Grammar Issues Common to Turkish Students
Turkish is a subject + object + verb patterned language, but English is subject + verb + object patterned language. This difference in word order is one of the biggest hurdles Turkish students face when learning English. Turkish ESL students often hesitate over the correct placement of the elements within an English language sentence. This hesitation interferes with language flow and leads to English grammar errors.
3 Grammar Errors Most Often Made by Turkish Students of English
The 3 grammar errors that Turkish ESL students should concentrate on correcting are: 1. verb/tense, 2. articles, and 3. prepositions.
Modal and auxiliary verbs are conveyed with suffixes in Turkish. This leads Turkish ESL students to have difficulty with the English verb forms of “to be”. There are also no direct Turkish equivalents to the English simple present, simple past, or present perfect tenses. Rather, the Turkish language relies on use of the appropriate word suffixes along with the context in which a statement or question is made to more perfectly convey tense.
1. the simple present tense when they should use the present perfect…
example: I study English since second grade.
instead of: I have studied English since the second grade.
2. the present progressive when they should use the present simple…
example: I have been playing soccer every Tuesday.
instead of: I play soccer every Tuesday.
3. the simple past when they should use the present perfect.
example: We know each other since 2010.
instead of: We have known each other since 2010.
Try not to translate to Turkish when speaking or writing English. The differences in sentence structure and the way verb and tense are conveyed have little in common so translating will only lead to grammar errors.
- The English articles, “the”, “a”, and “an” are essential to English. The definite article, “the”, doesn’t exist in Turkish. Turkish ESL students will mistakenly omit using “the” when it is necessary.
example: Cat is lying on bed.
instead of: The cat is lying on the bed.
2. The indefinite articles, “a” and “an” aren’t always used in the Turkish language in the same ways they’re used in English. Turkish ESL students will omit or misuse “a” and “an”.
example: Italy is shaped like boot.
instead of: Italy is shaped like a boot.
example: Greek is old language with a much history.
instead of: Greek is an old language with much history.
- By far the most common prepositional error Turkish ESL students make is to omit using one! Turkish uses suffixes added to words for prepositions. Turkish students will mistakenly say…
example: Lisa was school.
instead of: Lisa was at school.
2. There are times when students will add a preposition when one is not needed, or use the incorrect preposition in English. The preposition most often added is “to”.
example: He goes to home.
instead of: He goes home.
3. The prepositions Turkish ESL students most often misuse are, “in”, “at”, and “on”—perhaps this is because all of those prepositions are communicated with the same suffix, “da”, in Turkish. Students will mistakenly swap the prepositions.
example: I study on the library.
instead of: I study at the library.
example: I live at a dorm room.
instead of: I live in a dorm room.
Native language interference is the single biggest issue for Turkish ESL students. Grammar errors occur when students rely on back and forth translating. Thinking about what an English language sentence is saying and how it’s said can be a way to clarify grammar rules. Focus on the areas that give you the most trouble—conquering those common mistakes is often the key to understanding English and English grammar rules.