Book Review: Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar, by Jeannette Okur

Reviewed by Betül Czerkawski, PhD., Professor, Dept of Applied Technology & SLAT, The University of Arizona

Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL), 2021. 435 pp. https://www.coerll.utexas.edu/coerll/projects/merhaba

Turkish is not a language that has a wide range of instructional resources. Those teaching Turkish as a Foreign Language (TAFL) know this reality first-hand and struggle to produce their own teaching materials, often mixing their own work with a few textbooks available to them. Hence, when a new book for intermediate learners of Turkish comes along, it generates big hopes for TAFL teachers and learners. 

Figure 1: Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar (Hard Copy Book Cover) - pictures of people, places, and objects from Turkish culture
Picture 1 – Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar (Hard Copy Book Cover)

There are a few distinguishing features of the new textbook Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar. First, the book is published as an Open Education Resource (OER) and so it is available online to everyone as a free downloadable PDF. Second, the book presents a multimedia-rich approach to learning and teaching intermediate level Turkish that connects students to authentic music, art, cinema, photography, poetry, and maps. Third, unlike most textbooks, which focus on Turkey starting in the first part of the 20th century, Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar considers Turkish culture as a continuum stretching over many centuries and thus presents historical and modern traditions in a balanced manner.

Figure 2: Links to Interactive Exercises - textbook website with links and photos
Picture 2 – Links to Interactive Exercises

The author of the book is Dr. Jeannette Okur, an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies, and the Coordinator of the Turkish program at the University of Texas at Austin.  Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar is created for intermediate Turkish learners and consists of a media-rich textbook, an accompanying YouTube Channel, an interactive WordPress/H5P site, and Quizlet sets for vocabulary practice, as well as a Student’s Guide and a Teacher’s Guide. All resources related to the book are free of charge online, but a hard copy version of the book can also be purchased for $29.50.

Picture 3 - Example of a Listening and Reading Exercise - audio file, text, and blanks to fill in
Picture 3 – Example of a Listening and Reading Exercise

The textbook has four chapters, and every chapter begins with cultural and language/communication objectives and ends with a cultural appendix. In Chapter 1, entitled ‘Family’, learners review past, present, and future tenses through topics about Turkish family life . In Chapter 2, entitled ‘Love and Marriage’, learners review causative verbs and adverbial suffixes while comparing American and Turkish families and the ways they are formed. In Chapter 3, ‘Nature and Environmentalism’, learners review the formation of complex sentences and discuss environmental policies in the U.S. and in Turkey.  In Chapter 4, ‘Art and Politics’, learners review passive voice and reflexive verbs, and express their opinions on Turkish art and contemporary political issues like the reunification of Cyprus and the Gezi Park protests. 

A successful language textbook is more than an ordered collection of vocabulary exercises, grammar points, and cultural texts. The biggest achievement of this book is the instructional design approach that treats TAFL as a holistic endeavor, where learning objectives are aligned to ACTFL standards, and where teaching strategies and assessment provide a well-thought-out environment for learners. Dr. Okur’s flipped learning approach is especially interesting and innovative, given that most Turkish language textbooks are instructor-centered and are tightly structured around teaching the four language skills. In this book, learners are expected to read and study the materials on their own so that class time can be used for more communication activities. The flipped method  fosters a learner-centered language modality while also enabling a blended learning option. In short, Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar’s approach to language learning is not to give learners mechanical language training, but rather to immerse them in a full and fun language environment. Hopefully, more language textbooks will follow Dr. Okur’s approach to language teaching. 

Picture 4 - QR Codes from the Student Handbook
Picture 4 – QR Codes from the Student Handbook

One thought on “Book Review: Her Şey Bir Merhaba ile Başlar, by Jeannette Okur

  • August 14, 2021 at 7:03 pm
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    Thanks to the reviewer and editor for helping to keep us abreast of new (and OER) developments like this. It sounds like a very well written set of materials.

    Reply

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