English for Turkish speakers

I work primarily with German and Turkish speakers.

Previously I published an article called

Ten typical mistakes made by German speakers who are learning English

Now I am going to talk about some of the common errors that I have noticed when working with my Turkish students. Hopefully these tips will be useful for my other Turkish readers.

1. Don’t forget the articles

There is a lot that can be said about definite and indefinite articles (“the”, “a” or “an”), but my point here is that they are sometimes necessary in English whereas they would not be necessary in the same sentence in Turkish.
Öğretmen öğrencilerin ödevlerini düzeltti = _The_ teacher corrected _the_ students’ homework.
Otobüs durağında uzun zaman bekledim = I waited _a_ long time at the bus stop.

2. Don’t use double negatives

English people who are learning Turkish make mistakes with these sentences too but if you are using a word like “nobody”,, the verb has to be positive.
Hiç kimse gelmedi = nobody came.
“nobody didn’t come” is incorrect.

If the verb is negative, you need to use different words such as “anybody”, “anything” or “anywhere”, depending on your sentence:
Hiç kimseyi görmedäm =I didn’t see anybody
Hiçbir yere gitmedim = I didn’t go anywhere
Hiçbir şey yemedim = I didn’t eat anything.

3. numbers and plural nouns

If you have a number and a countable noun, you still need to make the noun plural:
Üç kitap = three books

In the same way, you have to make other countable nouns plural:
6 children
4 suitcases
20 cities.

4. okulda, masada, dolapta – in, at on

Although the same suffix is used in all three of the above cases in Turkish, in English you have to learn the appropriate preposition in each case.

at school
on the table
in the cupboard

Sometimes the prepositions are illogical. For example we can be in the car but we have to be on the train or on the bus, even though we travel inside and not on top of the train and the bus.

5. come across with/married with

You can come across things, but you can’t come across with them. You can get married to someone and afterwards you are married to them but you can’t say that you are married with them.

6. scared from, hate from

You can be scared of snakes and hate bad weather! However the word “from” isn’t used in either of these sentences.

7. Much and many

“Many is used with countable nouns:
There are too many people outside.
Do you really need so many handbags?
He has won many awards.

“Much” is used for uncountable nouns:
You shouldn’t spend so much time on Facebook!
I have too much work to do.
Do you always take so much luggage with you on holiday?

8. very long sentences

I won’t give you an example of these but I’ve seen plenty of them and excessively long sentences make a piece of writing difficult to read, particularly when there are no commas to separate the clauses. Of course this is not something that only Turkish speakers do but I’ve included it here because the point has come up on a number of occasions when I’ve been helping my Turkish students to adapt their texts because the texts were confusing as a result of rambling sentences.

9. I spent money for

I spent all my money on clothes and shoes!

You can spend your money at the supermarket, on holiday (while you are on holiday), in the shop or on a new car (you bought a new car) – but you can’t spend it for something.

10. Listen to me! I told them a story!

You can listen to your friend and you can listen to music. Or maybe you want to listen to the rain. In each of these sentences, you need the word “to”. You can’t listen the television.

You can tell a joke, tell the truth or tell someone what you did at the weekend. But you don’t tell anything _to_ them.

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Kirsty working with students


5 Comments on “English for Turkish speakers”

  1. Tanja says:

    Although I don’t understand a word of Turkish I found this article useful! Thank you very much for your help, Kirsty! I often read texts in English to improve my knowledge and those tips also come in helpful.

  2. Hi Tanja,
    I agree. Whilst some of the tips are only relevant to Turkish speakers, some of them are more general. For example I often correct sentences where there are errors in relation to “much” and “many”.
    I know that you are committed to improving your English and I am glad to hear that this post was useful.

  3. Tanja says:

    Hi Kirsty, oh, yes – I can imagine! I remember that I mixed them up when I started learning English (and I’m even not sure if I’m still doing it) *smile*

  4. Tanja says:

    A friend of mine speaks Turkish and I learned a few words with her when we went to school together – but I have forgotten all of them… What a pity….
    But if you don’t read in a language consiquently you will forget about it… I felt quite confident with French when I was in France some years ago – but now – well…. I almost forgot everything…. Hm… I now have to start with “easy books” …. Because I forgot very much of/from the Grammar… Those prepositions… *smile* They aren’t easy…

  5. Yes, French was my first additional language at school and it was one of my best subjects! However, I haven’t used it since leaving school and now I have forgotten everything – the vocabulary as well as the grammar rules.
    If you want to learn another language, you need to invest time and effort in the learning process and you need to practise what you have learned. Otherwise you will not retain the information.


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