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Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ category… my new business!

Our site for Turks learning English!

Our site for Turks learning English!

After years of teaching English to Turks in both language institutes and more recently, in a private school, I finally decided that it was the right time to take hold of the English-language education opportunities that now exist in Turkey

Teaching English to Turks has always been big business and there are plenty of well-known private language institutes that cater all type of English to students of each level of proficiency. However, together with my business partner we’ve decided to concentrate on offering quality English conversation classes via the Internet, to get Turks speaking. In a recent post on my new blog, where I discuss the dormant nature of Turks learning English, I briefly outline the opportunity we see to ‘kick-start’ the dormant English resource that already lies within Turkey today.

This is a very exciting time to be involved in English-language education in Turkey. As household broadband increases across Turkey and more and more citizens possess tablets and smartphones, education is ready for disruption. It’s clear to us that the physical classroom will become less relevant and Turks will have access to better teaching. Why put yourself through a hellish commute after work when you can chill at home, sit back with a cup of tea and log in via your computer?

So for Turk learning English we’ve built

We’re proud of it. We thinks it’s giving the boost of confidence and increased motivation required to Ingilizce öğrenmek!


Turklish – önce ve sonra

A very long time ago. Many years before humans wrote the first grammar book…

If Turkish is your mother tongue, then you might have difficulty with ago, earlier, before, after, in, and later.

These words can be adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions and adjectives. Here I look at the most basic errors by Turks and provide a couple of examples to explain how you can use the idea of sonra and önce in English.

Of course, this small article cannot explain every use of these words… but I think it might help a few of you.

Ago, earlier, or before?

How do you express this idea in Turkish: Üç gün önce sinemaya gittim.

You can use ago or earlier. Ago would be more common.

I went to the cinema three days ago is natural spoken English

I went to the cinema three days earlier is also correct, but possible more formal.

For example:

 - He left three days ago.

- He left three days earlier.

Don’t use before.

In the two sentences above, ago and later are adverbs.

Says it all really.

Says it all really.

How to use before

Next, how do you deal with: Sinemaya gitmeden önce kahve içtik?

To express this idea in English, you need to understand that önce joins two events. So before is the correct word to use:

- We drank coffee before we went to the cinema, or

- Before we went to the cinema we drank coffee.

In these examples, before is a conjunction.

Don’t use ago or later.

After, later or in?

Üç gün sonra sinemaya gidiyoruz.

Here, you are talking about an event in the future. The only correct word is in:

- We’re going to the cinema in three days.

And, üç gün sonra Istanbul’dan ayrılacak.

- He’ll leave Istanbul in three days.

What about this?

Üç gün önce Istanbul’dan ayrıldı.

This is something that happened in the past, so the correct word is ago.

- She left Istanbul three days ago.

Don’t use later.

But, if you are talking about an event that happened before another event in the past, then you need to use later or after.

For example:

Istanbul’a geldi. Üç gün sonra ayrıldı.

He arrived in Istanbul and left two days later.

Again, later is an adverb.

How to use after

After is both an adverb and a preposition in English

Biz geldikten sonra ayrıldı.

He left after we arrived.

Yemekten sonra sinemaya gidiyorum.

I’m going to the cinema after dinner.

In the first example, after is an adverb.

For the second example, after is a preposition.

I know that advanced learners and native English speakers might disagree with me, but the idea is to make the use of the words a little easier.

Any ideas or comments?

Note: I’ve also now posted this post on my new site for Turks Learning English!

Turklish – açmak ve kapatmak

Turn it on!

Do not open a computer. Turn it on!

Avustralya, not Avusturya…

Istanbul taxi dirvers make me laugh. Most of the time. After we manage to clarify that I’m from Australia and not Austria, and they accept that it can also be cold in my home country and that a 14-hour plane journey is not that tedious… we can chat about other things.

Then, when you ask an Istanbul driver where he is from, inevitably you will get a response that is anything other than I’m from Istanbul.’ I’m not even sure that anyone was actually born in this city, regardless that it teems with millions of souls.

Many originate from the Black Sea and I’m reasonably sure that 25% of drivers come from the city of Trabzon. A good indication is that they are friendly, pay scant attention to traffic rules, and speak with an accent that makes me wonder if, after all these years, I still understand the Turkish language. I more or less don’t.

My Turkish remains a bit Turklish

Which, as an English teacher, got me thinking. As I alighted from the taxi in the suburb of Etiler this morning, still breathing and thankful my body remained in one piece, I once again realised how little my Turkish has improved over time. I’m proficient, at least enough to maintain friendships, argue with bus drivers and shout at no one in particular, however correct grammar and an extensive vocabulary remain beyond my reach.

Please turn it off...

Turn off your phone. Don’t close it.

My attempts to use Turkish in the classroom are consistently met with bursts of laughter and expressions of disbelief. Learning a new tongue is not easy, and that in the country where it is spoken by everyone around me and where I need it on a daily basis.

I have taught hundreds of students in Turkey,some of whom still struggle with many aspects of English though they possess good grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Turklish is a reality for most people here, a certain level of English that still betrays its Turkic roots. I have a feeling it can be remedied, and that by concentrating on this topic I might even assist my own Turkish to become more Turkic and less a dubious translation.

How to use turn on/off and switch on/off

So here’s lesson number one:

In Turkish, açmak and kapatmak are used respectively to turn on and turn off computers, lights and iPads. It is used to hang up or to end a telephone call.

However, a literal translation just doesn’t work. You cannot open or close a computer.

First, if the thing, device or appliance is powered by electricity, then you can switch it on or off and turn it on or off.

- You can turn on a lamp.

- You can turn off the oven.

- You can switch on a stereo.

- And I often ask my students to switch off their iPads.

The exception is this:

If you’re on the phone, in English you answer a phone call and you hang up at the end of the conversation.

- I hung up after speaking with my friend.

- I answered his call as soon as the phone rang.

- I’m hanging up now… Bye

You cannot open or close a phone in English.

And I think that covers it.

I intend to cover Turklish thoroughly to improve my own Turkish and to help my students.

Any comments? What should I look at next?

Please note: I’ve posted this again on my new business site for Turks Learning English!

Bikram Yoga in Istanbul!

It’s here.


A Bikram Yoga studio has opened in Istanbul. Very happy about that. Actually, I’m ecstatic.

Last week I got restless and decided that swimming and jogging weren’t satisfying my needs. I typed a couple of words into Google and the magic address appeared.

I discovered Bikram Yoga in Dubai, and despite my body wrestling with the incessant heat,  I managed to sweat my way through class after class until it became part of my fitness regime. When I arrived in Istanbul in February this year I was disappointed to find that nowhere offered the intense experience of losing your own bodyweight in perspiration within 90 minutes. Best workout ever.

Though I’ve only atttended two classes this week at the Bikram Studio in Etiler, it appears to be everything I was looking for.

A great location, the cleanest public washroom and shower facilities I have ever seen in this country, and friendly English-speaking staff and instructors.

40 Derece Bikram Yoga is located a 10-minute walk from Akmerkez Shopping Centre, or about to 20-minute taxi ride from Beyoglu. The studio has everything you need . Yoga mats, towels and water are available so you need only bring yourself and the skimpiest outfit you can find to sweat your way through stretch heaven.

40 Derece Bikram Yoga

Tepecik Yolu Caddesi

Akgoren Sokak 3/1

Etiler, Istanbul

0212 351 45 46



365 Day 9 Excited


It’s time to get out of town with a buddy and a backpack and walk the Lycian Way. It’s been five years since we trekked this part of the world and I reaslise that in that time, while I have continued to travel, no experience has yet left me with the happiness I felt when I last actually got off the beaten path. It’s going to be so wonderful to leave the world behind, get close to nature, and indulge my ever-increasing misanthropic personality.

The Lycian Way, or the section which we travelled across five years ago, is stunningly beautiful. It’s also mostly devoid of people, buildings, administration, traffic, areas that stink of urine, trash, banks, and other necessary evils in my Istanbul existence. Instead, we will be surrounded by gorgeousness. Olive groves, tall pines, jagged cliffs, goats, grass, and essentially, almost no creature with the power of speech.

Yesterday I purchased a backpack. Today it’s time to get back to the guide book for a few more bits of information. And tomorrow I’ll be jumping about with excitement.



365 Day 8 Back to school

It’s now a month since I returned to Istanbul. It was the right decision to make.

It took some time to gather my thoughts and pluck the courage to pack my bags and throw my life into low-level turmoil yet again, to move to a city that seems forever under my skin. There are certain things about Dubai that I miss now, and that I’ll possibly miss for a long time to come. Sunshine is currently at the top of that list. And yet, even waking up each morning to an overcast sky has done nothing to dampen my love for this place. I’m back on track.

But as cold and uninviting as the climate is now, I’m happy. Even if I rise before six each morning to shave, shower and shampoo before being collected in the school service bus just after seven. Returning to Istanbul and to teaching has been the wisest choice I’ve made in a number if years. I love being in the classroom. And it’s been a very soft landing.

I’m now teaching English to the youngest students I’ve yet taught. At first I felt apprehensive about attempting Grade 5. The kids, well, they seemed so very young. Classroom management has never been a strong point with me: it’s like children quickly sense that I’m a pushover, and naturally they take full advantage immediately.

However, my class of little ones is better than I hoped for. I assume I’d spend chunks of each lesson trying to keep control of boundless energy, trying desperately to curtail naughty behaviour, incesssant chatting and general, nonsensical foolishness to which younger students are prone.

But no. They’re almost a teacher’s dream. To be sure, I’ve entered the classroom with a positive attitude and my own limitless energy. It’s easier to work when you are receive a daily reward. My class is interesting and interested. There are as many distinct personalities are there are students. And I like them because they are children. No cynicism, no sarcasm and they are a long way from being world-weary adolescents. They want to learn. They want to have fun. They smile easily, laugh loudly, and they definitely love participating in English class with Mr James.

Soon enough I’ll need to make a deicsion about the coming academic year. To remain in the Elementary School, where I’m surprisingly happy, or to make the move to the High School, where some of of my earlier students must be groaning at the thought of having me yet again in their final year.

But that’s still a few months away. For the moment, I couldn’t be more satisfied.

365 Day 6 Good morning Istanbul

It’s a gorgeous morning in Istanbul. I’m about to head out for a jog around my neighbourhood park, which is unfortunately a bit crap for running because it contains two unsuitable tracks. One is laid with pavers as favoured by the Paris Municipality; looks good but not great on the feet. The other track looks and feels like clay and gravel aggregate and I spend too much time trying to avoid small divets and gullies that have formed during the winter months.

The sun rises over the Bosphorus

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day and I intend to get the most out of it.

[ ... ]

Just returned from my run. Macka Park is full of the rare Istanbullites who enjoy exercise. Lots of middle-aged women with mongrel-looking dogs, the former languidly tossing a ball into something that would once resembled a shrub, the canines looking about as interested in fetching the ball as the shrub looks at being accosted yet again by some filthy animal.

Along with the women in large sunglasses and ugly tracksuits are an assortment of Istanbul’s youth, forever clad in black and smoking like it’s their sole intake of nutrition for the week. Wherever you go in Istanbul, there’s always a group of lads in their early twenties, dressed like hoods, unkempt faces, lurking about no where in particular. They guffaw in unison at me as I pass in my jogging shorts. Other than the pointless groups of hoods, there’s the usual sad, married homosexual looking forlorn, undoubtedly intending to cruise about in the park for as long as required, or generally until the sun begins to sink.

Above at one of the park’s entrances stand a couple of security guards that look about as useless as a church in Riyadh. They follow me and my glamorous jogging outfit with shifty little eyes, but hey, I know who looks the most trustworthy out of us – and it’s not them.

After three laps about the park I head back across Besiktas Stadium and up the slight ramp that leads to my apartment. Time for breakfast.

365 Day 5 Istanbul’a geldim

I’ve finally made it to Istanbul and am currently staying with a friend, his apartment offering an expansive view across the Bosphorus. It’s good to be back. I’ve slipped once again into life in this magnificent metropolis and am looking forward to the daily grind in a city that never sleeps. I’m hoping my mate will put up with me long enough that I won’t need to search for my own lodgings until the wintry weather passes and the temperature rises again.

Istanbul is how I remember it and so, with a few months of bumbling my way through the language, I should be a fully functioning member of Turkish society. I’ve already started the new job, and despite the filthy wind that bites at my face each morning as I walk to meet the driver, I’m not having too many difficulties rising at 6am to meet the driver who shuttles me to and from the neighbourhood where I teach.

My photography may be rubbish but the view is still spectacular






I’m happy to be home.


Best driver in Sri Lanka for your vacation!

Jally, our drive in Sri Lanka

Best driver in Sri Lanka (in my expert opinion)

If you’re looking for the right person to take you around the island, then Jally is your man.

We found Jally from recommendations on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum, and from there got in touch via email. He provided a quote, his responses were prompt and clear and we immediately understood we were putting ourselves into good hands.

Essentially, the driving experience in South Asia often determines your state of mind upon returning home. Paying a fair price for a competent driver who takes you only where you want to go, who speaks English fluently, and who provides insightful local knowledge and is forever punctual, meant our journey becomes effortless. Getting a bad driver means wanting to punch everyone by the time you pass back through passport control on your way home. We paid a fair price and opted for the good driver.

Jally picked us up from Colombo airport at some ludicrously rude hour of the morning and we never looked back. We’d already planned our more-or-less fixed itinerary before departing, and for the next eight days everything ran smoothly. Jally took us where we wanted to go, was flexible as we altered our arrangements,and has 20 years’ experience of dealing with foreign tourists which has given him an aptitude to understand his customer – not once did he so much as hint at taking us to a local emporium to buy anything – and that alone is enough for me to recommend him highly.

In short Jally will take you where you want to go and not take you where you have no intention of going. He is well-educated, softly spoken, polite… and answered every question we asked in a manner that displayed personal insight and not memorised facts and figures from guide books.

Thank you Jally for making our Sri Lanka experience an exceptional one.

Get in touch with him at

GG مع السلامة

I’ve been in Dubai for over a year and have sadly accumulated the grand total of approximately three friends.

One is leaving tomorrow morning on a flight to Brazil (which leaves approximately two friends), and GG intends to spend his days doing things in a more relaxed mode that would ever be achievable here.

So he bids adieu to this:

What the UAE abounds in

And in less than 48 hours will greet as his new home, this:

What Brazil has to offer

Understandably, I know why you’re leaving GG.

Best of luck and I shall be over for carnevale sooner rather than later.