Why can’t Turks speak English?!

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If you’re a foreigner in Turkey and don’t speak Turkish, you’re going to have a hard time. Even though people are sweet and kind, there will be no way that you can understand each other without doing charades. Turks generally do not speak English. Not just that – when you start talking to them in English, they get scared or even angry, repeating just: ‘no English no English’ and running away.

Living this way made want to do a mini research (don’t take it as an academic work, thank you) on why this happens.

Well, the first and most obvious reason could be:

  • Turkish language is ridiculously different than European languages.

When I started learning it, I was ending up with legit headaches after concentrating for a couple of hours to understand the structures used for possessives, gerunds, and more complicated things that might not even have their name in English. I guess this goes two ways. Because of the huge difference, English (and other languages) might not be so easy to learn as it was for me. And the ones who do speak it, make typical Turkish mistakes, which, after some time, I started to do too 😀

  • Education is bok gibi

The education system regarding English focuses on wrong things. Like the old systems of learning (I remember when I was learning Latin in highschool), in which the focus is on grammar and translation, with no opportunities to practice speaking. Therefore, some amount of Turks can actually understand it, but when it comes to speaking, they freeze and run away. Also, many of the teachers are not qualified enough to transfer the knowledge, use too much Turkish in classroms, and don’t motivate students to learn more and better.

  • Lack of desire, or as we can call it, laziness

Ah, Mediterranean. Some love it, some hate it, but it’s surely a special place on Earth with peculiar people. They are warm, loud, funny, hot-headed, and, well, lazy. It’s a fact. Just look at the Spaniards, Italians, Greeks – all of them aren’t English language geniouses, are they? Don’t blame the people, blame the Sun!

  • Patriotism, maybe?

This is just my assumption, but as I could feel strong love towards their country and being centered on it, it’s possible that they don’t find English so necessary. Everything they need is in translated and easily accessible, while at the same time, they believe their country is so good (at least they are told so by the officials) that it’s almost superior and no other language is needed (I am not generalizing, but I can feel that sometimes this is the case).

  • Lack of social mobility

Even though Turkey was developing fast under good rulers, it was, and still is, left back, a bit far from Europe. Therefore, mobility of its citizens isn’t on the highest level. People started to travel more and move more around 30 years ago, which leaves generations and generations without an opportunity to learn. Nowadays, even though the youth longs to travel and explore, the politics and economics don’t allow it that much. Getting a visa is expensive, and Turks are often not wanted as employees and interns because of stereotypes. I’ve met so many people who would like to live abroad, look for a better job, improve their languages or just to go for an adventure, but it’s not easy to be a Turk, because not many doors are open.

So, not all of the reasons come from themselves. They are not untalented, distanced and careless, but they don’t have enough opportunities to do so. Right now, they are the second worse country in Europe regarding English knowledge (after Kosovo), and it says a lot that they are worse than ITALIANS.

Now you know, now you can stop judging, and instead – share your own language, your culture, do some cultural exchange, and most importantly, MOTIVATE. Because with the right push, anything is possible, and language becomes the easiest of things.

About Valentina Botica

I am a 26 year-old girl from Rijeka, Croatia, a lover of Turkey who is an EVS volunteer in Izmir's Pi Youth Association. Graduated journalist with an overall enthusiasm for media. Both dog and cat person, trying to teach people what is 'teal' - my favorite color, similar to the color of Bosporus. I am a part of Erasmus Student Network and a strong believer that 'Mobility is a Lifestyle'. More about my experience in Turkey can be found on my Instagram @velntajn.

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