1st International Symposium of Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language

by İsmail Güleç (Volume editor) Bekir Ince (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 228 Pages


This book consists of papers presented at the 1st International Symposium of Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language. The Symposium was held at Het Pand Culture and Congress Center of Ghent University in April 2015. It was presented by the Sakarya University Institute of Education Sciences and the Belgium Turkish Associations with the support of the Turkish Language Association and the Yunus Emre Institute.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • From the Editor
  • Scientific Advisory Board
  • Contents
  • A Study of Syrian Students’ Comments on Turkish as a Foreign Language
  • Overcoming Lexical Difficulties For Learners Learning Turkish As A Foreign Language
  • The Bilingualism of Turkish Families Living in France and The Construction of Identity
  • Evaluation of Methods of Reading in the Books for Teaching Turkish to Foreigners
  • Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language in Turkey from the Viewpoints of PhD Students
  • Building Teacher Identity and Enhancing Multi-Cultural Interaction Through Peer-Helping in Turkish as a Foreign Language Classrooms
  • The Language Needs Analysis of Turkish Learners in Kazakhstan: An Example of International Hoca Ahmet Turkish-Kazakh University
  • The Current Situation of Turkish Teaching in Belgium and The Problems Detected
  • A Study on Word Frequency for Teaching Turkish As Foreign Language
  • On The Convenience of Reading Texts in Course Books of Turkish As a Foreign Language to the Level
  • The Effect of Estimation Strategy on Listening Comprehension in Turkish Education for Foreigners
  • The Relationship of Students with Turkish Origin with Turkish Spoken in Turkey
  • Developing Productive Skills with the Motivation of Intercultural Competence
  • A Study on Teaching Turkish As a Second / Foreign Language and Strategy Training in Developing Reading Comprehension Skills
  • An Evaluation on How the Reported Past Tense is Dealt with in Turkish Grammar Books and Coursebooks Used in Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language
  • Viewpoints of Foreign Students on Turkey and Turkish Culture: A Sample from Sakarya University
  • Comparison of Listening and Speaking Skills of Foreign Students Learning Turkish Abroad and in Turkey
  • Tendency of Turkish and French Bilingual Children on Watching Television
  • The Analysis of Reading Passages in Terms of Skimming and Scanning Strategies: “Yeni Hitit 2, Course Book for Foreigners”

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Ersin GÜLAY* & Suat UNGAN**

A Study of Syrian Students’ Comments on Turkish as a Foreign Language

Abstract Since the start of the Civil War in Syria in 2011, many Syrians fled to Turkey as refugees. The Prime Ministry of the Republic of Turkey welcomed them and granted university-aged and successful refugees the opportunity to study the Turkish language at Turkish universities. This study seeks to discern what the Syrian students, who have to live in Turkey, think about the Turkish language they try to learn as a foreign language. Within the scope of the study, the “Foreign Language Anxiety Scale” developed by Doğan (2008) has been applied at first in order to measure the anxiety level towards the Turkish language of the Syrian students, who learned Turkish at the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University during the 2014–2015 academic year. In addition, personal information forms and semi-structured interview forms have been applied and qualitative data has been obtained. A need for a focused group discussion was felt after analyzing the interview forms. Descriptive and statistical methods and content analysis techniques have been used to analyze the data. The result showed that the students’ anxiety level towards learning a foreign language was of a medium level. The students learn Turkish as an outcome of their current condition. During this period they struggle mostly with communication and writing skills.

Keywords: Syrian students, Learning Turkish, Foreign Language Anxiety.

1. Introduction

The teaching of the Turkish language to foreigners is accepted as dating back to the 11th century when Mahmud al-Kashgari wrote Divan-i Lugati’t-Turk. This process started with the aim of teaching the Arabs Turkish and today, though because of different reasons, it aims again to teach the Arabs Turkish. Since the beginning of the internal disorder in March 2011, a steadily increasing number of citizens from the Syrian Arab Republic (Syrians) arrive in Turkey as refugees. The continuously increasing number of refugees caused some social and economical problems to occur.

Thus, the fact that the situation in Syria doesn’t seem to change in a positive way, and the idea of returning home slowly fades away in the minds of the Syrians, makes ← 11 | 12 → it important to have them socially harmonized and improved. For many reasons, the rising interaction in the world of nations with each other couldn’t be sufficiently done by using their own language; and this made it necessary for the nations to learn each other’s languages. The need to learn the language of another country is also based on the political, economic, commercial and cultural relations that a country has (Ungan, 2006: 223). Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmuş said that now that we are observing the fourth year of the Civil War in Syria, the refugees can no longer be seen here in Turkey only for a temporary time, but that their staying here has to be understood as permanent. Thus, Turkey has to start to develop new politics towards the matter (Trans. Kap, 2014).

Since education should contribute to preventing social problems, it must be seen as the most important theme. With education, the cohesion problem can be overcome and a generation who will support the social and economic life will be produced. Therefore, education is the most important tool to turn the crises caused by Syrian refugees into an opportunity. So Syrians who have a High School Diploma or who studied at a university in Syria are given the opportunity to study in Turkey for free, and without taking an exam. In order to make use of this opportunity they only have to obtain a certificate of competence in the Turkish language from the courses Turkish learning centers offer. Beside this, the Presidency for Turks Abroad gives a certain number of young Syrians the chance to study at certain universities, to find accommodation at public dormitories and to receive a monthly-paid scholarship (ORSAM, 015: 35).

The real aim of teaching a foreign language is to try to explain every aspect of the target language and to achieve fluency. When we take the relation between language and culture into account, it becomes more important to introduce the culture of the target language to the learners because this would contribute to their living together in harmony. When we accept learning a language as living the same way as its native speakers, we can better see the importance of language learning as means of transferring culture (Yılmaz and Şeref, 2013). Therefore, as the hope of ending the Civil War in Syria slowly lessens and the refugees have started to think about a future in Turkey for themselves and their families, and have started to make their plans accordingly, the learning of the Turkish language has become more important as a tool to solve their integration problem and to benefit their brain power.

1.1 The Anxiety of Learning a Foreign Language

One of the negative factors that affects students’ competence in learning a foreign language is the feeling of anxiety. Anxiety is a universal feeling that makes the ← 12 | 13 → person unhappy no matter what culture, religion, race, gender or age she or he is (Arı, 1989). Anxiety is defined as the state of arousal that shows itself with a change in the body, emotion and mind towards a nonobjective threat (Aiken, 1976; Spielberg, Gorsuch and Lushene, 1970 trans. from Dilmaç et al., 2009: 129). This state of arousal can have positive and creative effects if it is at certain level, but it may also have destructive and negative dimensions when above the desired level. (Canbaz, Sünter, Aker and Pesken trans. from 2007 Sevim, 2014). The foreign language anxiety has a close relation with the faith, attitude and perception the person develops during his/her language learning process. It is the feeling of fear of a person when s/he is forced to use the target language even though her/his knowledge is not yet adequate (Horwitz, Horwitz and Cope, 1986; Gardner and MacIntyre, trans. from 1993 Aydın and Zengin, 2008; 84).

According to Chastain (trans. from 1998 Sevim, 2014: 390), emotion has a very important place on the psychological state of a student in learning a language and in order to be ready in mind there should be a readiness in feelings previously. A student who is emotionally ready can concentrate better on the subject s/he is interested in.

The aim of this study is to deduce the level of anxiety the Turkish-learning Syrian students have when they had to leave their homeland so suddenly with big psychological traumas in order to continue their lives in Turkey. The study also aims to identify the factors that cause a feeling of anxiety for the students when learning Turkish by taking their comments into account.

To do this the study has tried to find answers to the following questions:

2. Method

2.1 The Model of the Research

The research has been motivated by the scanning model. The scanning model implies the identifying and explaining with all its features ‘what’ the events, objects, institutions, groups and the states of different areas are. In this study the “singular scanning” model has been used. In this model the variables related to the target theme, unit and situation are tried to be described as each by its own (Karasar 2012: 81). ← 13 | 14 →

2.2 The Studied Group

The research has been applied to 12 Syrian students at the Turkish Teaching Research and Application Center of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University. 11 of the students are Arabs and one is a Turkmen. The students are studying Turkish and are at the final phase of the B1 level. One of the students has been living in Turkey for four years, one student for three years and two for two years. The others have been in Turkey for the last six months of 2014.

2.3 The Data Collecting Tools and the Analyzing of the Data

In this research the “Foreign Language Class Anxiety Scale” primarily has been used. The scale comprises 27 items developed by Doğan (2008) in order to measure the anxiety level in foreign language classes. In the Likert type scale the students are expected to respond to the statements as “(1) I strongly disagree, (2) I disagree, (3) I don’t mind, (4) I agree, (5) I strongly agree” and tick the statement which seems them to reflect their own state. The points they get range from 27–135; the higher the point they get, the more anxiety the student has. The validity and dependability of the scale has been studied by Doğan (2008) and the Cronbach Alfa coefficient has been found to be 91. Also the Cronbach Alfa level of the scale used by Sevim (2014) in order to study the foreign students’ anxiety level while trying to speak Turkish has been proved to be 92. Along with the scale, personal information form and semi-structured interview form have been applied and qualitative data has been obtained. The need for a focused group discussion was felt after analyzing the discussion forms. To analyze the quantitative data obtained, statistical methods were applied via the SPSS program. In order to analyze the qualitative data, descriptive and interpretive methods have been used. In this method the observations, questions, subject or theme used during the research are taken into consideration. The questions are put as subjects or headings and analyses are suggested directly citing the data analyzed. Descriptions are at the beginning in this kind of analysis and comments are made accordingly (Trans. from Strauss and Corbin by Ekiz, 2009: 76).

The quotations made from the discussion form are referred to as S1, S2…to represent the statements of the students; to refer to the focused group discussion abbreviations such as P1, P2,… have been used.

3. Findings

Here we present the findings that were obtained by applying the Foreign Language Anxiety Scale and by having discussions with the students. ← 14 | 15 →

3.1 Quantitative Findings

The lowest and highest scores of the scale are between 27 and 135. Assuming that the intervals of the scores are equal, the score interval coefficient was found as 0.80 of arithmetic mean. The score interval = (the highest score- the lowest score) /5=4/5=0.80 (Başcı ve Gündoğdu, 2010: 458). Thus the evaluation interval of the arithmetic mean in Table 1 is obtained.

Table 1: The arithmetical mean of evaluation interval

Range Points Rating Comment
1,00–1,80 Strongly Disagree Low anxiety
1,81–2,60 Disagree
2,61–3,40 Semi-agree  
3,41–4,20 Agree High anxiety
4,21–5,00 Strongly Agree

Table 2 presents the lowest, highest and the average value that were found when applying the Foreign Language Anxiety Scale to the Syrian students.

Table 2: The students’ Anxiety Score of Learning a Foreign Language

The findings show that the average score of the entire items in the scale is 2,77 (46,5). Taking the evaluation intervals in Table 1 into account, we can say that the anxiety level of the Syrian students when learning Turkish is at medium level.

3.1.1 The Findings of Turkish Learning Anxiety Scores of the Syrian Students related to Gender

The findings as to whether the foreign language anxiety level of the Syrian students varies by gender are shown in Table 3.

Table 3: The Scores of Foreign Language Learning Anxiety Scale According to Gender Difference (The test of Mann-Whitney U)

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ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (October)
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2016. 228 pp., 44 tables, 19 graphs

Biographical notes

İsmail Güleç (Volume editor) Bekir Ince (Volume editor)

İsmail Güleç was a research assistant at the Istanbul University Institute of Turkish Studies. He’d worked between 2005–2015 at Sakarya University, Education Faculty, Department of Turkish Education. From June 23, 2015 on he is a professor for Turkish Language and Literature at the Department of Old Turkic Literature of ̇Istanbul Medeniyet University. Bekir Ince works as an assistant professor at Sakarya University. He was a Turkish teacher in France for the Turkish Republic Ministry of National Education. He served as the vice president of the Sakarya University Turkish Language and Application Research Center and currently he is a member of administrative board of the Sakarya University Turkish Language and Application Research Center.


Title: 1st International Symposium of Teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language
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230 pages