Why Turks Don’t Speak English

I know the major news story in Turkey is the continued explosions and attacks across the country, presumably by the PKK, but those stories are all over the news, so I won’t repeat them here. I found the following opinion piece by Güven Sak in Hurriyet interesting about why it is that, despite Turkey’s openness to the world and global commercial activities, English proficiency is lacking, especially in the younger generation. The author suggests a structural explanation (elimination of English in the curriculum), commenters mention a lack of interest and the desire for a quick fix rather than the effort required to learn a foreign language properly.

I would add nationalism and its attendant navel-gazing and exceptionalism. Even Turks who speak English well who are getting graduate degrees abroad generally wish to study Turks in Turkey or elsewhere, not another people or country. And colleagues who have tried to do comparative work on Turkey (comparing Turkey and another country) have told me that if they tell their interlocutors that it’s a comparative study, Turks will refuse to answer questions because they don’t think they should or can be compared to anyone else.

Here’s an excerpt from Sak’s essay:

…Let me start with a few observations. First, I believe that there has been a regression in English education in this country for the last few years. In my past two years managing a university I see a general deterioration in the English-speaking abilities of high school graduates. I think that this is the result of the closure of English-preparatory classrooms in elite schools. This was part of the uninterrupted 8-year compulsory education system. The Ministry of Education made a huge mistake back then by scrapping a year of English-language education from the curriculum.

Secondly, I see that the ministry is now deepening the damage. While the current reform in the works will make the system more flexible, no one seems to be focusing on the regressing English abilities of our kids. To me, this curious silence suggests that the ministry does not see our poor English proficiency as a problem. In this age of globalization, their behavior amounts to nothing less than criminal neglect.

Third, the English proficiency of Turkish participants in the TOEFL exams, mostly college graduates, leaves much to be desired. Scores are available everywhere. The average score for students from Turkey taking the TOEFL exam is 77, the second-worst score in Europe, only better than Kosovo’s 74. If you compare Turkey to the Middle East and North Africa, it is just a notch better than Syria’s 76 and equal to Iran’s 77. “Not bad,” you might say. But consider the relative openness to trade and business of Syria, Iran and Turkey. Turkey’s economy is much more open and outperforms those countries, yet its education system lags behind.

Why can’t Turks speak English? Turkey’s problem with English is a structural one. The country lacks skilled and fluent English teachers and the programs to train them. It isn’t just the curriculum, but the building blocks of English-language education that are missing…

3 Responses to “Why Turks Don’t Speak English”

  1. Asağıdaki metin tamamen İngilizce olmasına rağmen İngilizce bilen Türkler
    hariç kimse anlayamaz.

    Hasan was a very heavy headed boy. His father was a middle
    situationed man. To make his son read in good schools he did everything
    coming from his hand. He took everything to eye.
    His mother was a house woman. Every job used to come from her hand.
    In making food there was no one on top of her. The taste of the observations (gözleme) she made you eat your fingers. This woman made her hair a brush for her son.
    When Hasan became sick, she cried her two eyes two fountains. When Hasan finished lycee he wanted to be a tooth doctor, and he entered the university exams and won Tootherness School. In the school he met Jale. Hasan was hit to Jale in first look but Jale was not hit to him in the first look. However
    her blood boiled to him.
    A few weeks later they cooked the job. Jale´s father was a money-father. He turned the corner many years ago by making dreamy export. But Jale was not like her father. She was a very low hearted girl.
    Her father was wanting to make her marry to his soldierness friend´s son Abdurrahim. Abdurrahim finished first school and didn´t read later. He became a rough uncle. He started to turn dirty jobs when he was a crazy blooded man. He was his mother´s eye. He said, ‘HIK’ and he fell from his father´s nose. So three under, five up he was like his father.
    When he saw Jale, he put eye to her. His inside went. His mouth got watered. His eyes opened like a fortune stone. To be able to see Jale, Hasan´s inside was eating his inside. Finally,together they went to a park.
    When they were wrinkling in the park, Abdurrahim saw them. First he pulled a deep inside. And then his eyes turned. He couldn´t control
    himself. He wanted to send them to the village with wood, but he collected
    himself. He decided to leave them head tohead. At that moment the devil
    poked him. He fit to the devil, pulled his gun and fired. However, a man
    passing stayed under lead rain and poorman went to who hit. He planted the
    horseshoes.
    Then the mirrorless´ came. They took all of them under eye.
    Jale´s inside was blood crying. The man died eye seeing seeing. And so,
    this job finished in the black arm .. :)))))))))))

  2. A student is only as good as the expectations of the adults in his or her life. Perhaps for many Turkish parents there is an emphasis on learning a language such as Arabic because of its practical use as a part of religion. Do Turkish parents see English in the same way? Definitely not in the same way as learning Arabic. Children are sometimes little blackboards on which their parents have written, “These are my priorities.” If students have not mastered English, it can be said that parents have other priorities for their children than learning English.

  3. lie big liee (N)

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