The pocket dictionary, with its short grammar section for a quick lesson while traveling on public transportation, or the online resources and podcasts available on smart phones, are must-haves when learning the native language of a country, as an expat. Of course, language courses and local friends greatly help to practice speaking and improve accent.
No doubt, learning a foreign language can be frustrating at times and that is why Justin Cannon, an American expat residing in Turkey for three years, has come to the rescue with his online language learning platform, "Turkish Tea Time."
Having grown up isolated in the middle of the Unites States, Cannon did not have much opportunity to travel. "I came to Istanbul to fulfill a dream I have always had to live abroad and hopefully learn a thing or two about the world. I chose Istanbul more or less at random as my new home. It was an auspicious choice - I love the city, the culture and the friends I have made here," Cannon told Daily Sabah. With a computer science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and having previously worked for a company on technology startups in San Francisco, Cannon realized that there were no sufficient resources for learning Turkish online. "While I was in college, I did a few internships in China. When I was learning Chinese, there were some excellent websites that really helped me out. When I moved to Istanbul, I knew I wanted to learn Turkish, but, unlike Chinese, there really weren't any good resources to learn online," Cannon said. "So, I decided to build one. It had the fortunate side effect of also improving my own Turkish very rapidly," he continued.
With a team of Turkish learners and native Turkish teachers, Turkish Tea Time is not a cookie-cutter language tool. The platform offers 136 lessons based around podcasts covering different subjects in Turkish grammar and usage. Each podcast includes dialog, a short grammar lesson, a vocabulary section, speaking exercises and a quiz. The learning approach of Turkish Tea Time is entirely focused on finding the most suitable way to teach Turkish by using daily experiences. These days, the team does not upload new podcasts, but Cannon said the available resources are still relevant, as they have covered everything they wanted to. The platform divides podcasts in different levels such as "newbie," "beginner," "intermediate," and "advanced." From asking questions about someone's profession to discussing politics and reading the "Little Prince" in Turkish, Turkish Tea Time promises to teach Turkish in a fun way. Aside from learning a foreign language, the platform provides a chance to get familiar with Turkish culture from talking about traditional Turkish baths, to renowned authors like Sait Fait Abasıyanık.
Cannon founded Turkish Tea Time with his partner Büşra Yakut from the Linguistics Department of Boğaziçi University. "We have had others help along the way, but the lessons were written and recorded by Büşra and myself. It turned out to be a perfect match: Büşra has an extremely academic and deep knowledge of the Turkish language, and I bring my real experiences from learning to make the podcasts relatable and relevant," Cannon went on to say.
For him, learning Turkish is not that difficult. "It's very formulaic and consistent. There are a few intimidating hurdles at the beginning with vowel harmony and the whole paradigm shift to agglutination, but once you get those, it's pretty smooth sailing. You can become functionally fluent with just the basic suffixes and verb tenses," he went on to say. Adding that there is no shortcut to learning a language, Cannon said learning language requires a lot of time and daily practice. "[It] is just like learning to play guitar or becoming a good football player," he added. "And, it's going to feel really uncomfortable at first. The usual advice to speak at every opportunity is very true. Of course, I recommend Turkish Tea Time to anyone - but you'll need to get an actual speaking partner to implement and practice what you're learning with us," he continued, suggesting that all expats learn Turkish while they have time. "It sounds like a no-brainer, but I've met many expats who have never given it a real effort. Understanding and being able to speak Turkish allows you to be a part of the world around you, not just a guest to it," he concluded.
For an engaging and fun experience, check out Turkish Tea Time, subscribe to the platform and create a personal schedule based on your Turkish level.