Turkey is one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet Modern Turkey is situated in Asia Minor. In the region of Anatolia. It is between Asia and Europe. It shares borders with Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Azerbaijan. Its people speak Turkish, Kurdish, and other minority languages.  Turkey saw the fall of the Hittites, The Greek, Romans, Byzantine, and the Ottoman Empire. It was once the center of the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires at some time in its history

The Turks fought for their independence from the Ottoman Empire after World War I. The Turkish War for Independence lasted from 1919 to 1923. The first president of the Republic was Mustafa Kemal, “Ataturk” meaning, “The Father of the Turks” In an interview, Dr. George Gawrych expert on Turkey and author of, “The Young Ataturk: From Soldier to Statesmen of Turkey” explained that Ataturk saved what became Turkey from partition after World War I. On 29 October 1923, Atatürk founded the Republic of Turkey and then instituted a wide range of reforms to modernize the country: includıng women’s reforms.

Turkey is a Republic. Like the United States, Turkey’s government system includes executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Executive: Presidents (the chief of state) serve five-year terms and are eligible for a second. They choose a Council of Ministers including the Prime Minister (the head of government). Currently in office are President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Judicial: Like the United States, the Turkish judicial system uses multiple levels of courts. Legislative: Representatives to the 550–seat council are elected every 5 years. As of 2009, Turkey has 49 separate political parties, but only those with a 10% or more constituency may hold seats in the legislature. The three most prominent parties are the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, at 46.6%; the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, at 20.8%; and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, at 14.3%. A constitution was ratified in 1982. It suffered a coup d’etat attempt on July 16th of this year.

During the 19th and first half of the 20th century Turkey was a land of refugees, Muslims being forced to leave their homes in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Aegean islands. Turkey has been a legitimate democracy since its first free election in 1950. Today, the country is struggling to maintain its democratic traditions under an authoritarian leader,according to Dr. Gawrych.

The main reason for immigration to the United States of the Turkish population in the last 30 years is education and well paid white collar work  in the hard sciences like technology and engineering.   According to the Turkish American Scholars Association Turkey is the country that sends more students to the US than any other country.  According to the American Schools and University website Turkey is Ranked 10 as one of the countries that sends more college students to the United States. Programs like the Fulbright Scholarship and other scholarships make this possible. According to Dr. Can Bilsel people from more diverse walks of life emigrate to other parts of Europe.  He asserts that Turkish Americans in The U.S. perhaps do not amount to   a million people.  An estimate posted by the Turkish American Website has the population at approximately 350,000 across the country. Cities with great concentrations of people of Turkish descent are New York, New Jersey, Chicago, and the state of California.   From the sample of five people we interviewed four were highly educated and had little or no problem with English proficiency. Two were college professors, two were doctoral students and the ones with less proficiency were community college students who are currently taking ESOL courses.

Most of the interviewees expressed no hardship in terms of the language factor except for interviewees Ozer Cokut and Somaye Nasiri the ESOL students.  Cokut was not familiar at all with the English Language upon arrival to to the U. S.  Nasiri, reports feelings of insecurity in terms of her her skill level in both writing and speaking. She is also very worried about her grammar.  However, in terms of cultural differences interviewee Tuba Pagda a doctoral student expressed difficulty making new friends when she first arrived to the United States because of the individualistic culture and differences in the way personal information is shared and friendship is approached on a cultural level in the United States in comparison to, Turkish culture.

According to interviews conducted to Necla Tschigri , Zeki Pagda, and Can Bilsel as well as internet research we were able to get an overview of the Turkish educational system. The country’s educational system has gone from being very westernized and secular, to more government controlled and Islamist in the last 10 to 15 years. The Ministry of National Education (MEB) runs educational administration of the country. Compulsory education starts in preschools that are for students three to five years of age. Elementary School is to last eight years. High schools are grouped according to, general vocational, and technical institutions Universities are separated between public and private universities.

Teachers in Turkey are revered and seen as a source of respect. Teachers no longer inflict corporal punishment to their students but in the past they did.  The Turkish educational system is power distance based according to Mr. Zeki Pagda Teachers are perceived and treated like gods there is little or no interaction with students.  Most other aspects are very Americanized and westernized in terms of curricula and the point system. However, the teacher tells you your assignments and tells you what to learn and mostly memorize.  According to Mr., Pagda and Mr. Bilsel education is one way and not holistic open to student teacher input or   creative like in the United States. Teaching is a respected job but not a well paid until you get to the professorate or doctorate level. Middle class and lower class teachers are disrespected especially by the upper social classes according to Mr. Pagda.

What students spend their time studying for especially in the last years of high school according to  Zeki Pagda and  Can Bilsel is the very centralized  examination system known as YGS and LYS (formerly known as ÖSS – Student Selection Examination) according to the website, “All About Turkey”  in order to be admitted to Higher Education institutions. These nation-wide centralized examinations are administered by the Student Selection and Placement Center (ÖSYM). This test must be passed in order to enter public or private universities. The test involves memorization and learning the sections that are of most interest to the student. There is no other admission process or criteria such as an essay or letters of recommendation. According to Bilsel, the examination process to enter universities is so centralized and competitive that it has led to presumed nepotism and tests being stolen.

The policy on homework in Turkey according to Mr. Zeki Pagda, is that it is very much and mostly memorization.  As you get older, it is used to prepare for the student for university entrance exam. As he stated before, the Turkish is a power distance system so there is no way to dispute a grade or ask questions especially in large classrooms in high school and university courses

The differences between English and Turkish are several. According to the Frankfurt International School and the SlideShare “Differences Between Turkish and English”. English is part of the Indo-European language group. Turkish is a member of the Turkic language family.  It has about 70 million speakers worldwide. A significant change in the Turkish language came in 1928 when Ottoman Script a version of the Arabic Alphabet was replaced by the Latin Alphabet that is used by English and most Western languages. The Turkish language consists of 29 letters. The Turkish alphabet lacks the Q, W, and X of the English one. Turkish is an agglutinative language, meaning that endings are added one by one to the root of a word to produce the desired meaning. In English endings are isolated.

Difficulties Turkish students may face when learning English are many. Turkish has vowel harmony while English does not. Turkish is a very phonetic language, English is not. Turkish omits the phrase, “to be”. Turkish does not have /sp/ and /sp/ sounds. It also does not have articles in the normative.  Turkish English learners have problems with gerunds such as , “Coming six months,” They commonly struggle with words starting with w and v many times interchanging them and pronouncing one like the other eg .pronouncing  vine as wine. Turkish sentence structure uses the Subject, Object Verb pattern while English follows the Subject Verb Object pattern. There might also be confusions in verb tense and as with any SLA learner with idioms and how to use them in the correct context.

Turkey is primarily an Islamic country.  According to the article “The Islamization of Turkey: Erdoğan’s Education Reforms” by Svante E. Cornel President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has remodeled to instill considerably more Islamic content, in line with his stated purpose to raise “pious generations” in the country’s educational system. Interviewees Zeki, and Tuba Pagda  Can Bilsel and Dr. Necla Tschigri explain and express with grave concern, that their country is moving toward an Islamist state.  The change has been occurring in the 15 to 10 years. Religious classes that are supposedly electives are imposed for children from elementary to high school According to Mr. Pagda and the article the only kind of Islam taught is Sunni and Jewish and Christian students’ rights are violated. It also states that the rights of girls are increasingly ignored in rural areas. Ms. Tuba Pagda states that in her opinion Turkish culture is more female dominated than American culture. More women are in positions of power than in the United States. That makes her very proud.   Mr. Pagda explained in the interview, that under this new type of impact because of religious education and focus students especially children at the lower levels are separated. When he was growing up that was not the case. Students interacted and socialized normally. According to him, it was common to date in junior high and high school.

As said before, authority in Turkey is respected and for the most part not contested according to all of our interviewees. According to Mr. Pagda and Mr. Bilsel there is not much room for creativity and interaction in the Turkish classroom. Learning is all one way and primarily consists of memorization. According to Mr Pagda it is not common for opinions to be expressed in the classroom. Religious and political opinions are never expressed or discussed.

The role of the family is very important in Turkish culture. Most of our interviewees expressed that family is a great source of personal and general pride in their culture. Parent involvement is one of the pillars of the highly centralized Turkish education system. Parents are considered a principal and constant part of the curricula according to the article, “Primary School Students’ Parents’ Level of Involvement into their Children’s Education.” In the educational system school and home involvement are heavily promoted.  This type of parent participation has increased student grades, their own participation and overall satisfaction with school at the elementary school level.

However, not everything is as simple and as clear cut as the previous article states.  According to Mr Zeki Pagda too much parent involvement has had negative consequences in the Turkish educational system. With the advent of more private schools, according to him students and parents are seen more as consumers that are to be pleased. The role and authority of the teacher is greatly diminished.  What they can and cannot do in the classroom is greatly interfered with by parents to the point where interaction between parent and teacher is not healthy. According to Pagda this kind of interaction causes seriously arguments between parents and teachers, making it common for parents to move their children to different schools frequently.  He also says that classism and lack of respect from rich parents and students is common toward poor and middle class teachers.

As stated at the beginning of this writing, Turkey has one of the vastest and ancient cultures in the world.  Some of its most important holidays are Republic Day on October 29th.  Ataturk Memorial Day on November 10th, National Sovereignty and Children’s day (which is the Dr. Gawrych favorite because there is no real equivalent in the U.S.) In Mexico, “ El Dia del Niño” Children’s Day or the Day of the Child is celebrated April 30th and is very similar.  New Year’s Day is very important as well as important Islamic holy days such as the period in which Ramadan is celebrated for example.

Turkish cuisine is one of the most varied in the world. It is Mediterranean. Turkey has also been called “The Breadbasket of the World.” Some of its most popular dishes are: Kebab which is a grilled meat Adana” (spicy skewered ground meat)”Dolma” is the generic term for stuffed vegetables, being a derivative of the verb “doldurmak” or to fill; it actually means “stuffed” in Turkish. There are two categories of dolmas: those filled with a meat mix or with a rice mix. They are cooked in olive oil and eaten at room-temperature. The meat dolma is a main dish in yoghurt sauce.  Then there is “Meze” which are small plates to start meals similar to the Spanish Tapas. We also cannot forget the famous Baklava dessert, börek(milk pudding) and marzipan made of almonds and pistachios similar to the Spanish and Mexican variation of Mazapan. Lastly let’s not forget Turkish tea and coffee that are famous worldwide and a staple of their cuisine and culture.

Turkish Fun Facts

  • Turkey produces a quarter of the world’s hazelnuts in the small town of Ordu
  • The city of Istanbul has roughly 16 million people (The third largest city in Europe and one of the most populated in the world)
  • Turkey is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including what is presumed to be where the battle of Troy took place. There are also many archaeological sites important to early Christianity
  • Hagia Sophia- Was once the biggest church in all of the Christian world later became a mosque, and now is a museum.
  • The national coin of Turkey is the Turkish Lira. The country’s main exports are cars, planes, electronics, clothing and textiles
  • Turkey is world famous for its popular culture for singers like Tarkan, its movies, and its television industry. In less than a decade, it has become one of the leading producers in the world of the Telenovela or “soap opera” format against historical leaders in the genre like Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia winning or being nominated to several Emmy awards in recent years

Popular Words or Phrases in Turkish
Hello – Merhaba

My name is – Benim adım

How are you? – Nasılsınız?

I am fine thank you – Teşekkür ederim iyiyim

Pleased to meet you – Memnun oldum

Pleased to meet you too – Ben de memnun oldum

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Gawrych, G. W. (2013). The young Atatürk: From Ottoman soldier to statesman of Turkey. London: I.B. Tauris.

Guise, J. (n.d.). Turkish Frequently Used Words. Retrieved December 06, 2016, from http://www.turkishlanguage.co.uk/freqvocab.htm

Mlarue531 Follow. (2012). Language comparison Turkish English. Retrieved December 06, 2016, from http://www.slideshare.net/mlarue531/language-comparison-turkish-english

Öktem, K. (2011). Turkey Since 1989: Angry Nation (Global history of the present). Zed Books.

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