Speak Turkish like a Native: The Most Common Ice-Breakers In Turkish
More than 80 million people speak Modern Turkish today. With people whose native tongue is Turkish (or a dialect of Turkish) worldwide goes up to 180-200 million. People in many parts of the world, like Eastern Europe and the Middle East, speak these dialects. As Turkey continues to grow as a tourist destination and a cultural exporter, more and more people (immigrants, expats, foreign investors, etc.) are using this language.
So, what kind of language is Turkish? What are the most striking sayings and expressions? What is the culture that accompanies this language? We can't consider a language and its culture separately, especially if we're talking about daily speech. So, it's important to look at the language's unique features and common phrases—the "ice-breaker" expressions.
Before diving into some of the most used and untranslatable ice-breakers, let’s first take a glance at some features of the Turkish language and the culture that has given birth to it.
- Turkey has a deep, warm, and hospitable culture and it’s evident in Turkish people’s everyday use of their language.
- Turkish ice-breaker expressions ease the conversations with their emotionally-loaded nature and convey culturally marked messages.
- Turkish is rich in unique and untranslatable expressions, which is one of the reasons why Turkish is so rich.
Some Features Of Turkish Language and Culture
Turkey has an ancient culture. If we go back some time in history, we can say that the old nomadic Turks living in Central Asia's tundras date back to the 6th century BCE. This ancient and extensive culture evolved into the Seljuks, Ottomans, and many other Turkish states and peoples, and survived until the today's Republic of Turkey. And it’s still evolving, and thriving. Today, for instance, Turkey is a cultural exporter of Turkish pop music and Turkish TV series.
A language and culture that have spread to so many places in the world, gave something to dozens of them, and took many things from them, are very rich in emotions and thoughts they can express. A simple form of address or greeting you may encounter in a daily conversation in Turkish may have deep emotional roots besides its simple function. You have probably heard of Turkish culture’s warmth and hospitality.
This is evident in, for instance, the phrase used to greet a guest out while they’re leaving: “Ayağınıza sağlık!”. This phrase expresses the host’s joy of accommodating someone as their guest and roughly translates to “wishing health to your feet”, which we can interpret as a compound of “wishing someone good health” and “wishing someone to come again”. Imagine a language so emotionally and culturally potent that it can convey a message as complex as “I wish you good health so that you can come again.” in two words!
Some Common Ice-Breakers In Turkish
Turkish is full of emotionally and culturally deep-rooted expressions, which is why it’s such a rich and unique language. People use these emotion-conveying expressions as ice-breakers in everyday speech. And, these expressions occupy a significant place in Turkish people's social lives. You can find some of the most widely used Turkish ice-breaker expressions below.
Imagine you ate the delicious dinner your mother cooked. What would you say, besides a simple “thank you”? If you were speaking Turkish, you would say “Eline sağlık!”. The phrase translates to “health to your hand” and has a similar function that of the “ayağına sağlık” example above. So, when you say “eline sağlık” to someone, you both wish them health and express your gratitude.
We can apply this scenario to many areas of life. This polite expression can turn into an effective ice-breaker in different social situations. For example, when you eat at a restaurant in Istanbul, you can find yourself in a friendly conversation by saying "eline sağlık" to the chef.
Turkish people use the phrase to praise somebody who has created something using their hands. It may be a delicious meal or an artist's masterpiece. Then, we can say that the closest but not the exact translation of “eline sağlık” might be “Well Done”. But of course, it doesn’t capture the whole feeling of its Turkish counterpart.
After you finished your meal, thanked your mother, and said "Eline Sağlık" to her, you would get the answer "Afiyet Olsun!" from her. It is like saying “enjoy your meal” in English. But you say it after you finish the meal. Theoretically speaking, the word “afiyet” defines a state of wellness. But in the phrase, the word means more than that. The phrase conveys the meanings of the expressions “I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed” and “may this meal be good for you” at the same time.
As in the previous examples, the phrase "Kolay gelsin" is in the form of a wish both structurally and in terms of the message it conveys. It is usually said when you see someone occupied with something and wish them ease in what they are doing at that moment. If we go back to the delicious meal example, “Kolay gelsin” would be the exact thing to say to your mother if you saw her cooking the meal. It roughly translates to “may it be easy (for you)”, but this translation is insufficient considering the Turkish phrase's conversation-starting feature. You might even get the answer “Kolaysa başına gelsin!” -something like saying “Do it yourself if it looks easy” in English”- from your mother for not helping her prepare the meal.
“Rica etmek” in its simple form, actually translates to “to ask nicely” or “to request” and it’s used for conveying these meanings; but in daily conversations, it gains another function and turns into a response to "thank you". So, in that sense, “Rica ederim” is the Turkish equal of “You are welcome”. But if we were to translate “you’re welcome” in Turkish, we could see that these two are actually different in terms of the emotion they express, even though their functions are the same in daily talk. “Rica ederim” expresses the speaker’s modesty- another merit that is repeatedly praised in Turkish culture, since the phrase has a “don’t even mention it” vibe to it.
This phrase is usually said to someone who has reunited with someone they have been waiting for a long time or who resolved a problem that has remained unresolved for a while. If we break the whole into parts and translate it; “göz” means eye and “ay-mak” approximately means “to become enlightened”. But as you guess, the phrase has nothing to do with “enlightened eyes”. This one might be the hardest to comprehend since its meaning has very little association with the literal meanings of the words that compose it. The word “eye” actually represents the person you're addressing, so the phrase has a whole conveys a message like this: “I know things were hard for you while you waited for X, and I wish you relief from those hardships now that it’s resolved.” The closest equivalent in English might be “I’m happy for you”, but once again, it doesn’t grasp the feeling.
Why These Expressions Are Untranslatable?
What makes it impossible to translate an expression into another language is that the cultural facts and processes that are effective in the emergence of the expression have no equivalent in the culture of the target language. All these expressions share one thing in common: they bear meanings that are meaningful only in their own cultural context as well as their functions in daily use. These phrases are “untranslatable” because they are unique in the feelings they evoke and what they represent in culture.
Why is Turkish a Unique Language?
Turkish is full of very emotional and culturally rooted expressions, which is one of the reasons it is such a rich and unique language.
Is Turkish a Hard Language to Learn?
There is no linguistic classification of which language is difficult. However, Turkish can be a difficult language to learn for those whose mother tongue is not structurally similar to Turkish.
What Is the Culture of Turkish?
Turkey has a deep, warm, and hospitable culture and it’s evident in Turkish people’s everyday use of their language.
What Kind of Language is Turkish?
Turkish is a member of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family's Altay branch. It is the most western of the Turkic languages spoken in Central Asia and it is categorized as a member of the South-West group.
What Are Some Common Turkish Phrases?
The phrases “Kolay Gelsin”, “Rica Ederim”, “Eline Sağlık”, and “Afiyet Olsun” are some common Turkish phrases frequently used in daily speech.
What Are Some Greetings in Turkish?
In Turkey, common greetings include "Merhaba" (hello, hi), "Nasılsın" (how are you), and "N'aber" (what's up). Additionally, the Arabic greeting "Salam Alaykum" (may peace be upon you) is also widely used.