The Most Common Problems of Turkish Students While Learning English
In the last years, English has become more and more popular worldwide. In most countries, children start learning a second language at an early age. Also in Turkey, the number of schools, universities and language centers where it is possible to learn English has increased significantly. Nevertheless, despite all the efforts and a considerable presence of foreign teachers, it seems that Turkish students find the English language extremely difficult to learn. Turkish students consider the education system the major cause of their school failure because it is too obsolete. I had the opportunity to work as a language teacher in Turkey for several years. This experience helped me to understand why in Turkey learning English, and foreign languages, in general, is so hard. First of all, I would like to point out that this essay is based on my personal experience.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Sara S. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The first problem that Turkish students face when learning English is the education system. In Turkey, students are used to passive learning, a method where the learners receive and absorb information from the teacher without interaction. Therefore, students talking time is extremely reduced. Secondly, the language is usually taught in Turkish, using a grammar-translation methodology to find equivalents in the students’ language. This means that the students are not able to think in English and their communication skill is limited to a literal translation. Furthermore, the system is based on rote learning rather than meaningful learning. This does not help to improve production skills. One paradox of Turkish students is that they spend a lot of time on grammar but they do not know how to use it properly, perhaps due to lack of practice.
Besides the education system, other factors make English a difficult language. First of all, Turkish is an Altaic language while English is an Indo-European language. In other words, the two languages have a completely different structure. Turkish students, therefore, need time to get familiar with English sentence structures. For example, beginners have problems with the order of words in a sentence.
English pronunciation is considered a serious obstacle because it seems irregular. Turkish is a phonetic language. Every word is pronounced the way it is written. On the contrary, English spelling is different from pronunciation. In addition to this, Turkish students have problems with the sounds that the Turkish language does not have. For example, “ think” is commonly pronounced by teachers and students “tink”. Another difficult sound is “schwa”. When the pronunciation mistake is the result of previous experience it is not easy to correct it. The punctuation is also a frequent problem because in Turkish it has different rules. For example, a common mistake is to use a full stop before the subordinating conjunction because.
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Listening is another obstacle for learners. A common problem is that students try to understand every word. This makes them lose the thread. Most probably the major cause is unfamiliarity with different accents. Some Turkish students are reluctant to learn English for social and cultural reasons. First of all, due to visa restrictions, it is not easy for Turkish citizens to travel to English speaking countries. As a result, some students lose their interest and motivation. In addition to this, not all students can afford a language course or experience abroad. Secondly, peer pressure plays an important role. Turkish students feel stressed and intimidated if they do not have a good rapport with the teacher. Thirdly, some people refuse to learn English because they think it is not necessary. They find the language difficult because they feel forced to learn it.
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Turkish students when learning English face problems with the education system, language structure, pronunciation, teaching methodology, and cultural barriers. However, there are not obstacles that students cannot overcome.
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