Turkish words and phrases you should learn!

Before I moved to Istanbul for 4 months to be an exchange student, I learned some common Turkish phrases from my friends. These phrases (and more that I learned once I arrived) were very helpful in getting around the city and being able to shop, eat at cafés and restaurants, and deal with common situations. I was able to really experience Turkish culture more because of these helpful words in the native language.


Here are a few of the phrases that will come in hand for you when you study or work in Turkey. At the bottom of this post are also some resources for learning basic Turkish before you arrive and during your stay.

Remember, in Turkish, "c" makes an English "j" sound. There are some additional letters, such as ş ("sh" sound), ç ("ch" sound), ö (sexy "o" sound), ü (sexy "u" sound), ı (like the "i" in "cousin"), and ğ (silent sound but elongates the letter before it).

  • _______ alabilir miyim? This means "Can I have _______? " A very important phrase in shopping or placing an order for a meal, this phrase is also respectful and polite. You can add anything into the blank. "Ekmek alabilir miyim? " means "Can I have some bread? ". "Hesap alabilir miyim? " means "Can I have the bill? ". "Su alabilir miyim? " means "Can I have water? ".
  • Lavabo var mi?... Nerede acaba? This means "Is there a sink [polite word for the restroom]? Where is it, I wonder? " If the answer to your first question is "Evet" (yes), then you can continue with asking where the "lavabo" is. Many people will teach you to say "tuvalet" (toilet), but I learned from some more polite friends that "lavabo" sounds a lot better.
  • _______ nerede acaba? This is a useful phrase if you are trying to find a building or a location. It simply asks "Where is ______, I wonder? " and sounds polite and just slightly lost. As you are finding places around campus or your neighborhood, you will use this a lot.
  • Fıltre kahve refers to the drip coffee that we drink mugs of each day in the USA. This is usually a pretty inexpensive form of coffee from most coffee shops in Turkey, but it might not be available at all cafés. Nescafé is more readily available at most cafés and restaurants.
  • Teşekkürler means "thank you" in Turkish, and is a polite and common form of the word. You will also hear teşekkür ederim and sağolun (sağolun is mostly used in response to when someone has wished you something, such as good health or an easy time at work).
  • Ayran is a salty yogurt drink that is very common in Turkey. You will see it on almost any menu and it goes well with meaty and savory dishes. Most people have a hard time stomaching ayran the first time round, but after that you might find yourself falling in love with it.
  • Akbil refers to the card that you will use to take all public transport in Istanbul (I'm not sure if the other cities in Turkey refer to their transport cards as "akbil", if you know, comment below! ). You will see signs for akbil dölümü which are places that you can top up your card with cash or a debit/credit card. There are also machines inside the metro where you can top up with cash (bills only).


Before arriving in Turkey, or during your stay, you can use the following resources to study Turkish on your own. Remember, if you hear your Turkish friends using a word a lot, ask them what it is. This is a great way to learn commonly used words or phrases.

  • Turkish Tea Time podcasts, available on apps like Podkicker.
  • Rosetta Stone Turkish - teaches a lot of good vocabulary and common phrases.
  • Mango Languages - sometimes offered free through your home public library system.


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