Turkish Language

You can get around Istanbul pretty well without learning the Turkish language. But you'll get around alot better if you take the time to learn their alphabet system. It's all phonetic and makes lots of sense. Often, you will look at a sign (or some such thing) and, if you know the Turkish alphabet, you will realize that some of the words that you see are either in English, or simply are words you know. For instance, a sign over a bar may offer caz. If you knew the alphabet, you'd know they played jazz music. There is only one "z" because every letter in a phonetic system is pronounced. So, "cazz" would be pronounced "jaz-z". Most of the letters are the same as we are accustomed to. The exceptions are as follows...
c = j
Ç ç = ch
Ş ş = sh
g is a hard g
ğ - silent, but elongates the preceeding vowel
v = sort of sounds as if you start out making a v, but end up making a w
İ i = ee
e = as in "ever"
a = as in "art"
I ı (undotted i) = i as in "sir"
Ü ü = as in "few"
Ö ö = as in "fur"
j = as z in "azure"
r- the 'r's in the Turkish Language are slightly rolled.

You can get by just fine in Istanbul without learning a word of Turkish.
But, the more Turkish you know, the better your experience will be.
I don't seem to have alot of aptitude for languages and trying to memorize phrase books was no fun and little help. After 6 trips to Turkiye, I've memorized many nouns but got little grasp of the language.
So, I finally broke down and got Rosetta Stone Turkish course. This is a review of that program...

You can download Rosetta Stone for about $180, but I sent for the box for about the same price. The box has a disc with the application software and a disc for Turkish that has to be in the drive whenever you use the program. It also comes with a headset. I like this feature alot. You can also order it, and other language resources through our Turku Guide Library.
There is a section where a native speaker will say a phrase. It comes up on the screen as a waveform, as well. Then you speak into the headset mic and you can hear yourself say the phrase, and compare your waveform. It's really important to get used to speaking the words, or you'll be shy when the time comes to actually talk to someone.
The first few days, I was just addicted to the program. It teaches you the same way you learned as a child. There are four pictures. You hear a phrase and see the phrase written above. You point at the picture that's correct. It's like a game and it's fun. It's also very effective.
The only thing I don't like about it is that there are no translations anywhere. Picture associations are fine for learning nouns and some verbs, but there are alot of words that it can't make clear. Their site says that you're learning as you learned language as a child; you're associating words with images rather than with English words. But I feel that I'm only getting "Tarzan Turkish". I'm having to keep my Turkish dictionary at hand the whole time, which is slowing me down. If I could just click a button that showed the translation of a phrase, I feel I'd be learning grammer better. and the whole key to learning Turkish is getting a grip on the suffixes. Rossetta Stone is not going to give you that.
There are different ways the same info is presented, and that really helps.
But, I do recommend the Rosetta Stone if you've been struggling with learning Turkish. I really feel like I'm starting to get it. Just pair it up with a dictionary for more of the whole picture.

I just started in on the Pimsleur Turkish language cd's. I'm much happier with it than with the Rosseta Stone or other methods I've tried.
There are about 30 half hour lessons. I've really been learning fast; not just vocabulary, but grammer. You really have to get a grip on the suffixes to understand Turkish, and I finally feel like I'm getting them.
It also helps you become accustomed to hearing the words in conversational Turkish, which is also key. You can learn every word in the Turkish dictionary, but you're not going to be able to have a conversation until you can learn to hear those words as they speed past. Turkish seems to be spoken with machine gun rapidity. You can't really slow it down like you can with English, it just doesn't sound right.
I really have to recommend Pimsleur's Turkish language cds above other courses I've attempted. You learn everything, and you learn it fast.
Update- I guess no program gives you everything. I find now that I know alot of words, and am gettting a grasp on the language. I can get my point across. Problem is, once I say something to a Turk in Turkish, they start off in Turkish as if I understand them or something. Logical assumption, but incorrect. I just listen as the words rush by, trying to recognize enough words to get the general idea. Not good enough. I see that I'm just not hearing well enough. So, I got out the Rosetta Stone again. I go to the section that says a sentence without writing it at the top. There are 4 pictures, one of which is correct for the sentence. I really listen hard and try to repeat it, then, open my eyes and pick the picture that is correct. I think that's helping. I'm also listening to Turkish news radio on i-tunes.

There is a wonderfull restaurant on the Asian side who's website is an education in itself.
I recommend that you right click on this link so you can open it in a new window and reference it as you read this... http://www.ciya.com.tr/

Think of this as a fun and practical Turkish lesson!
Now, if you click on Iletisim (contact) on the top menu bar, you get a map. You see, you'll probably be staying on the European side, so you'll have to take a ferry to the Kadiköy neighborhood on the Asian side. Don't be scared, this is a fun adventure. You see the little anchors on the map that indicate the ferry stops. Click here for a video walk through the area.

At the bottom, you see some frames with pics and words. We have salatalar (salads) kebaplar (kabobs) tatilar (desserts), çorbalar (soups), pilavlar (rice type dishes), and yemekler (that just means foods. If you click on it, you see it is divided into 'etli yemekler' (meat dishes) and etsiz yemekler(meatless dishes)).
I think the tatılar section is really interesting. some of their more unusual desserts have photos with descriptions.
The 'Serbet' section is for one of their specialities. (kin to sherbet, but not frozen) they are (mostly) fruit (meyve) drinks, very sweet)

If you've gotten a handle on your Turkish alphabet with the phonetics, you might find it fun to try and pick out the english words on the page. there are quite a few. remember that they might have Turkish suffixes stuck onto the end.

The word "Yöre:" is indicating the town or region that the food is from.
If you find the 'etli yemekler' (meat dishes) section, it's very informative. This is pretty esoteric stuff; most restaurants specialize and keep it simple.

You may see some odd characters on the page. there are 2 kinds of turkish keyboards. When you go to an internet cafe there and try to send emails home, they might see some weird characters. depends on their encoding. The weird 'a' looking thing on their page is a g. Sometimes an undotted i shows up as a strange 'y'.

If you find the otlar page, it has pics and names of many of their herbs.

Most of the dishes have the major ingredients listed, but you'll have to look those up in a dictionary.

The "Günün Menüsü" page refers to special dishes made that day.

If you have trouble deciding what you want from the menu, you can ask the friendly staff and they will show you what's cooking in the kitchen.