Moved to new site, and book now available!

Hi all, have moved to new site now –

‘Easy Turkish for Beginners Book 1’ – ebook now available:

– at Amazon

at Smashwords

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Holiday time is approaching … ready for Turkey?

If you have never been to Turkey, then you should try to do so as soon as possible! You will surely fall in love with the many delights it has to offer, from stunning scenery, pristine beaches and fabulous weather, to the famous and world-class Turkish cuisine.

Historical sites abound in every part of the country, and it is easy to spend the morning roaming around ancient temples and the afternoon swimming in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean or Aegean.

Living in Turkey for 10 years, I travelled widely and cannot recommend this beautiful country enough! The people are perhaps the friendliest you will ever meet, and even if they don’t speak your language their hospitality and warmth shine through.

In the south you can visit ancient rock tombs around the Lycian coast, and marvel at the magnificent amphitheatres in their stunning natural settings.

Istanbul, my home for 10 years, is an amazing city, where everyone can find something to their taste. Recommended in particular: a Bosphorus cruise, a visit to the Yerebatan Sarnıcı (a magical underground Byzantine water cistern), shopping in the Kapalı Çarşı (the Grand Bazaar) and its neighbouring Mısır Çarşısı, or Egyptian Bazaar, for spices, herbs, flowers, nuts and dried fruits.

NEXT TIME – Would you like to learn some useful vocabulary for your holiday? Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it!


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Afiyet olsun! Turkish food vocabulary

A vocabulary of Turkish food … part 1

ayran   drink made with yogurt, water and a pinch of salt – refreshing and delicious with meat dishes, especially in summer

balık   fish – Turkish cuisine is famous for its variety of fish dishes

Üskümrü - mackerel

beyaz peynir    soft white cheese (like Feta) – this is a staple of the breakfast table, eaten with fresh bread, olives, cucumber and tomatoes

börek   various types of pastry dishes, either savoury –tuzlu or sweet – tatlı

cacık   a side dish made with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic – good with rice, kebabs or other meat dishes

çay   tea

dolma    stuffed vine leaves or cabbage leaves –can be made with minced meat (lamb) or often vegetarian, stuffed with rice, pine nuts, currants, and cooked slowly in olive oil

Etli biber dolması, yaprak sarma

domates   tomato 

ekmek   bread – a Turkish meal is not complete without it!

elma   apple

fasulye   beans  – try the dish Kuru Fasulye – a staple dish of white beans, garlic and carrot in a tomato sauce,  eaten cold with a squeeze of lemon juice

helva    sweet made from honey and sesame seeds – good with Turkish coffee

jambon   ham (although it is usually made from meat other than pork)

kaşar peyniri   firm cheese – similar to mild cheddar

kayısı   apricot – find them in huge piles, fresh from the farm, in street markets

kaymak   thick clotted cream – eaten at breakfast, with honey or jam and fresh bread – a real treat!

kebab   kebab – comes in many varieties, eg Iskender kebab, Adana kebab, Şiş kebab 

Döner kebabı

leblebi   roasted chick peas – eaten as a snack

limon   lemon – a vital part of Turkish salads, fish dishes and soups

makarna   pasta

mantar   mushroom

muz   banana

pasta   cake 

to be continued …

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Turkish money

If you have been to Turkey in recent years you will be familiar with Türk Lirası Turkish Lira, which, as of writing, has an exchange rate of 1 TL = 0.69 USD, 0.44 Euro,  0.38 GBP.

Did you know that the currency was devalued as recently as 2005, when six zeroes were dropped? So, 1,000,000 lira became 1 lira, and since then Turkey’s economy has remained (relatively) stable.

Quite a difference from when I was first living in Istanbul in the early 1990s, and I looked at an apartment which had a monthly rental of 1,000,000 lira – I couldn’t afford it as that was more than half my month’s salary. Yet, just a few years later, on my weekly day off from high school teaching I ‘moonlighted’ at a primary school (it was considered prestigious to have a native English speaker teaching the children) and earned 25,000,000 TL a day! Yes, I’m a good teacher but sadly I wasn’t being paid as if I were a supermodel, it was just that inflation was out of control at that time.

In fact, things changed so rapidly that every payday, I would rush to the bank after work, withdraw my Turkish Lira and immediately change it to US dollars, Deutschmarks, French Francs, Sterling, anything except Turkish money, so that my meagre pay wouldn’t lose in value over the coming month. One weekend, I received a sum of lira as payment for private lessons, and on remarking to a friend that I wished I could change it immediately, he said we could go to the ‘black market’ and do so. I was surprised as I’d never heard of the ‘black market’ as being an actual place! Yes, it was just that, a back street in Eminönü with shady-looking characters hanging around and offering to change money.

By 2001, when a million lira was worth less than $1 US, it became clear to the government that something had to be done.

When the currency was first changed, it was renamed Yeni Türk Lirası (YTL) to distinguish it from the old system, but now it is just Türk Lirası Turkish Lira again. One lira is divided into 100 kuruş, a unit of currency which had existed for hundreds of years, but went out of circulation in the 1970s.

It’s quite amusing nowadays when I look through my old teaching materials, and see prices like 500,000 lira for a train ticket, 1 milyar (a billion!) lira for a car.

When you travel around Turkey, try to make sure you always keep some of your money in lower denomination notes and coins, particularly for tips and small services. Tipping is common, but thankfully (speaking as a Brit!) not at the levels of the USA, just more of a ’rounding up’.

Although Turkey is not as much of a bargain for holidaymakers as it used to be, it is still possible to have a fabulous holiday for less than you would pay elsewhere, meeting the friendliest people on earth, sampling the magnificent food, seeing breathtaking views and historic sites – what are you waiting for?

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Dining out Turkish style

Dining out is a special experience in Turkey, whether at a backstreet lokanta or a fine restaurant, and you can always be sure of a warm welcome.

On arrival, your waiter may welcome you with Hoş geldiniz! to which you reply Hoşbulduk.

Then he will ask what you would like to drink: Ne içersiniz?

You might choose from these:

su    water      kola    cola      meyve suyu    fruit juice

bira    beer      şarap    wine     ayran   yogurt drink  

Next, what you will find on the sofra or yemek masası  dining table:

bardak    glass      

bıçak    knife    

fincan    cup

çatal fork    

kaşık    spoon    

tabak    plate    

kase    bowl  

peçete    napkin    

tuz    salt        biber, karabiber    pepper

mönü (or yemek listesi)    menu

How do you ask for what you want? You can choose from the following phrases:

_____________ alabilirmiyim lutfen? Can I have ___________ please?

______________ rica ederim. (this is already polite so there is no need to add please or thank you)

If you want to know whether they have a certain item, you can say:

______________ var mi acaba? I wonder if you have _____________ / if there is any _______.

It is a good idea to start with a selection of meze, appetisers. These are mostly cold dishes, and there is something to suit everyone, from creamy smoked aubergine puree to spicy meatballs, all accompanied with fresh crusty bread.

Next time, we’ll look at some food vocabulary.

Until then, Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy your food!)

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The delights of Turkish food

Famed as one of the great cuisines of the world, Turkish food offers a veritable feast for the taste buds. From the fresh, daily-baked crusty bread to the splendour of an Iftar banquet (Iftar is the traditional breaking of the day’s fast during Ramazan), there is something to delight everyone.

With influences ranging from Greece, the Middle East and Asia, there is much more to Turkish food than the ubiquituous kebabs ….

Breakfast – Typically, this consists of freshly-baked bread, beyaz peynir (white cheese), fresh tomatoes, cucumber, zeytin (olives), and of course çay (tea), always tea (probably grown in the Black Sea region). Sometimes this is accompanied by eggs, plus honey or jam, and perhaps kaymak (a kind of clotted cream). This fare can also be eaten as a light meal at any time of the day.

Lunch – This can vary of course, as many people are at work and thus eating out at this time. Usually a light meal, it can consist of soup and bread, salad, fish or meat dishes and rice.

Dinner – In most Turkish restaurants the meze tray is brought to the table, and the diner can choose from perhaps dozens of delicious appetisers, such as aubergine salad, cucumber with yoghurt, stuffed vine leaves, vegetables in olive oil, börek (small savoury pastries) and of course more delicious bread.

For the main course, this would probably be fish, or a meat dish, one of the many kinds of kebab, or köfte, accompanied by rice, pilaf and salad.

Dessert is often fresh fruit, such as melon, peaches, apricots, perhaps followed by Turkish coffee. Turks often visit a separate ‘pudding shop’ which serves milk-based desserts together with sticky baklava and other sweet pastry dishes.

If you are fortunate enough to visit a Turkish market, you will see mounds of the freshest and most delicious fruits and vegetables, all grown in Turkey. Even tea is grown here. Herbs and Spices are a vital part of Turkish cuisine, with the most popular being sumac, dereotu (dill), and maydanoz (parsley). The best place to see herbs and spices for sale is at the Mısır Çarşısı, known in English as the Spice Market, in Eminonu near the Galata Bridge. Here you will also find dried fruits, nuts, preserves, Turkish Delight, and tea and coffee. Pul biber (flaked semi-dried chili) is so widely used that it can often be found with the salt and pepper on restaurant tables!

 Tea – Usually local, grown in the northern Black Sea area of Rize, tea is without doubt the most popular drink in Turkey, served black in distinctive ince belli (small waisted) tea glasses. It’s quite strong, and if you prefer it weaker you can ask for açık çay (light tea) which will have more water added. Also, not to be missed if you are there in winter are the traditional drinks sahlep, made from dried orchid root, and boza, made from fermented millet.

I’ll be writing about my favourite recipes soon, so why not subscribe?

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Turkish – English translation

Here is the story from the previous post, with its English translation below:

Nasrettin Hoca’nın eşekleri

Bir sabah Hoca beş eşekle birlikte evinden ayrıldı. Çarşıya gitmek istiyordu.

Yorulduğu zaman, eşeklerden birine bindi. Daha sonra eşekleri saydı: sadece dört tane vardı! Hemen eşekten inip beşinciyi aramayı başladı. Etrafına baktı, ama onu bulamadı. Geri dönüp tekrar eşekleri saydı. Bu sefer beş tane vardı.

Onlardan birine binip tekrar hareket etti. Birkaç dakika sonra onları yeniden saydı, ve gene yalnız dört tane vardı!

Arkadaşlarından biri yanlarından geçiyordu. Hoca ona, “Beş eşekle evden ayrıldım; sonra dört eşeğim kaldı; daha sonra yine beş oldu. Bakınız! Bir, iki üç, dört. Şimdi işte sadece dört eşeğim var,” dedi.

“Fakat,” dedi arkadaşı, “bir eşeğin sırtında oturuyorsunuz. O, beşincisi! Siz de altıncısı…”

Now for the English translation:

Nasrettin Hoca’s Donkeys

One morning, Hoca left his house with five donkeys. He wanted to go to the market.

When he got tired, he got on one of the donkeys. A little while later he counted the donkeys: there were only four! At once he got off the donkey, and started to look for the fifth one. He looked all around, but he couldn’t find it. He returned, and counted the donkeys again. This time there were five.

He got on one of them again and started on his way. A few minutes later he counted them again, and yet again there were only four!

A friend of his was passing by. Hoca said to him “I left home with five donkeys; a little later there were four; then after that it was five again. Look! One, two, three, four. Now I’ve only got four donkeys.”

“But,” his friend said, “you’re sitting on a donkey. That’s the fifth one! And you’re the sixth …”.

Would you like to learn Turkish? Or just improve your conversational skills? Learn more at my website:

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