Getting By in Istanbul: Everyday Turkish Greetings and Expressions for Beginners

Would you believe me if I told you Turkish has more speakers than Vietnamese and almost as many as Korean? And what if I told you that there are more Turkish greetings than English ones?

Spoken by 80 million people all over the world, Turkish has a strong presence in places as diverse as Iraq, Syria, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, and Greece, to name just a few.

The fact that Turkish allows you to communicate with people all around the globe should be reason enough for you to give it a try. But Turkish also happens to be one of the most interesting, beautiful-sounding languages in the world!

“Beautiful but difficult!”

Actually, not that difficult. After all, the Turkish writing system is based on the Latin alphabet just like English, something that can’t be said about languages like Russian or Arabic.

So, will you give Turkish a chance? To show you that I don’t mean to overwhelm you, we will start with a lesson that’s both easy and useful. 

Below, you will find essential Turkish greetings and everyday phrases that you can use while sightseeing in Istanbul or Ankara. 

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1. Günaydın. = Good morning.

Turkish people are some of the most polite people on Earth. Even if you don’t know any Turkish before arriving in Istanbul, you will be acquainted with this phrase as soon as you finish your first walk. But… why wait to be greeted when you can take the initiative? Every time you make eye contact with someone in the street, smile, clear your throat, and say Günaydın!

2. Tünaydın. = Good afternoon.

Okay, now let’s suppose you overslept the first morning and you’re not going out until 2 pm. It would be a bit weird to say Good morning at that time, wouldn’t it? Well, if that’s the case, say Tünaydın instead. 

3. Benim adım Juan. = My name is Juan.

No, you don’t need to say your name is Juan (unless it truly is). But if you want to engage in a nice conversation, the best way to start is by introducing yourself. Benim adım _______.  That will help you connect with your interlocutor, as they will see you have really done your homework. 

4. Tanıştığıma memnun oldum. = I’m pleased to meet you.

If, after introducing yourself, you hear a very long phrase, don’t panic. They are probably just telling you that it’s a pleasure to meet you. The good thing about this one is that, unlike most Turkish phrases, you can reply to it by saying exactly the same thing. 

5. Nasılsın? = How are you?

If you have already introduced yourself, said you’re pleased to meet whoever is talking to you, and they still won’t leave, it’s evident they are interested in engaging in a real conversation with you, so you might as well ask them how they are, don’t you think? Nasılsın? is one of the most useful Turkish phrases you will ever learn because it shows you’re also interested in keeping the conversation going.

6. İyi, teşekkürler. Siz? = Fine, thanks. And you?

At this point, you can only pray that they will simply say “fine, thanks” like a normal person and not start to tell you about their problems. If you’re lucky, you will hear İyi, teşekkürler. Siz? To this, you can simply say İyi, “fine”. However, if they do start speaking about things you don’t understand, it might be time for…

7. Bir bira isterim. = I’d like a beer.

Whether you find yourself in a bar or you need the perfect excuse to walk away from an uncomfortable situation, Bir bira isterim is one of the most useful Turkish phrases I will teach you today.

8. Özür dilerim. = I’m sorry.

Maybe you have to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom; maybe you’ve stepped on someone’s foot while dancing to one of Tarkan’s songs; maybe you just didn’t understand what someone said. Whatever the reason, if you have to say that you are sorry, say Özür dilerim. I’m sure you will hear something like Problem değil (“not a problem”) in return.

9. Yakında görüşmek üzere! = See you soon!

A nice way to end a conversation, this Turkish phrase suggests that it’s not farewell, it’s just “be seeing you” (even if you don’t really mean it!).

10. İngilizce konuşur musunuz? = Do you speak English?

No matter how hard you try to memorize all the Turkish phrases in this list, there may come a time when you need to resort to your own language to avoid making serious mistakes. Unfortunately, only about 17% of Turkish people report being able to speak English, so it will take a lot of good luck to get a positive answer for this one. 

11. Yardım edebilir misiniz? = Can you help me? 

There may come a time when you need to ask for help during your stay in Turkey. It’s not that I think you will have a serious accident or anything. Maybe you’ll need someone to give you directions to find a café. Maybe you just need someone to tell you what the heck Ezogelin soup or a Mercimek kofte are. Whatever it is that you need, say Yardım edebilir misiniz? to ask for help.

12. Bu ne kadar? = How much is this?

Did you know that Istanbul has some of the best shopping malls in the world? If you love fashion and designer clothes, Istanbul is the closest thing to Paradise you will ever find. My tip? Use the phrase Bu ne kadar? to make sure you can afford an item before you try it, as fancy clothes in Turkey can be more expensive than you would expect.

So, will you be using our little phrasebook any time soon? We hope you do. If you want to go beyond everyday Turkish phrases and take your vocabulary to the next level, contact us now and we’ll match you with a native Turkish teacher who’ll be delighted to come up with a tailor-made course based on your linguistic needs and learning style

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Do you want to know what the best part is? If you send us a message by clicking on this link, we will offer you a free trial lesson. Yes, a completely free lesson with no strings attached! See you soon, then?