Monday, June 27, 2011

Growing my Turkish vocabulary...

So last week I set a goal for myself to increase my vocabulary by 350 or so words in a month. It's going well just after one week. If I continue at the rate I am I should have closer to 500 words by the end of July, but I need to make sure that I'm retaining these new words and reinforcing their use.

I'm currently using three news outlets to find new vocabulary - Hürriyet, BBC Türkçe and CNNTurk. I have twitter following these three for news stories and can quickly scan for new things. I'm using an application on Linux called Hotot for twitter. I highly recommend it for Linux users. It has an extension that does translation, so if I run across any words I don't know, I can highlight them and translate them in-application.

Following news twitters is great, because I can get small chunks of relevant information, and if I'm interested in the article, I can click through to the full article in my browser. And I get the reinforcement and repetition I need by going through all three news sources. Another added benefit of going through three different sources to get the same news story is that the articles between each source will be slightly different and each will have a different perspective.

With these three news sources alone, I've picked up about 150-160 words this last week. I'm pretty happy with that number. It's a fair amount, but not so much as to overwhelm me.

I've also decided to to something else which may or may not increase my vocabulary, but it's certainly fun: I'm thoroughly learning one Turkish pop song per week. This week's pick is Mustafa Sandal's "Karizma". Yeah, it's trite pop music, but what can I say? It's got a good beat. And it's memorable.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Setting a specific goal for Turkish for the month of July

I've been thinking a lot about my progress in Turkish the last few days.

I have reached a point that the grammar is no longer a problem for me, at least in everyday conversations and situations. It's an incredibly good feeling, and I remember reaching it when I was living in Mexico with Spanish, then later when I was studying Italian. I can't really say it feels like a weight has been lifted. But things seem much easier. I no longer wonder why something is expressed the way it is. I just learn it, then move on.

I've got the foundation now to concentrate on other things, namely increasing my vocabulary. To be sure, I'll continue to review and solidify even more my grammar points, particularly lesser known tenses and other things found mostly in literature, but that won't be my primary focus, at least for the next month.

I currently estimate my vocabulary in Turkish to be a little bit over 2000 words, but I can't be completely sure. I've never actually measured it. But during the month of July, I have a plan to increase my vocabulary by 60-75 words a week. So that would give me an extra 250-300 words in four weeks. It doesn't seem like much, but these will be new words. On top of what I already have. These could also be idioms or everyday proverbs or sayings. If the plan goes as well as I hope, I'll continue on with it the rest of the year.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Needs and necessity

This one's pretty straightforward, but it never hurts to reinforce it.

There are several ways in Turkish to state a need or an obligation to do something. It can be done with simple words tacked on to the end of a sentence following a verb (usually in infinitive form), such as "lazım", "gerek" or "mecbur". This is probably the easiest for a beginning student to use. An example would be: "Bugün çalışmak lazım", or "Today one must work/Today working is necessary". "Lazım" could easily be replaced with "gerek" and it would invoke the same meaning. "Mecbur" is a bit stronger, in that it conveys an absolute necessity, or obligation. "Lazım", in particular, seems to be very much in use in Pop music. Tarkan uses it a lot in his songs. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that half of his songs that I've heard use the word.

But the same thing can be said using and actual verb conjugation. I could also say "Çalişmam gerekiyor" to mean "I need to work". Here we're actually conjugating "gerekmek" ("to be necessary/to be needed") and changing the infinitive of "
çalışmak" to "çalışmam", or "my working", so it literally is "Working my is necessary".

Finally, there is another, perhaps more sophisticated way to specify need, and that's with the Necessitative Mood, which can be used in both simple present and past tenses. This also is very easy to do: we use "meli/mali" as part of the verb conjugation. So, for a "meli/-mek" example verb, "Girmeliyim" is simply "I must enter". An example of a "mali/-mak" verb would be "B
akmalıyım" ("I must look at").

Changing these to the past tense is also simple: "Girmeliydim" ("I must have gone into/entered") and "Bakmalıydım" ("I must have looked at").

Monday, June 6, 2011

Using "-ken" to form adverbial clauses

This is a difficult one for me, and it'll take some time for it to sink in. It doesn't follow vowel harmony rules, nor does it change with different conjugations. I'm talking about forming a sentence that starts with "While I was..."

In theory, it sounds simple enough: you add -ken to a verb base, then continue on with the rest of the sentence as normal. But when dealing with different persons, such as "While I... you were", the personal pronouns must always be specified. As an example, "While I was working, they were sleeping." The Turkish sentence would be "Ben çalışıyorken, onlar uyuyordu." (Literally, it means "I, working while, they slept/were sleeping"). The word "çalışıyorken" (working while) - does not change according to the person. It stays the same, whether talking about I, you, we, or whoever else. This is why the personal pronouns need to be specified when talking about two different people doing different things. If talking about the same person for both actions, the personal pronouns don't need to be specified, other than the one person being referenced, either by name or by pronoun.

"tam... -ken" can be used to mean "just as, at the moment that". The example I'll use is "Just as I was leaving the house, it started to rain." The Turkish sentence would be "Ben tam evden çıkarken, yağmur yağmağa başladı." (Literally "I, house from just as I was leaving, rain raining it started.")

There's another use for the "-ken" suffix that uses the future tense. This is probably the most difficult one for me to wrap my head around, but it's really useful, so I need to make a point of learning it. When "-ken" is attached to a future tense, it takes on the meaning of "instead of (do)-ing" something. For example: "Instead of staying in Spain, I went to Turkey." In Turkish, it would be "İspanya'da kalacakken, Türkiye'ye gittim." (Literally, "Spain in, will stay instead of, Turkey to I went.")

So that's what I need to work on the next few days. There are actually more uses for "-ken", but I'm just going to concentrate on these three until I get them down pat.