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03

Sep 03, 2013 By Tags:, ,

Five Barriers to Break Through Online Lessons

online-lessons

Welcome to our guest article for TeachingEnglishOnline where we discuss the benefits of online lessons.

We (TurksLearnEnglish.com) launched a site dedicated to conversation classes for Turkish speakers in May 2013. So far, we’ve found that the online experience can actually be more powerful than the in-person traditional English lesson. For any students considering whether to try online English lessons, we present to you five barriers that are removed when learning online:

1:              Kill the commute: As urbanization grows across the world, the commutes in many of the world’s largest cities can be hellish. Many students learning English as a second language are also young professionals working long hours. If a young professional leaves work at 6:00 pm they may not arrive to a centrally located language school until 7:30pm. Three hours of class later and they are lucky to arrive home by midnight. This cycle is not sustainable. Taking online lessons in large cities removes hours of unnecessary travel time. In rural or remote areas, this may be your best chance to access professional, well run classes.

2:              Focus on conversation: Most adult students do not need another grammar lesson; they need communication confidence. As any online teacher knows, the virtual world is a great platform for developing language communication ability.  When a student pops on their headphones, they are able to focus with concentration that is rarely seen in a physical classroom. Better yet, the online classroom does not inhibit students in the way that a traditional classroom does. Fewer students and the webcam somehow boost a student’s willingness to take risks and make the mistakes every learner needs to advance in a language.

3:              Between classes: Video self-study lessons for outside of classroom reading and listening are extremely powerful. These video lessons can enrich your students’ experience and provide them with an additional way of connecting with you as a teacher. At TurksLearnEnglish.com we’ve created a series of videos called İngilizce Dersleri where we read current event articles related to Turkey and introduce new vocabulary. So far they are a big hit with our students.

4:              Location flexibility: Students likely travel. If they are working in a competitive field, sometimes they’ll have to travel without much notice. Even if they don’t travel, they often have to stay late at work and do not have time to get away to an 8pm class. Online lessons give students the ability to stay up to speed with their lessons even if they need to skip town for a week or work late.

5:              Additional tools: There are many things that can be done online that cannot be replicated in the real classroom. Running games and quizzes using pre-developed lesson plans and screen sharing is more natural online and can be great for motivation. Using the chat function to help students while conversing is also a great tool. Recording lessons can also be powerful. We’ve found that many of our students like to go back to lessons they found challenging and review them.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story on online lessons. We would love to hear your thoughts!

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with them through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.

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01

Sep 01, 2013 By Tags:, ,

Adventures in Online ELT for Turks (part 2)

online-ELT-for-Turks

Merhaba, and welcome to the second part of our two-part guest article for ELT Jam. Here we give our readers, students and prospective students some insight into why we started TurksLearnEnglish to address online ELT for Turks.

Brief introduction to the Turkish online market

Before we describe our product (which is focused on online ELT for Turks), we should probably mention a couple points about the booming online market in Turkey. I will borrow some phenomenally interesting statistics from the co-founder of Markafoni, Sina Afra, which he wrote in his well-crafted article that you can find here:

  • Turkey has a large and young population of 80M people, with 36M Internet users (fifth biggest internet population in Europe)
  • Turkish Internet users have the third highest engagement in Europe (measured by average time spent online)
  • Turkey is country No.5 for Facebook and No. 8 for Twitter
  • Credit card penetration is approximately 60% (compared to a European average of 50%)
  • It is estimated that 6M to 9M o the 36M Internet users in Turkey have spent money online (an e-commerce penetration rate of between 17% and 25%) – in Germany and the UK the rate is closer to 60% meaning there is still huge potential for growth

Why focus solely on online ELT for Turks?

Several people have asked me this exact question to date. If you believe in your product, why limit it to Turkey? As we’ve already pointed out, the English language presents particular challenges to a native Turkish speaker. It makes sense for Turks to learn English online in a classroom with multiple Turkish students, rather than in a cross-cultural setting that you may find in a global online ELT service such as Live Mocha. Turks have a very strong sense of identity. Since motivation is a deciding factor in every education undertaking, a knowledge and appreciation of Turkish culture, and understanding what Turks find interesting, is all-important. We understood that our role was to provide good teaching and uplift motivation, within the bounds of a Turk’s experience, understanding and expectation.

With this in mind, we decided to launch TurksLearnEnglish.com, a site dedicated to providing communication confidence to unlock the dormant language resource that many Turks possess. We offer conversation classes for up to 6 adults at a time and staff our classes exclusively with native English speakers who have experience teaching in Turkey. We launched in May 2013 and have been learning ever since. As a supplement we have launched our İngilizce Dersleri series (video self study exercises) and our Türklere İngilizce series (language lessons that target areas of English that many of our Turkish students have problems with) for free.

Our concept: tap a dormant resource

Most of James’ adult Turkish students possessed something we defined as a “dormant resource”. Years of English classes at various points in their life meant that a strong knowledge base existed; yet, they still did not have the confidence to speak.  Our aim was to tap this dormant resource and address four main barriers to Turks not learning to speak effectively through the status quo private language institute experience:

1:              Kill the commute: The commutes in Turkey’s largest cities (Istanbul, Ankara) can be hellish and working hours are relatively long. If a young professional leaves work at 6:00 pm they may not arrive to a centrally located language school until 7:30pm. Three hours of class later and they are lucky to arrive home by midnight. This cycle is not sustainable. Offering online classes in a city like Istanbul, removes hours of unnecessary travel time.

2:              Focus on conversation: Most adult students in Turkey do not need another grammar lesson. They need to speak. As any online teacher knows, the virtual world is a great platform for developing language communication ability.  When a student pops on their headphones, they are able to focus with concentration that is rarely seen in a physical classroom. Better yet, the online classroom does not inhibit students in the way that a traditional classroom does. Fewer students and the webcam somehow boost a student’s willingness to take risks and make the mistakes every learner needs to advance in a language.

3:              Leverage Turkish themes: Turkish culture is strong. It’s very difficult for a Turkish student to relate to a grammar curriculum with subject matter based on Western themes. We’ve developed a curriculum (for both our conversation classes and our İngilizce Dersleri series) that is almost entirely based around Turkish themes. We try to use current events, history, culture, food, movies and other popular entertainment as much as possible.

4:              Keep it Turkish: Although we agree that complete immersion is best practice for developing language ability, we find there are benefits of having students from a common linguistic background. When we started researching our competition (global online ELT start-ups), we were very much impressed. But we did notice that having students in one classroom connected online from all over the world seemed bit disorganized and inefficient. So far we’ve seen our students correcting each other and learning from their mistakes. This happens a bit less in a multi-linguistic setting.

So there you have our manifesto. Despite the numerous challenges, successes, re-designs, re-re-designs and countless late nights since our launch, we believe we are on to something. It’s too early for a “lessons learned” story but we will be sure to update you once we celebrate our first anniversary!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story. We would love to hear your thoughts!

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with them through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.

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30

Aug 30, 2013 By Tags:

Adventure in online ELT for Turks (part 1)

Mosque, istanbul, sketch

Merhaba, and welcome to the first of our two-part guest article for ELT Jam. Here we give our readers, students and prospective students some insight into why we started TurksLearnEnglish.

Like most new ventures we began with lengthy and impassioned exchanges about inefficient user experiences, how technology could break down barriers, our general appetite for disruption, naive optimism and enthusiasm for bringing change. Conversations over beers produced A3 sheets covered in a multitude of diagrams, and eventually something that looked like our first product mock-ups. James (co-founder) had spent years teaching English as a second language in Turkey in a variety of settings; high-end private schools, everyday language institutes and private lessons. James was often struck with what he thought was an inefficient system. I was a recovering finance professional who may have read one too many Paul Graham articles and was looking for an entrepreneurial challenge.  Both located in Istanbul, we came together and built a product for the Turkish market.

Online ELT for Turks: background on the Turkish ELT arena

English proficiency in Turkey is low but improving drastically. In 2007 Education First ran its inaugural English Proficiency Index, at which time Turkey ranked 43rd out of 55 countries (behind Syria, Saudi Arabia and Russia). In 2012, Turkey ranked 32nd. This jump illustrates the push for English fluency in Turkey both at a policy level and within households and companies. With Turkey’s continued emergence as a regional business, tourism and cultural hub – and the very real chance that Istanbul may be awarded the 2020 Olympics this September – the push continues to gain impetus.

From a general linguistic perspective, Turkish is a wildly different language to English. Turkish is agglutinative. For example, suffices are added to a word stem to add person, tense, negation, etc. The English phrase He will not have to eat can be expressed in Turkish as a single word, with eat as the root. The order of words in a phrase is generally very different in Turkish and English. As such, Turkish native speakers are starting at a linguistically challenging position when learning English, compared to students whose mother tongue is a Romance language.

The quality of public English language schooling in Turkey varies significantly. All students take a minimum four years of English language classes beginning in the fourth grade. Yet, depending on the quality of the school being attended, the results are extremely divergent. Most Turks have taken English classes and possess grammar knowledge of English, yet spoken English remains a challenge.

Finally, the Turkish education system is test based. There are qualification tests for just about everything in Turkey. Many universities and Human Resource departments require a grade threshold on an internationally recognized exam such as IELTS or TOEFL. A good score on any recognized exam will always be positive on a candidate’s resume at almost any level, from entry-level positions to the executive leadership.

Turkey’s favourite pastime: learning English!

With these market dynamics (push towards English proficiency, significant linguistic challenges, inconsistent quality of public education, test based education / employment system) it’s no surprise that the private language institute industry in Turkey is extremely robust. There are literally hundreds of companies with multiple locations across the country offering everything from IELTS preparation to Business English and interview skill preparation.

The quality of language institutes in Turkey varies greatly. It’s a rather disorganized market. If you walk down Istiklal Caddesi (one of the main pedestrian drags in central Istanbul) on any day you may receive flyers for five or six different institutes. Almost every institute offers, well, everything. Teachers range from quality lifelong teaching professionals to very inexperienced ESL teachers on a GAP year, and everything between. Some are native speakers, some aren’t. Some teach full time, some don’t.

The outcomes for students attending private language institutes are naturally diverse. Classes are focused on grammar and may contain up to 20 pupils; there is little opportunity to speak. Most adults attend classes after work and in the larger cities of Turkey traffic is a nightmare. By the time students commute from work to the classroom to attend a three-hour grammar class, both motivation and energy can be shot. It’s unsurprising that many Turks drop out before completing their 6 to 12 week course.

If a student fails to complete the course, there is naturally a sense of embarrassment. Similar to many Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, Turks have a strong sense of “face”. After experiencing embarrassment (losing face) they may tend to avoid the situation rather than confront it. The loss of face that can happen when a student drops out of a course can be disastrous. The student is often too embarrassed to even discuss the situation with parents, spouse, co-workers and friends. Success in English might feel out of reach and the idea of attending another English course becomes unlikely.

Inefficient market? Is this really an opportunity?

You can now picture our nightly drawn-out conversations focused on improving a weak student / user experience. From my perspective I saw a large, growing, unconsolidated market with lots of undifferentiated competitors. James was an eyewitness to a student experience that wasn’t producing encouraging results. Our idea was simple: the goal of almost any adult student over the age of 25 was to be able to speak English effectively. We decided to build a product to address that need and that need alone. We like to think of it as online ELT for Turks. Simple, yet effective.

Stay tuned for part 2 …

James and Kris are co-founders of TurksLearnEnglish, a site dedicated to getting Turkish speakers to build communication confidence. For any online educators out there, feel free to take a look at and use our online-self study videos in our İngilizce Dersleri library. You can get in touch with the founders through the contact form on our site or email info@turkslearnenglish.com.

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28

Aug 28, 2013 By Tags:

Bir Hafta Sınırsız Ders Paketi $20

mediteranean-sunset

We hope that you have had an enjoyable summer break!

As the summer comes to an end and we all head home, now’s a great time to focus again on improvement and learning.

In order to welcome the fall, TurksLearnEnglish.com is offering a special for all new students: “Bir Hafta Sınırsız Ders Paketi $20”. We have designed this program for Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate and Advanced learners who want to take a serious step in improving their English quickly. Perhaps you need to strengthen your English for work? Perhaps you need to achieve a higher IELTS band? Perhaps you want to re-strengthen your dormant English? We are here to help.

Bir Hafta Sınırsız Ders Paketi $20:

  • You can attend unlimited conversation classes for one week – we offer classes 4 evenings per week and during the afternoon and evening on weekends; click here to see the timetable
  • At the end of the week we will provide you with a personalized assessment, explaining your strengths and weaknesses and our recommendations moving forward
  • You will have plenty of one-on-one attention as our classes are small
  • We tailor the focus of our classes to your needs (IELTS, Business English, etc.)
  • You get access to our full library of online video learning activities

And of course, the TurksLearnEnglish.com quality commitment:

  • Native English teachers with experience teaching in Turkey
  • Small class sizes (maximum of four students per class)
  • Personalized attention to ensure you meet your goals

How do I sign up? It’s easy:

  • Create your account here, we only ask for basic information and it takes less than 5 minutes to set up
  • Once you are set up, navigate to the “DERS ALMAK”
  • Select “Adult Class Credits” then “YENİ ÖĞRENCİLER! 1 HAFTA SINIRZIZ İNGİLİZCE PAKETİ”, enter your payment details, and you are ready
  • Now sign up for as many lessons as you want for one week; our teachers will be here to guide you on your journey

Any questions? Send us an email through our contact form here, we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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08

Aug 08, 2013 By Tags:,

Amazing shots of Istanbul urban growth

istanbul-urban-growth

Like many of our students, TurksLearnEnglish.com is based in Istanbul. As residents of Istanbul, sometimes we feel like the city is growing before our eyes. Below is a collection of amazing shots documenting Istanbul urban growth. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did!

Istanbul Urban Growth: Population density in Istanbul – 1300, 1950 and 2008

istanbul-urban-growth

(Tepav 2011)

The figure above, in which the black dots represent the urban population density, reveals that in the twelfth century, the population centered around Sultanahmet and that the density did not increase significantly for 650 years. By 2008 the city has grown monstrously. Istanbul is the fastest growing city among all OECD metropolises in the period after the 1990s.

Istanbul Urban Area: 1950 to 2010

istanbul-urban-growth

(New Geography, 2012)

In the picture above, we can see the immense growth that has taken place in Istanbul over the last 60 years. The red line shows the urban population boundaries in 1950, centered around the golden horn and the lower Bosphorus. The green line shows the extent of Istanbul urban development by 2010. Below are some population statistics (notice the immense rate of growth post 1980):

cox-istanbul-2

(New Geography, 2012)

 

istanbul-urban-growth

(New Geography, 2012)

Istanbul Urban Growth: Satellite Images from Above

istanbul-urban-growth

istanbul-urban-growth

(The Atlantic Cities, 2013)

NASA’s Landsat satellite system has been orbiting and taking pictures of the earth since 1972. To celebrate its 40th birthday, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have released a set of images showing how 11 world cities have changed over that time, click here to take a look at the complete set. In the Istanbul shots above, red is vegetation, gray is urban and water appears black. The density change in Istanbul is striking.

istanbul-satelite

(the Atlantic, 2011)

Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities with a population of 15 million spread out over 700 square miles of land. The Turkish city has been growing and spreading rapidly over the past few decades. The city has tripled in area over the last 35 years. In this false color satellite image taken by the German space agency, the DLR, the yellow areas reflect human buildings.

Are you a resident of Istanbul? What do you think of Istanbul’s urban growth and projections for the future? Let us know!

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24

İngilizce Türkiye’de: Gram Istanbul

gram-istanbul-beyoglu

Welcome to the sixth post in our İngilizce Türkiye’de series. Today we would like to highlight a newly opened casual lunch cafe and bakery in Beyoğlu, Gram Istanbul

In our İngilizce Türkiye’de series we highlight establishments across Turkey that offer great service and command of the English language. On a recent trip that TurksLearnEnglish.com made to Gram, we were impressed with the quality of the food, the service and servers’ ability to converse in English. The explanations of the food, ingredients and preparation style that we received in the English language, were commendable.

Gram is a small bakery and cafe in the heart of Beyoğlu, opened by chef, Didem Şenol. Didem is now famous in the Istanbul culinary scene due to her wildly successful Karakoy restaurant, Lokanta Maya. Lokanta Maya focuses on Turkish classics with a modern twist, prepared with seasonal fresh ingredients.

Gram Istanbul is effectively the lunch cafe version of Lokanta Maya. Everyday five to eight hot dishes and a selection of salads are prepared. The focus is on Turkish cuisine with some interesting takes on the classics. Like many classic Turkish büfe in Beyoğlu, servings are cafeteria style and priced based on the number of selections you make. Prices are reasonable but expect to pay more than your standard Istiklal lunch fare. There is also a bakery that prepares some of the best desserts and assorted baked goods we have ever eaten in Istanbul. Lunch is served from 12 to 3 pm daily with the bakery opened until 6pm.

gram-istanbul-ingilizce-turkiye'de

On our last visit, we were particularly impressed with the quality of the service delivered in English.

For this week’s vocabulary lesson we would like to go over classic Turkish ingredients often featured on Gram’s menu:

  • pazı … swiss chard
  • kabak … pumpkin
  • ıspanak … spinash
  • havuç … carrot
  • patlıcan …. eggplant
  • pancar … beetroot
  • bezelye …. pease
  • enginar … artichoke

We hope you enjoyed both our review of Gram Istanbul and our vocabulary lesson! As always, if you know of any restaurants, cultural institutions or attractions across Turkey that should be commended for the quality of their English, be sure to let us know!

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20

İngilizce Türkiye’de: Kydonia

Welcome to the fifth post in our İngilizce Türkiye’de series. Today we would like to highlight a newly opened Bosphorus balık lokantası,  located in Kuruçeşme, Kydonia.

kydonia-istanbul-restaurant

In our İngilizce Türkiye’de series we highlight establishments across Turkey that offer great service and command of the English language. On a recent trip that TurksLearnEnglish.com made to Kydonia, we were thoroughly impressed with the views, the food and the service.

Kydonia is an Agean fish restaurant specializing in mezze dishes and cooking styles from the island of Crete. The restaurant originally opened in the port of Alacatı. The Istanbul location (which we visited) opened last November. The setting is truly spectacular with a commanding view of the Bosphorus including the Kuleli Military High School, the first military high school (lisesi) in Turkey, founded in 1845 by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid I. Needless to say, the beautiful building makes a lovely backdrop at night when it’s lit up in multicolor LED effects. The defining feature of Kydonia is that the entire restaurant becomes an open air terrace in the warmer months, as the roof is completely retractable.

kydonia-istanbul-view

On our visit, the dishes were all extremely tasty and fresh, but the highlights were the cold mezes including grilled artichoke hearts, girit ezme, stuffed zuchini flowers and fried Greek cheese. The hot appetizers that followed were also very well prepared, including grilled octopus and fish kokorec (similar to the lamb version but prepared with a hard white fish instead). The wine list is impressive and the service is impeccable. Our server knew the English translation of every meze in the restaurant, and there were over 30 on display that evening! Kydonia is not a cheap night out, but it’s reasonably priced considering the quality of the ingredients, the inventiveness of the dishes and the view and setting of the restaurant.

Here are some Turkish to English translations of some of our favorite dishes at Kydonia:

  • Izgara Lorlu Börek … white cheese rolled in pastry and grilled
  • Sıcak Yatırma Peyniri … fried white cheese
  • Izgara Ahtapot … grilled octopus
  • Cevizli Kalamar Dolma … stuffed squid (with nuts and meat)
  • Ahtapot Yahni … octupus stew

As always, if you know of any establishments that we should highlight in our İngilizce Türkiye’de series please do let us know!

 

 

 

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17

İngilizce Türkiye’de: Muze de Changa

muze-da-changaWelcome to the fourth post in our İngilizce Türkiye’de series. Today we would like to highlight a wonderful cafe / restaurant located in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, Muze de Changa.

In our İngilizce Türkiye’de series we highlight establishments across Turkey that offer great service and command of the English language. On a recent trip that TurksLearnEnglish.com made to the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, we decided to stop in to Muze de Changa for breakfast. We were very impressed with the quality of the food, the setting and the wonderful service we received in English.

Muze de Changa is a well established Istanbul restaurant that opened its doors back in 2005. The restaurant is located in the Emirgan district. The restaurant is housed on the top floor of the Sakıp Sabancı Museum, overlooking the property’s beautiful gardens and the Bosphorus. The restaurant is well known for its high end dinner menu. On our last visit we discovered that the restaurant makes a wonderful breakfast on weekends. The breakfast service is largely unadvertised on its website, yet is extremely popular with locals.

sabanci-museum-istanbul

If you have ever wanted to visit the restaurant but are put off by the expensive prices for dinner, we certainly suggest visiting for breakfast. Prices are reasonable and the restaurant prepares wonderful twists on the classic Turkish kahvalti. Delicious börek with non-traditional ingredients, tasty menemen and a wide selection of traditional Turkish breads were a highlight. The kahvalti menu is short but it delivers enough choice to keep all your diners happy.

Combining a visit to the museum with a meal at the restaurant, and perhaps a walk to Emirgan park (which is located just a five minute walk up the Bosphorus), makes a perfect day out. For any visitor to Istanbul, the upper Bosphorus location of the restaurant is also a fabulous and often-skipped district. Be sure to call the restaurant ahead and a book a table on the terrace, which can be a bit crowded on the weekends, with many visitors celebrating birthdays or other special occasions.

For our Muze de Changa review, here is a small amount of vocabulary about museum collections:

  • Kitap Sanatları ve Hat Koleksiyonu   Callıgraphy collectıon
  • Resım koleksiyonu   Paıntıngs
  • Arkeolojık ve taş koleksionu   Archeological collectıon
  • Mobilya ve dekoratif koleksionu   Furnıture and decorative arts
  • Yeni alımlar   Recent acquisitions

As always, if you know of any establishments that we should highlight in our İngilizce Türkiye’de series please do let us know!

 

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