Turks absolutely love talking, especially with foreigners. In fact, if they see that you are a foreigner, they will stop you and try to talk to you. You might just end up learning a bit of Turkish even if you didn't intend to!
You will also find that Turks will speak Turkish very loudly with you because they think Turkish is a language that can only be understood if it's spoken at high volume! Hence, if you see a Turk approaching you while loudly speaking Turkish, don't be afraid. He is probably trying to be friends with you :)
For these reasons, you will find that you will make a great impression on the people of Turkey if you can learn just a few words of Turkish. For example, by just learning to say Eyvallah and putting your right hand onto your chest, you will absolutely fascinate Turks and be the apple of their eyes. However, I should point out that you might also need to learn a bit more!
So, let’s have a look some common Turkish words and phrases so that you can amaze people on your next trip to Turkey.
As in other languages, the words for saying hello on the phone and in person are different in Turkish.
Specifically, to say “hello” in person, we say merhaba. However, on the phone it's alo or efendim. Curiously enough, efendim means “sir,” yet we use the word in many different ways. For instance, when we don't understand something and want the other party to repeat what was just said, we use an intonation like we are asking a question and say efendim? The other person will then repeat what was said.
Other times, when we don't really like what other person is talking about, we use a special intonation and ask efendim!? The other person will then understand that we are not pleased and they will correct themselves. Lastly, if somebody calls out our name, we can respond by saying efendim as well. It's a refined way of saying “what?”
Other useful greetings are:
- Hi. Selam.
- Good morning. Günaydın.
- Good day. İyi günler.
- Good evening. İyi akşamlar.
- Good night. İyi geceler.
As you can see, there is no ''good afternoon'' in Turkish; we just use İyi Günler. Here are some more expressions:
- Sweet dreams. Tatlı rüyalar.
- Good luck. İyi şanslar.
- Welcome. Hoşgeldin (informal) / Hoşgeldiniz (formal or plural).
This last one literally means “you have come pleasantly.” In reply, we say Hoş bulduk, which means “we have found it pleasantly.”
Speaking with Acquaintances
There is no need to be formal in Turkish! Especially if you are a foreigner. Nobody's going to judge you. However, I will still include both the formal and informal ways for you.
- What is your name. Adın ne? (informal) / Adınız ne? (formal)
- My name is John. Adım John.
- How are you. Nasılsın? (informal) / Nasılsınız? (formal)
- I'm fine. İyiyim.
- So so. İdare eder.
- Not bad. Fena değil.
- Nice to meet you. Tanıştığımıza memnun oldum.
- I'm pleased. Memnun oldum.
- Thank you. Teşekkür ederim.
- Thanks. Teşekkürler.
- You're welcome. Rica ederim.
- It's nothing. Bir şey değil.
- No problem. Önemli değil.
- Goodbye. Hoşça kal.
- Bye bye. Güle güle.
Giving congratulations and greeting people have a significant place in Turkish culture. In the past, we used to celebrate weddings for forty days and forty nights. Nowadays, weddings, birthdays and holidays are not like they used to be, but they are still celebrated nonetheless.
- Happy Birthday. Doğum günün kutlu olsun or İyi ki doğdun (İyi ki doğdun literally means “it’s good that you were born”).
- Happy New Year. Yeni yılınız kutlu olsun.
- Eid Mubarak. Hayırlı Bayramlar.
- Merry Christmas. Mutlu Noeller.
- Have a nice holiday. İyi tatiller.
- Enjoy your meal. Afiyet olsun.
- Congratulations. Tebrikler.
After somebody dies in Turkey, people generally mourn for forty days. It is a sad topic, so I'll just provide you with some basic ways of giving your condolences.
- My condolences. Başın sağ olsun.
This phrase literally means “may your head be healthy.”
- Rest in peace. Toprağı bol olsun.
This literally means “may his/her earth be rich.”
- God rest him/her. Allah rahmet eylesin.
- Really? Gerçekten mi?
- What? Ne?
- How? Nasıl?
- Who? Kim?
- Why? Neden? or Niçin?
- When? Ne zaman?
- Which one? Hangisi?
- What's this? Bu ne?
- How much? Ne kadar?
- How many? Kaç tane?
- What does it mean? Ne demek?
Other Useful Words and Phrases
- Yes. Evet.
- No. Hayır.
- Maybe. Belki.
- I do not know. Bilmiyorum.
- I do not understand. Anlamıyorum.
- Get well soon. Geçmiş olsun.
- I want... ...istiyorum.
- I don't want... ... istemiyorum.
- Pardon me. Affedersiniz, pardon.
- Please. Lütfen.
- Check, please. Hesap lütfen.
- Bless you. Çok yaşa.
This last one means “live long.” In addition to this, some people say iyi yaşa, which means “live well,” or sağlıklı yaşa, which means “live healthy.” To reply, we say sen de gör (may you also see my life) or hep beraber (all together).
- Help yourself. Buyurun.
This word has more than one meaning and, if you ever visit Turkey, you will hear this word all the time! Sometimes it means “welcome,” and sometimes it means “here you are.” When you pass by a restaurant, people will invite you inside by saying buyurun, and when your order is ready, they will serve it by saying buyurun again!
So, if you really have your heart set on Turkish, then you already understand how beautiful the language is! Plus, Turkish is a very regular language and has very few exceptions, which will help you in your learning journey! The only thing you need is the desire to learn it! And the rest will come naturally.
Iyi şanslar (good luck)!
Hero Image by Pedro Szekely (CC BY-SA 2.0)