Once you feel like you got down the basics of a foreign language down (simple grammar, basic words), it’s time to move into conversation phase.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve increased the amount of (online) chatting in Turkish. The more I chat, the better I feel I can keep the conversation going without constantly looking up the meaning of different words. This is not surprising, considering the fact that the more you practice, the better you are at it.

How to find Turks to chat with

I use a site called LiveMocha. You can find variety of people speaking different languages who are also looking to learn other languages. You can filter for people who speak Turkish, and just start chatting with a simple “merhaba” and “nasilsin?”

How to keep a conversation flowing

Usually I start by telling people that I’m a beginner at Turkish and why I would like to learn. “Türkçe oğreniyorum, ama Türkçem iyi değil” (I’m learning Turkish, but my Turkish isn’t good)

I also explain why I’m learning Turkish, “Türkçe oğreniyorum cünkü bir gün Türkiye’yi gitmek istiyorum” (I’m learning Turkish because one day I want to go to Turkey)

Then I start talking about subjects I love (soccer/football) and asking if they like the same thing.  “Futboli seviyorum. Sen de futboli seviyor musun?İ A lot of Turks on LiveMocha seem to be from Istanbul, where the team Fenerbahçe has a strong influence. Since I’m a fan, we usually get a great conversation going about the team.

The most important thing is to keep coming up with new sentences, even if they’re wrong and barely understandable. You’ll usually get corrected, then you’ll learn.

How to say things you don’t know

Use Google Translate. In the beginning phase of chatting online in Turkish, I found myself obsessively looking up words on Google Translate. When I look up things, I don’t copy and paste the whole sentence. Instead, I look for keywords in a sentence and look them up. This way, you’ll actually have a better chance of remembering the word

If I want to say something I don’t know, I break it up into very simple ideas first. Then I try to use verbs and nouns that I know. If I really need a word that I don’t know, I look it up on Google Translate. The next time I need to use it, it’ll come right back to me because I’ve already used it once and it’s ingrained (albeit lightly) in my mind.

Just after about 5-6 conversations with different people, you’ll notice that you’ve more things to talk about in Turkish now, because you’ve already went through similar conversations. You’ll also find that you need Google Translate less and less.

Eventually, you want to move away from translators at all when you’re trying to write something. You can still look up words to find out what the other person is saying, but your own response should come from your head.

Keep a long term friend

You can also continue talking to your friend if you’ve had a great conversation or if you found the conversation to be really helpful in learning Turkish (ex. getting a lot corrections, learning new phrases). Consider asking for their MSN, Skype, Facebook, etc, so you can keep practicing your Turkish. Of the friends I made, I usually have really interesting discussions with them in Turkish every few days.

Remember why you wanted to learn the language in the first place.