

Like you, I try to know at least the courtesies when I travel, but Turkey was a completely different situation.

I returned from a solo independent trip to Istanbul three weeks ago. I know no Turkish and had no opportunity to learn any as everyone I met either spoke fluent English, with beautiful grammar and syntax, I might add, or was anxious to practise English. As I heard very little Turkish, I have no real idea how the language sounds.

Istanbul is a lovely place with gracious inhabitants. I'm female, so alone I was somewhat limited in what I could do in the evenings, but in the immediate neighbourhood of my hotel I had several options for dinner. Since I was known to belong in the neighbourhood, I had no problems there. As a matter of fact, I was warmly welcomed in every restaurant on the block. I did not, however, make any attempt to travel to other areas after dark out of respect for the local customs. One must try to be a gracious visitor.

If I had chosen to travel about the city after dark, my hotel would have sent a man with me to my destination. The drill is that I would have telephoned for someone to pick me up and return me to the hotel. This seemed like an awful lot of trouble when all I wanted was dinner, so I ate locally to my hotel. The food was excellent, so I didn't suffer at all.

The most important thing to know about Turkey is to keep track of the time. There are calls to prayer five times a day, and that means that most tourist sites are closed during the periods of prayer. When you arrive in Turkey, ask about the times. They vary with the hours of daylight.

I'm sure you'll have a great time in Turkey. I'm very anxious to go back.

New York City, New...
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6. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Hi,

I spent 3 days in Istanbul and I was able to walk around without a problem. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of English the people knew. Only once, at a bus stop for gas, did I find a woman that did not understand English. You will have a great time.

London, United...
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7. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

1BCTraveller, as a Turkish woman I was not aware of the 'local cusom' of having to be escorted by a man if I wanted to venture outside my neighbourhood at night. Where did you stay? I go out at night at all hours alone in Istanbul, without incident or hassle, provided I am in central locations.

Tedva, you'll be OK without Turkish, even only knowing the word hello (merhaba) or please (lutfen) will get you smiles and break the ice.

Kozano.

Perrysburg, Ohio
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8. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Hi 1BC Traveler,

I was reading your post above and was quite surprised at your comment about not going out alone at night outside of your neighborhood without being escorted to and from your destination by a male. I'm curious as to where you got the information that this was the local custom, as the majority of females in Istanbul (both locals and tourists) go out alone at night all the time. Was this something someone at your hotel told you? If so, I think they gave you incorrect information.

Also, when we were in Istanbul the only sites that closed during the call to prayer were the mosques. Everyplace else, such as Haghia Sophia, the museums, Topkapi, etc., remained open. Is this closing of tourist sites during the call to prayer some new procedure that's been instituted? If so, it must be a logistical nightmare for all of the tourst sites to manage. We definitely need clarification/confirmation on this in order to advise future travelers.

I'm glad you enjoyed your trip and I hope you'll fill us in on where you stayed and your opinion of your hotel, what restaurants you discovered, what goodies you brought back with you and your experiences in general.

Jo

nkt
Ankara, Turkey
Destination Expert
for Ankara
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9. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

I think it is nice of the hotel that they escorted BCtraveler at night - probably to prevent her from getting lost, as well as any possibility of single woman in a dark alley scenarios. I think it is somewhat unnecessary and slightly intrusive, but still a nice gesture overall.

As for prayer times, yes it is only the mosques that are temporarily closed during them. A shopkeeper might also close his shop for a few minutes if he'll go and pray. If BCtraveller ran into a few of these in a row, she might have thought it to happen to everything. (Of course you never know with the current powers that be, but that is another story...)

nkt
Ankara, Turkey
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for Ankara
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10. Re: Does one need to be fluent in Turkish?

Haha somthing else occured to me...

Maybe BCtraveler's escort liked her, but couldn't advance on a customer, so decided to come along with hopes that she'll invite him to keep her company for the dinner.

Sorry, I should stop quasi-joking in a gossipy manner.