How I’m Learning Turkish

Since October 2018, I’ve been learning Turkish at Hacettepe University TOMER which I’m glad I got the opportunity to join. In this blogpost, I’m talking about the things I do other than attending my classes at TOMER and doing my homework to learn the language better.

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  1. Speaking:
  • Practicing Turkish speaking is something easy to do when you live in Turkey, especially since the majority of Turks does not speak English. Being in Turkey makes it possible to make conversation everywhere, you can ask where the nearest supermarket is (even if you actually know where it is), practice pronouncing the names of fruits you’ve just learned while at the bazaar, and just speak to everyone around you..
  • Last semester, I attended a speaking club managed by the International Students Club at Hacettepe a few times, and a few weeks ago I started attending a speaking club at TÖMER three times a week.

2. Listening:

I started by downloading short children movies and videos (like Calliou). I also watch Turkish movies and series, at first I used to watch them with Arabic subtitles, but now without any.
In addition, I also listen to documentaries, politicians’ speeches and TEDx talks which I sometimes find with Turkish subtitles on Youtube.
In addition to some Turkish songs.

2. Reading:

  • Books: At first I used to practice with children book, some I had with Arabic translation, but then they got too easy.

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I started by reading Frans Kafka’s letters to Milena. It was so hard for me I couldn’t understand much without a dictionary. I would open both my Arabic and Turkish copies of the book, Google Translate and start reading. It was, of course, very hard for me because I had just finished the beginner level, nor did I know much grammar rules nor much vocabulary.

I decided to take a break from that book and begin with something easier that I would actually enjoy reading. I bought Diary of A Wimpy Kid (Turkish version) which I enjoyed as a kid (English version). This I read in the bus, metro, before sleeping without the need to check the meaning of every other word. Some words I do not understand, I would highlight them to check their meanings later, and I would write down phrases that I myself could use while speaking and writing.

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  • I really read anything and everything. Newspapers, brochures, articles… Sometimes I would read quickly highlighting words and phrases I do not understand to check later (like when I read on buses), but sometimes I would sit on my desk and study the article with GoogleTranslate near by.

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  • I follow a few on Instagram accounts like this, this and this.

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  • I used to read short poems from this list on the bus. They are also translated to English.
  • On this agenda that I don’t use as an agenda, I write down random sentences that have caught my attention. I later read them.

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3. Writing:

I’m a person who likes to write. In Turkish, I write about anything and everything. Sometime diary entries, sometimes movie and book reviews, sometimes I describe cities I go to and people I meet, I sometimes write speeches (i.e: speech given by a general to his army, speech given by a politician before the elections…), sometimes letters (i.e: letter from a sick man to his mother, letter from Kafka to Milena, letter from a young girl to a friend, letter from a customer to Steve Jobs…) and sometimes I write essays, about anything from winter to school uniforms to mosques, literally whatever comes to my mind. Generally no one corrects what I write, but someone a native (teacher, someone from HelloTalk or a friend) would correct it.

4. Vocabulary:

I keep a wordbook where I write new words and phrases and their meaning.

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At first I used to make simple flashcards to learn basic vocabulary and phrases.

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Later on as I started level A2 and through B1, my flashcards looked more like this:

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  • I used to use Tinycards which I find fun and helpful.
  • I recently bought this

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Applications I use:

Things I will work on doing inshallah:

  • Write down a list of a few words everyday and try to use them in conversation. I read about someone who was learning Japanese, whenever he learned a new word, he tries to fit it into his next speech with a native.
  • I still speak in Arabic and English with some Arabs and friends. I should quit this.
  • I been looking for a word-search book for weeks but I can’t find one. I hope I will soon, it will definitely help with learning new words, plus I love word-searches.

This is what I’m doing to learn Turkish, but I think the best way to learn any language is to practice practice practice. I think what’s helping me most to learn Turkish is that I live in Turkey, love the language and of course, Hacettepe TÖMER.

While some friends who have previously learned Turkish or are learning it did not like the language, Turkish is a language I find beautiful and majestic. I’m still learning the language, I am yet not very comfortable speaking in Turkish, but I know I’m getting better and hope I’ll be good enough soon.


If you have any other tips or recommendations I would love to hear from you in the comments below 🙂

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حمزة: لم تمحُ الحرب بسمته

English | عربي

هذا حمزة:

هو أكثر من التقيت حباً للحياة.

يظل لاحقاً قططه، ما بين صرخات أمه بأن “شوي شوي” وصرخات الأولاد بأن لا يدخل القطط إلى المسجد. لا يتوقف عن الحركة. ولا عن الكلام. ولا عن الابتسام. ولا عن طلب اللعب بالكرة.

أذكر مرَّة كان في دارنا، نجلس على “المرجيحة” لفيديو كانت سنىٰ وبيان تعملان عليه.

أذكر أنه قال لي يومها: “داركم حلوة.” قال لي: “ما بحب المخيم.”

لم يقلها بحزن. قالها بكل بساطة ووضوح وصدق: “ما بحب المخيَّم.”

بداخلي صرخت عليه أن اصمت ولا تشعرني بالذنب لأمر لم أقترفه. توقف عن الكلام وإلا ما استطعت النوم في الليل..

يومها سألني: “فيني طل عندكن شوي؟” بعد أن رحل باقي الأولاد.

حمزة: على الأرجح كانت لهم دار صغيرة تماماً كدارنا. و”مرجيحة” كمرجيحتنا، ودراجة كدراجاتنا..

لكنَّ طغاة هذا العالم أبوا إلا أن يخربوا ذلك.. أيضاً.

ألا لعنة الله على الظالمين. ألا لعنة الله على الظالمين.

UntitledThis is Hamza,

A life-lover.

He runs after his kittens all day; his mom yelling at him to run slowly, the other kids shouting at him to take his cats out of the mosque. He can’t stop moving, talking, smiling, and asking if he can play with the ball..

I remember once he was in our front yard, we were sitting on a swing, I remember he told me: “Your house is nice,” He told me: “I don’t like living in the camp.” He didn’t sound sad while saying it. He sent so simply, so honestly, so clearly: “I don’t like living in the camp.”

In my head I shouted at him to stop talking, to stop makin me feel guilty for something I have nothing to do with. Stop talking, or else I wouldn’t sleep at night. That day he asked if he could stay at our house a little bit longer, after all the other kids have left.

Hamza: You probably had a nice small house like ours, and a swing like ours..

But the tyrants of this world destroyed that little peace, too.

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2016: A Year in Review

[Events]:

(Some of my favorite things I’ve done/attended…)

  • Teaching Syrian refugees

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  • Second place at Takaful’s photography competition “بعيونهم نرى” (Bottom photograph is mine)

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  • Website design workshop

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  • Recording a radio program at “إذاعة القرآن الكريم – صوت الأزهر”

  • Local Taekwondo championship (*photo not mine)

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  • Maher Zain concert – September

 

[Books]:

  • The Hunger Games | Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire | Suzanne Collins
  • Mokingjay | Suzanne Collins
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns | Khaled Hosseini
  • Looking for Alaska | John Green
  • Paper Towns | John Green
  • Eleanor and Park | Rainbow Rowell 
  • Landline | Rainbow Rowell
  • Fangirl | Rainbow Rowell
  • Who Is J.K. Rowling | by Pamela D. Pollack, Meg Belviso
  • Old School (Diary of A Wimpy Kid #10) | Jeff Kinney
  • The Barcode Tattoo | Suzanne Weyn
  • Gregot the Overlander (Underland Chronicles #1) | Suzanne Collins
  • Gregor and The Prophecy of Bane (Underland Chronicles #2) | Suzanne Collins
  • Precy Jackson and The Greek Hereos | Rick Riordan
  • I Am Malala | Malala Yousafzai
  • The Crown (The Selection #5) | Kiera Cass
  • Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) | Tahereh Mafi
  • Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5) | Tahereh Mafi
  • Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) | Tahereh Mafi
  • Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5) | Tahereh Mafi
  • Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) | Tahereh Mafi
  • Everything Everything | Nicola Yoon
  • الخيميائي | باولو كويلو 
  • وحيداً في دمشق | شموئيل شيغف
  • يسمعون حسيسها | أيمن العتوم
  • لأنني أحبك | غيوم ميسو 
  • حوار هادئ بين السنة والشيعة | عبد الله بن سعيد الجنيد
  • القوقعة | مصطفى خليفة
  • رجال في الشمس | غسان كنفاني
  • أم سعد | غسان كنفاني
  • عالم ليس لنا | غسان كنفاني
  • الكبريت في يدي ودويلاتكم من ورق | نزار قباني
  • فاقد الهوية | حنان فرحات
  • السماء تهرب كل يوم | كاتيا الطويل
  • يافا | نبال قندس
  • سماء مليئة بالنجوم | غادة بوعلوان
  • السجن -18 | محمد بن مانع الشهري
  • كبرت ونسيت أن أنسى | بثينة العيسى
  • عدالة السماء | محمود شيت خطاب

[Life]:

  • I started knitting this year (I still don’t really know anything except how to cast on and off, and one knitting pattern, but still!)
  • In the past few weeks, I started reading books and essays that aren’t just novels and stories, which is what I’ve wanted. I always though books-that-aren’t-novels are boring, but now I’m fine with them 😀
  • Also, I’ve always read English books, this year I also started reading Arabic ones, and I’m loving them much more. Because well.. it’s Arabic (insert emoji with hearts for eyes)
  • I was kind of unproductive on the part of writing. Inshallah this year will be a better writing year for me :/
  • I think 2016 was such a different year for me, a lot of my priorities shifted and my goals and aims definitely changed

How was your 2016?

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What’s it Like to Be An Azhar Student

I haven’t blogged in so long. Agh I feel so bad right now :/

Anyways, here’s the reason: EXAMS :/

So, I just finished exams yesterday and we have a six-day vacation which I’m trying to make the most of. So I decided to write this blog about what’s it like to be a student at my school.

Here are some random things that make Azhar different:

  1. School starts at 7:30 AM
  2. We don’t go to school on Thursdays and Fridays
  3. This year, we have 16 classes (6 of which are Islamic)
  4. You have to study. A lot. Because we have so many classes and we’ll.. its grade eleven
  5. Students with averages above 17/20 don’t do final exams, which is great since no one really feels like studying in June, so it’s a nice reward for the hardworking ones, and since:
  6. Our first, second and final term exams are each for two whole weeks (=two weeks of not seeing the sun)
  7. We have a very strict uniform, you buy a julbab and a hijab from school. Colored shoes are not allowed (Gray and brown are considered so, too)
  8. There are no clubs, no activities.. nothing like that. At all. Not even sports or arts classes

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Pros & Cons:

(Please do note that everything I will mention is what I personally think about Azhar. It is not necessarily true all the time around here, and it is not necessarily what everyone thinks about my school. This post is about are my thoughts on my school after spending two years in it.)

Pros:

  • Azhar is not only a school, so you get to meet many fascinating people, including many university students that come to Azhar to learn Sharia from different countries, many Islamic scholars (Al Nabulsi, Zaglool Al Najjar…), lecturers, students and teachers..
  • You definitely have the feeling that you belong to a great great Islamic institute, and the Azhar family is a very nice family to belong to
  • The beautiful calligraphy that is EVERYWHERE! (ex: This huge wall outside the boys’ building)
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وقل ربي زدني علماً

Cons:

  • One thing that annoys me here at Azhar is that teachers may speak impolitely with students and the administration wouldn’t really give the issue any attention. It becomes an issue after repetition 😐
  • Also, I always have the feeling that teachers, especially sheiks, expect us to follow what they say even if it’s wrong, even if we don’t believe in it at all, and if you disagree with an idea a teacher says, you are, with most teachers, considered impolite
  • Many teachers at Azhar probably consider this post impolite 😐
  • There is a coordinator for most classes and subjects. Yes. But every teacher teaches what he thinks should be taught. So, for example,
  • Most of the teachers are men. Between the 16 classes I had this year, 2 were given by women

What’s your school like?

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Teaching at a Refugee Camp

This summer, I volunteered to teach the children of the Syrian refugee camp in Rafid (my town) English. I’ve already volunteered as a Koran teacher at a Koranic summer school last year, and I loved teaching, and being around kids in general.

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The Syrian school curriculum doesn’t focus much on English; students learn English but at very low levels. So, refugee students face some difficulty in Lebanese schools.

Since the kids are of varying ages (5-13), I gave two classes, the first for the older kids and the second for the younger ones, three days a week.

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The Letter B

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Shapes

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When I returned from The Netherlands on July 13, the kids surprised me with a small party they planned. This made me extremely happy, and just thinking of it makes me almost cry.

Another thing that made me especially happy is when I was walking one evening and I passed by the refugee camp and a child I taught (Abdullah, photo below) yelled “Bee! Bee!” (in English). Turns out he was warning me there were bees on the road.

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Abdullah

On August 18, we hosted a party to celebrate the end of the course. I made some yummy treats, we watched a short video including photos of the kids during the course, and I handed out gifts and certificates.

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Spending time with those kids  changed my perspective of so many things. The refugee camp has been near my house for a couple of years now, but I never knew how very in-need they were until this summer. And I never felt like wanting to help those kids and make them happy as badly as I do now.

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The kids I taught are gifted students that definitely deserve bright futures and decent lives. One day at the end of June, a 14-year-old boy did not come to class, when I asked about him, his younger brother tells me that he found a job in Alay (a city near Beirut, the capital) and he left to live there with his brother-in-law. “He won’t come back,” he said. “And when my father finds me a job, I will work too.”

I have nothing to say about this except that they do not do not do not deserve this. They deserve so much more.

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Angelina Jolie once said: “To actually feel like you’ve done something good with your life and you’re useful to others is what I was always wanting.” And after teaching the kids this summer, I realize that’s what I want, too.


Here’s a list of all the vocabulary and skills the kids learned this summer:

Sounds (short /a/, short /e/, short /i/, /sh/, /th/and /wh/)

Please, sorry and thank you.

Colors (red, blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, brown and orange)

Pronouns (I, she, he, it, we, they and you)

Seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall)

Emotions (sad, happy, mad, scared, tired, proud, surprised and confused)

Wh-words (what, where, why, who, when, how)

Family members (dad, mom, sister, brother, grandmother and grandfather),

Shapes (circle, star, heart)

Contrast words (big/small, tall/short, clean/dirty, cold/hot and fast/slow)

Sight words: in – on – a – an – the – be – no – yes – has – have – see – like – me – at – you – it – but – here – are – is – am – he – she – you – they – we – I  – can – and – it – to.

Letter B (bee, ball, box, baby, bus, bike, book, bread, boy, bird)

Letter C (cat, cow, car)

Letter T (tent, train, tooth, tree, tiger)

Letter D (dad, doctor, duck, dog, donkey, door, dice)

Letter S (sun)

Letter M (mom, moon, man, mouth, mouse, milk)

Letter N (nose, nest, nine)

Letter E (ear, Earth, eye, eraser)

Letter P (pig, pan, pot, pen, pencil, pin, plane, pear, peas)

Letter F (fish, fork, flower, frog)

Compound words (Backpack, butterfly, popcorn, toothbrush, basketball…)


Have any teaching/volunteer tips? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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Eid Al Adha in 10 Photos

Eid Al Adha this year was a great one. And here are ten photos that summarize our Eid.

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مسيرة الشمع

Photo credits: الوحدة الإعلامية – الجماعة الإسلامية

A “march” was organised the night before Eid (Sunday). Kids from Rafid held candles and we walked throughout town chanting Eid takbeerat.

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Listening to the Eid sermon

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Leaving the mosque after Eid prayer

On the first day of Eid, Eid prayer is prayed at the mosque in the morning. The kashaf (scouts) also prepared breakfast right after the prayer.

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The Khateeb family

Ah, we’re one big family!

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Maher Zain’s concert in Beirut

On Monday (first day of Eid) we went to Maher Zain’s “Peace Be Upon Us” concert in Biel, Beirut, and ah, it was a blast!

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أضحية الروافد

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Aaaand meat (أضحية الروافد)

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Hamoudi! (my cousin)

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كرمس العيد

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كرمس العيد

The kashaf (scouts) in my town hosted an Eid festival on Wednesday. Inflatable games were brought and everyone enjoyed a very festive evening. We also sold some yummy treats we made to help fund a volunteer project we’re working on.

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This is what my Eid looked like this year, how was yous?

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