Mar 052011
Nasrettin Hoca at the crossroads

It should be easier for Nasrettin Hoca.

Ten Turkish questions you might want to use when asking for directions.

The pronunciation in Turkish is predictable in most cases, by which I mean that one letter corresponds to one sound, so spelling is helpful and not confusing, totally unlike English.
There are only a couple of letters with funny diacritics and whenever these appear, I’ve tried to help with a hint in square brackets.

  • Nerede? Where?

Lost at the crossroads? Instead of shouting out the name of the town you’re heading for you can make some extra effort and ask – Konya nerede?, Marmaris nerede?
You might be surprised to learn that these short questions, which look like some simplified version of the proper language, are actually well-formed and fully legitimate sentences – this is a proof of how simple Turkish language is.

There’s another question word which sounds almost the same – nereden – if a Turkish person asks you a question starting with this one, they probably want to know where you are from (what’s your nationality) or where you are cycling from (well, you’d be very unlucky if they meant something else).

  • Kaç? [katch] How many?

The Turkish word for a kilometre looks like and sounds just like in many other languages – it is written and pronounced kilometre [kilometre] (don’t eat the final ‘e’).
Now you can easily ask Mersin kaç kilometre? – it’s proper Turkish again and the only problem left is understanding the answer.

  • Sağa mı? [saa] Is it on the right? Should I/we go right? Should I/we turn right?

Another easy question – Samsun sağa mı? (Will I get to Samsun if I turn right?).
I know it is much easier to just point your finger in the right direction, so this one is meant for highly ambitious travellers.

  • Sola mı? Is it on the left? Should I/we go left? Should I/we turn left?

Again, if you are extremely ambitious or if you have just broken your both arms you can learn this one and use it instead of pointing your finger.

  • Hangi yol? Which way? Which road?

Obviously, it’s enough if you unfold the map – there is no need to say anything, because this question is printed on your forehead. But why not show off?
If you use it combined these two words with, for example, a town name to ask which road leads to a place, you will be understood, though it won’t be kosher Turkish; unfortunately this language is not as easy as the initial examples suggested.

Now, if you are cycling but wondering whether your destination or a turn is still in front of you or whether you have passed it without realising, here are two useful questions:

  • İleride mi? Is (it) ahead?

For example: Kayaköy ileride mi? (Is Kayaköy still in front of me?)

  • Geride mi? Have (we/I) passed it?

For example: Kayaköy ileride mi? (Have I already passed this *** village?)

After you have successfully established which direction to follow, you might want to know something about the way ahead:

  • Uzak mı? Is it far?

Obviously, it’s easy to understand the answer if someone shakes or nods their head; if they say something, and Turkish people usually choose to talk, what’s more, they like to talk a lot, then you won’t know if it’s far or not, but you’ll have an interesting communicative experience.

  • Zor mu? Is it difficult? Is it going to be a difficult ride?

Again, this question enables you to have a a bit of a chat, because let’s face the truth: even if they shake or nod their head, and you think you’ve understood the answer, it won’t be extremely useful, there’s no reason to trust the opinion of a person who usually drives a car or walks. The most reliable answers to this question are provided by cyclists or motorcyclists.

  • Yol nasıl? How is the way?

This one might seem to be even more useless than the previous one, unless the person you are speaking to is a natural born actor – then you will be able to see the winding road ahead of you, trees growing on both sides and a vertical uphill climb.

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