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Top Four Ways to Practice Speaking English in Istanbul

Our Turkish students often complain that outside class, travel and work, they do not have enough opportunities to speak English.

For our students who want to practice speaking English, it does not help that the native English speaking population in Istanbul is quite spread out. Although there is a concentration of expats in Cihangir and Nişantaşı, the community is thinly spread across a vast area on both the European and Asian sides of the city.

For expats, this thin concentration can be the exact reason why moving to Istanbul is attractive – its easy to access that authentic foreign experience they search for. But for Turks looking to practice their everyday English with native speakers, opportunities might seem few and far between. For this reason we’ve assembled a list of great, and largely free, opportunities for Turks to practice their English right here in Istanbul – and hopefully have fun and make friends in the process too!

#4 – Offer a conversational practice exchange

Many expats in Istanbul are trying to learn Turkish. A great way of practicing your English is to offer an exchange. Find an expat you get along with, and meet up for çay once a week to practice speaking with each other. If you need inspiration for conversation, this can be achieved as easily as bringing along a local newspaper or magazine and discussing articles. There are a number of ways to find your co-student – to start you can try expat forums such as Expat Blog, Expat Forum or Merhaba Forums.

#3 – Join an expat club or meet-up group

There are a number of active expat organizations in Istanbul that organize meet-ups such as the very global InterNations. Signing up is easy, and they typically have multiple events per month. InterNations is certainly not exclusively for expats, and is a great forum for personal and professional networking.

#2 – Join an expat sports group

Not only is it a great way get fit and get outside – but joining a running group such as the Hash House Harriers is a great way to practice your English with like-minded athletes. The Hash House Harriers typically have some form of a social event (brunch or drinks) after runs. Most of these clubs have different levels of practice so don’t be intimidated if you didn’t have the opportunity to keep fit over the winter.

#1 – Attend a professional event / join a professional organization

Depending on your chosen profession, there may be a great opportunity to combine networking in your field with practicing your English. At a recent CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) event we noticed that there were several expats in attendance eager to chat with locals who could speak English. Of course, this depends on your field, and its level of expat participation – but it’s certainly worth looking into.

If joining an organization seems daunting, why not attend one event first? Most professional organizations allow participation by non-members if you send an email requesting permission. The best part? The English topics you will discuss are in line with the topics you want to practice for professional purposes.

Other ideas:

  • Yoga studios in Cihangir, Etilier and Nişantaşı are full of expats and visitors. Why not ask someone for a post-workout coffee?
  • Istanbul is quickly becoming a destination for international artists – galleries, openings, film festivals, concerts and more tend to be well attended by by expats
  • Expat theater
  • Check out the very informative Yabangee Blog for a full calendar of expat oriented events in Istanbul

Let us know your thoughts and if you have any ideas!




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