Language Barrier in Turkey: What To Do As a Tourist?

Visiting another country can be challenging for many people when it comes to communication. But will you face any language barrier during your Istanbul trip? Let’s see what’s the latest situation in terms of language barrier in Turkey for tourists.

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Do You Beed to Know Turkish for Your Istanbul trip?

Not at all! Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city where English is commonly spoken by people in famous areas. Although some common phrases can make your daily exchanges easier with local vendors who have little knowledge of English, not knowing Turkish won’t affect the quality of your trip.

Is English a Widely Spoken Language in Istanbul?

Yes and no. In tourist areas, it will be much easier to find a person who can speak English. Outside these areas, most locals have limited knowledge of English, and communication won’t be as smooth as you would have expected. In fact, only 15% to 20% of the Turkish population knows the basic level of English.

Other Languages Spoken in Istanbul

Other than English, there are other languages that are getting popular each year in Istanbul due to visitors from all over the world:










With increasing opportunities for jobs and curiosity in different cultures, the diversity of spoken languages thrives among Turkish people year by year. 

How to Overcome the Language Barrier in Turkey During Your Istanbul Trip?

So, here are our 6 tips for you to overcome possible communication problems during your Istanbul trip.

Use translation applications

Using Google Translate or such applications on your phone is the number one action to prevent miscommunication. They are handy in most situations but keep in mind that most translation programs still have a hard time giving accurate sentences when it comes to complicated sentences.

To ensure that you can access a translation application without an internet connection, you can download the language package beforehand.

Don’t hesitate to ask

If you have trouble finding anything, don’t be afraid to approach people. Even though most Turkish people are not the best when it comes to English or other languages in general, they will do their best to help you.

You may have a hard time communicating with the person you asked, someone who knows English passing by may hear your conversation and step in to help you.

Prepare beforehand

Are you going to a specific place? Write the address on a piece of paper or note on your phone. This way, you can show people or the taxi driver where you are going without any effort.

Hang around popular tourist areas

As mentioned before, you can easily find someone who speaks English in tourist locations in Istanbul. People who work in these areas are often expected to know at least English to be able to express themselves.

Most people who work in restaurants, cafes, and such are obliged to know at least English to understand daily conversations to some extent. Along with English, most employees in Eminönü, Eyüp, and Fatih are required to know Arabic too.

Get help from your friends

If you met a Turkish person in the past or during your visit, they can help you in such situations. Texting or giving them a call will resolve things in a blink. You can also learn tips for tourists in Istanbul by asking them simply.

Pronounce location names without an accent

Whether you are speaking English, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, or another language, if you are to ask “How can I go to X” to a Turkish person passing by, they may not understand due to your pronunciation. Turkish is spoken as it is written, if you say words with your accent, it will make locals struggle. To solve this problem, listen to the pronunciation of the location you are going to, or just write and show it to the person.

Memorize some Turkish phrases

Learning some basic Turkish phrases can make your Istanbul trip more enjoyable. Catching some words while people are speaking is also satisfactory when there are natives everywhere.

Common Turkish Words for Foreigners

Here are the daily and most common Turkish phrases for foreigners:

Yes = Evet

No = Hayır

Hi/Hello = Merhaba

Thank you = Teşekkür ederim

Good morning = Günaydın

Good afternoon = İyi öğlenler

Good evening = İyi akşamlar

Good night = İyi geceler

Breakfast = Kahvaltı

Lunch = Öğlen yemeği

Dinner = Akşam yemeği

Dessert = Tatlı

Enjoy your meal = Afiyet olsun

Closed = Kapalı

Open = Açık

How much? = Ne kadar?

Where? = Nerede?

Where is the bathroom? = Lavabo nerede?

Check please = Hesabı alabilir miyim?

I can’t speak Turkish = Türkçe bilmiyorum

Do you know English? = İngilizce biliyor musun?

Water = Su

Tea = Çay

Coffee = Kahve

Chicken = Tavuk

Beef = Et

Lamb = Kuzu

Soup = Çorba

With these common words, you can easily express yourself and the person you’re talking to will either start speaking English or use a translation app to try communicating with you.

Istanbul Districts Where English Speakers are Common

Common districts where foreigners won’t have trouble finding an English speaker:








Beyoğlu is where Taksim, Istiklal Avenue located at. Due to its significant historical landmarks and places, luxury hotels, and restaurants, Beyoğlu is the district where every tourist can find a person who speaks English and even Arabic!


Beşiktaş is the district where Dolmabahçe Palace and Naval Museum are located. In addition, Ortaköy and Bebek are a part of Beşiktaş district. Due to such landmarks, there are lots of locals who know one or two foreign languages. Ortaköy is the most popular place to eat kumpir by the sea and enjoy the scenery. In Bebek, treat yourself one or two scoops of ice cream and walk by Bebek Park.


Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Topkapı Palace, Grand Bazaar, and so much more at located in the Fatih district. Meaning that tourists won’t face a challenge trying to speak English with someone. Visitors coming to Istanbul and leaving without discovering the beauty of the Fatih landmarks can’t say that they have experienced the real beauty of Istanbul.


There are not many tourist attractions in Şişli except some malls and museums. The reason why you can find English speakers in Şişli district is because it’s one of the work centers of Istanbul. Given that, many workplaces there have employees from all over the world. For this reason, workers at restaurants or cafes there know how to speak English.


You can think of Kadıköy as an entertainment district when it comes to nightlife. There are a lot of bars, pubs, and cafes where you can enjoy yourself. Most people who hang out at Kadikoy know English or an additional language. For this reason, tourists can go to Kadikoy and enjoy their night there without thinking about Turkish words for asking for beer or water.


Beyoğlu, much like Kadıköy, serves as a pulsating nucleus for nightlife enthusiasts in Istanbul. This lively district boasts an array of bars, pubs, and cafes catering to diverse tastes, offering everything from trendy cocktail lounges to cozy corners for a relaxed evening. What sets Beyoğlu apart for international visitors is the prevalent use of English among both locals and establishment staff. This linguistic diversity ensures that tourists can seamlessly enjoy the district’s nightlife without grappling with language barriers. Ordering a beer or asking for water becomes effortlessly smooth in the cosmopolitan ambiance of Beyoğlu, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the vibrant energy of the district’s nightlife.