Turkish is the official language of the Republic of Turkey, a that straddles the Asian and European continents. The Turkish language is quite different from English in grammar and lexicon, but the sounds of Turkish are not difficult for an English speaker to produce. The best way to learn any language is to travel to the country where the language is spoken, but there are ways you can get familiar with the language in your home country without paying a dime.

Go to www.digitaldialects.com/Turkish.htm for useful Turkish vocabulary and read about Turkish at www.turkishlanguage.co.uk/about.htm and www.turizm.net/turkey/info/lesson.html. Asuman Celen-Pollard and David Pollard, the authors of Teach Yourself Turkish (1997), give useful information about Turkey and Turkish at their website www.practicalturkish.com. Turkish is so different from English that it will be helpful to spend time familiarizing yourself with some words and grammar, as well as the overall structure of the language.

Check your library for Turkish language learning materials and CDs or find out if these are available from inter-library loan. In general, it is best to avoid materials published by the Turkish Ministry of Education because the English in them is often poor and hard to understand, they do not contain much useful everyday vocabulary and the dialogues are stilted and unrealistic.

Make yourself flash cards with the vocabulary and sentences you have gathered. Cut a sheet of paper into eight or 10 cards and then write the English on one side and Turkish on the other. Work on memorizing 20 to 25 cards at a time. Say the Turkish words out loud to yourself, and be sure to learn the cards both ways--English to Turkish and Turkish to English.

Look for Turkish speakers in your area. Major cities usually have large Turkish populations. Universities often have Turkish international students, and Turkish officers sometimes teach at or attend military academies. Check the phone book for Turkish and Middle Eastern associations or Muslim religious organizations. Middle Eastern stores and restaurants sometimes employ Turks or might be owned by Turkish people. Ask if you can post notices seeking a Turkish teacher in these places.

Find a Turkish speaker to help you learn Turkish. It is not always necessary to pay for private lessons. University students might be interested in exchanging Turkish lessons for English conversation or homework help, or you could trade time for some other service like babysitting or yard work.

Bring the materials you have gathered to talk about in your Turkish sessions. Listen to how the words are pronounced and practice short dialogues to hear the stress and intonation of Turkish. Ask your Turkish partner to correct you when you make mistakes.

Spend time with Turkish people if you can. Listen to and try to participate in conversations, and make sure they all know you're trying to learn Turkish. Turks are proud of their language, culture and heritage, and most people will appreciate your effort to learn to learn about Turkey and their language.

Be sure to learn some polite expressions if you plan to travel to Turkey. You'll find your interactions go much more smoothly with simple greetings and good wishes. "Merhaba" (mehr-ha-ba) means "hello," "Nasılsınız?" (na-sul-sun-uz) means "How are you?," and "teşekkürler" (teh-sheh-kewr-lehr) means "thank you."