Sunday, May 20, 2012

More proof that watching TV works

I spend a lot of time on the HTLAL forums and learn all sorts of interesting things every day on the site. The reason I bring up HTLAL is because there was a discussion about FSI that comes up quite often; that the vocabulary is too outdated, and many people believe that the course is no longer of value. I disagree, personally. If all we're talking about is vocabulary, that's the easiest thing in the world to fix. But on with the story...

So, the discussion went something like this: "The FSI course teaches you to use the word işte, but when I asked a second generation student of mine, he told me he'd never heard of the word and to use bak instead."

OK, so right off the bat, this person wasn't going to the right source for information. Not knocking second generation speakers, but this kid is growing up in Germany, and probably hasn't spent much time (if any) in Turkey.

This brings me to the title of this post. When I read this discussion, by coincidence I had just watched a couple children's cartoons on Kanal D and they had actually used both these words, clearly demonstrating the difference in use through an ordinary conversation. It also demonstrates that the best way to get the most current, in use vocabulary is to sit in front of a TV and take the language in for an hour or two. Of course, conversations with natives are also great, but they're probably not the best way to get massive exposure, especially at a beginner-intermediate stage.

Every once in a while I think I might be watching a bit too much TV - I watch about 3 hours or so every day in Turkish. This was just proof to me that what I'm doing is, in fact, paying off. I'm not saying to just watch TV at the exclusion of all else. I still have my regular Skype sessions and am still going through my Yeni Hitit course. But for good old massive input, nothing beats the TV.

Continuing with the TV theme, I've started to watch another show, this one a home fix up/DIY show. The timing's perfect, since I've started working on the bunkhouse again, now that the weather is cooperating. I'll have to re-open that blog with some updated pictures, soon.

Anyway, the show is called "Evim Şahane". I'm getting new vocabulary that I probably wouldn't otherwise be getting. Things like zemin kaplama  (flooring), store perde (window blinds) and aydınlatma (lighting). Since these are all things I'm replacing in the bunkhouse, it's easy to remember them every time I look at where they should be.

The TL;DR version of this post is simply this: For massive amounts of genuine input, watch TV. It works.


  1. I think it just depends-- young people have their own vernacular here and older people have theirs. Which words you hear and use and people's opinions on whether they're common or not depend on who you're talking to.

    I've had a few people look at the FSI course and tell me it's "old Turkish," "people don't use 'evvel' anymore," etc. Had someone from Antalya tell me last week that the stuff on mış in Unit 40 was old and that "only people in Ankara use -miş like that anyway." There's quite a bit of variation among regions and across generations. This person told me that curse words used by some of the older generation aren't understood by the younger generation...right.

    When I watch the news here, I notice that politicians use many of the supposedly "old Turkish" words (by that I mean either Osmanlı or anything prior to 1970 like the FSI stuff) and I wonder if that's because they're old or because it's more "educated." I know the daughter of the guy who developed the FSI course, she says he was a high-ranking diplomat himself, maybe that slanted the vocabulary?

    When I watch more modern movies (Turkish with Turkish subtitles) I see forms that I don't see as much elsewhere, but again it seems to differ between older characters and younger ones. Do you notice that as well?

  2. Sure, I agree that there are generational differences within the language. But should that really stop us from learning what is still used by a living generation? My belief is no. If it's heard on TV and radio, then I think it's still worth learning.

    For what it's worth, I regularly hear evvel too on TV (Burada Laf Çok comes to mind for that type of language). And that sort of thing may get back to your reference on education or perceived education - Burada Laf Çok is sometimes teeming with pretentiousness.

    My feeling is that if it's in common use publicly and multi-generational, I'll make the effort to learn it, at least passively, even though I myself may not use it. It can only help. And I've said this many times before, but vocabulary is the easiest thing to either fix or update while learning a language.

  3. One of the tricks of Turkish, and I suppose any language, is that you may have an "old" word and a "new" word with the exact same meaning (maybe evvel & önce, for example). You have to know both to understand all. I have one co-worker in his 60s who uses older words and speaks in idioms, atasözler, and abstract examples a lot. My younger friends use a completely different vernacular, but I want to communicate well with both. My younger friends will say "People don't say that..." but I know my 65 year old colleague says it all the time. It's a little maddening at times.

  4. I wonder if "old" or "new" words really matter that much. TV offers loads of input. If a few words here or there are confusing or not up to date, I don't think that discredits in any way the overall effect of getting that much input. It will correct itself with time, but you cannot replace the effect (and a very positive one at that) of three hours of TV in Turkish every day to build a really strong foundation in the language. Even if 10% of word choices were completely incorrect (as in some dubbed movies) I still think it would be well worth your time. Thanks for the great article Rick. Watching dubbed movies this week myself.

  5. One movie that your thought about the German Turk above is Yaşamın Kıyısında,(its English title is The Edge of Heaven). Takes place in both Germany and Turkey and is Turkish, German, and English. One of the main characters is a Turk who grew up in Germany and at the beginning struggles with speaking it, talking to his dad in a German-Turkish mix. Later he moves back to Turkey and embraces his roots. It's a typical Turkish movie with multiple subplots with no satisfactory ending, but you might like it. Watched it here, and turning on the subtitles got me the English and German into Turkish but most of the Turkish wasn't subtitled.

  6. Just today one of my language helpers (an MBA in Antalya) chided me on my frequent use of the word "ama" instead of "fakat," saying it makes me sound like a villager. I ask another friend (born and raised) in Ankara if that's so and I get an opposite response "Çok yaygın bir kelime." Life, I suppose.

  7. Of course, I can't speak for all Turkish speakers, but I know my conversation partner uses "ama" quite often. And I always have too, since I learned the word early on.

    I also learned "fakat" early on, but I've always used it more in the sense of "however", rather than "but".