Can you introduce yourself briefly and tell us a little about your background?
My name is Hale which means ‘halo’ in English. I grew up in Istanbul, but both of my parents are from Urfa which is a city located in the southeast of Anatolia. I can say that I am from both cities.
I completed my BA in Turkic Languages and Literature at Istanbul University and Following that, I had an opportunity to participate in the EVS (European Voluntary Service) program for vulnerable children in Bucharest, Romania where through games and art we aimed for cultural enrichment and better social inclusion for groups of Roma, disabled and leukemia patient minors. While in the program, I was offered the opportunity to also teach Turkish to the children. Holding teaching in very high regard, and not seeing myself as a teacher yet, I reluctantly taught a couple of workshops with surprising success. Upon returning to Turkey, I got involved in the SPI (Small Projects in Istanbul) project. SPI supports Syrian refugees in Istanbul, and I was a part of its childcare team. This time, when I was asked to teach Turkish, I took up the responsibility, and I immediately knew that I had found my calling. I realized that teaching does not require me to be perfect and that I can go on improving alongside my pupils. One of the defining moments was when an Arab girl wrote on the board “I love you” in Turkish, only from right to left, as if it were an Arabic text, declaring she wrote it for me. I was touched and, for the first time, thought about becoming a teacher.
Since then, I have acquired the “Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language” certification and the “Pedagogical Education Program Certificate” from Marmara University thus deepening my command of teaching methods and techniques. While studying for the above certifications, I was employed in two institutions. In the afternoons, I taught Turkish communicatively in Bab’ul Ilm Turkish Language Course, whereas in the mornings I taught at Gaziosmanpasa Public Education Center. In the latter, I came across different age groups of refugee children (6 to 12), as well as adults. As books were not provided, I prepared custom material based on the developmental stage and individual needs. In 2018, I was accepted into the Department of Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language master program at Hacettepe University. During my master's studies, I incorporated my newfound theoretical knowledge into my teaching at TAC Kizilay Language Course giving private and group lessons to A1-B2 level students.
For my thesis, I decided to study Humor Acquisition in Second Language. This subject introduced me to the relationship between humor and culture and their importance in learning. During my thesis studies, I started to work in Akdem Istanbul Language Schools as a Turkish teacher and in Collegio Turco in online teaching settings.
Since day one on the field, my motto has been: “Homines dum docent, discunt” as Seneca says in Epistula Morales (7/8). That means “Even they teach, men learn”. I believe that all teachers need an endless desire for learning. Also, we teachers learn while we teach. This has not changed for me; I am still learning every day.
How many sections of Turkish are you teaching and how many students do you have? Why should students learn Turkish?
Here at IU, we have three levels in the Turkish program. For the introductory class, we have 10 students, for the intermediate, we have 4 and for the advance, we have 3 students. As an assistant to Dr. Crum, I am responsible for teaching Turkish culture, organizing tutoring and conversation hours, and preparing quizzes and activities to engage students in the classroom. Students mostly learn the language for academic reasons and also, and we have some heritage learners. Besides Turkish is a promising language that may open new doors to Uralic-Altaic languages since it has lots of loanwords from Indo-European languages but has a different linguistic feature that is similar to Korean and Japanese.
What classes are you taking here at IU?
I am taking two classes here at IU; one is Second Language Acquisition and the other one is Teaching Less Commonly Taught Languages. Next semester, I am planning to take classes about narrative and American culture.
Is this your first time visiting the United States?
Yes, I have never been to the US before but also it is my first experience in university-level language teaching. So far, I gained lots of insights from the program with the guidance of my supervisor.
Is there anything you miss from Turkey that you have not been able to find here?
I can enjoy spending time wherever I am, but Istanbul is the city where I have lots of beautiful memories. It may sound so specific, but I would like to walk through Istiklal Avenue, sit on the terrace of the historical confectioner and wait for the sunset while having my favorite berry milk pudding and of course, Turkish tea.
What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
As my interest, I have improved myself in creative writing and attended varied workshops. I have been writing short stories since I was 15. Some of my stories have been published and some have been awarded. I tried different writing techniques with the inspiration of the Oulipo Literature Movement from France. I use some of these stylistic techniques in the classes to improve my student’s writing skills and creative thinking in the target language. My dream for further studies is to develop these techniques under pragmatic theory and combine stylistics and corpus linguistics in the second language teaching context during my Ph.D.
One of my other interests is Turkish classical music and currently, I am learning to play the oud. My favorite oud players are Yurdal Tokcan and Zeynel Demirtas. Besides, I am interested in SLR photography. I take photographs to capture the daily life situations of people in the streets and also to discover the unseen natural beauties around us.
Lastly, I am not sure if it counts but I love learning languages! Currently, I am struggling with German. My goal is to be able to read Herman Hesse’s Demian in the original language one day.
Is there anything you’d like the readers to know about Turkey?
I always tell my students that at the end of their journey with Turkish, beautiful literary texts are waiting for them. I enjoy reading Turkish literature, I am sure it would be delightful to read for everyone even if they are translated. The readers may find some Turkish authors’ works in English such as Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, Sait Faik, and Sabahattin Ali who are my favorites as well. Besides, since I am interested in photography, I would suggest them to search for Ara Guler’s photographs to experience the real spirit of Istanbul. He captures the city without hiding anything.
Do you think learning Turkish is difficult for an English speaker?
I do not think Turkish is a hard language to learn, it has so strict rules and comparatively fewer exceptions which are good features for a secondary language, however, some rules might be unusual for English speakers such as vowel harmony, word order, and agglutinative morpheme structure.
Do you have any advice for learning languages from your own experience?
As a language instructor and learner at the same time, I would suggest they get a sense of the language. I am a grammar nerd, but I always try to hold back myself and observe the language through reading and listening practices to understand how it works. In this way, they will be able to be comfortable with the language and provide the permanence of learning.
What is a fun or interesting phrase in Turkish that more people should know?
For me, the funny one is undoubtedly the longest word in Turkish which has 70 letters: muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine . It is derived from a loanword from Arabic which means ‘success’ and the whole word means ‘As though you are from those whom we may not be able to easily make into a maker of unsuccessful ones.’ It seems like my cat walked through the keyboard! I like this word to show how fascinating the morphological structure of Turkish is.