Walking in Beyoğlu

Walking on Istanbul's İstiklal Street (Source: Daniel Pontillo)
Lesson 1 | -iyor Present Tense

The Beyoğlu neighborhood sits at the heart of the European side of Turkey's largest metropolis. Since the late nineteenth century, İstiklal Street (formerly called Pera) has served as a populous promenade for residents and tourists alike. Today, walking in Beyoğlu between the crowds and the "Nostalgic Tram" that runs up and down İstiklal is a fundamental experience for any visitor.

The glamour, excitement, and consumption that have come to define the Beyoğlu neighborhood are one side of this story, but in this first lesson, we'll explore the other. Our singer, Yaşar Kurt, recorded this song entitled "Hünerli Çocuklar" or "Talented Kids" of his album Street Songs (Sokak Şarkıları) during the mid-1990s when Beyoğlu was transforming but yet to become the area it is today. It touches on the lives of street kids, who appear in the song poor, depressed, and caught up in activities such as huffing paint thinner or tiner, the quintessential symbol of troubled youth in modern Turkey. The title of the song "Hünerli Çocuklar (Gifted Children)" is put in contrast with the subject of the song, which is "Tinerli Çocuklar (Children With Paint Thinner)". The socioeconomic situation of Beyoğlu has changed quite a bit since those days - as has the life and career of Yaşar Kurt - but the street kids with paint thinner will still be found on the margins of the bustling economy of this Istanbul neighborhood. 

Don't worry about everything in the lyrics. I've selected this song for the sentence "Beyoğlu'nda yürüyorum" or "I am walking in Beyoğlu," which utilizes the present tense -yor ending. Note that the suffix "-da" refers to "in" or "at", but in this case a helping "n" has been added. If you aren't familiar with this grammatical rule, don't worry about it at the moment. Just remember when you're meeting with friends in Istanbul to tell them "Beyoğlu'ndayım" for "I'm in Beyoğlu" and not "Beyoğlu'dayım." 

This will be the only lesson on the continuous present tense ending -yor, which is not the tense most commonly represented in song lyrics, though it will certainly come up in many of our lessons. Here is a conjugation of two of the verbs in the song yürümek (to walk) and ağlamak (to cry).


This song is slow and easy to follow along with by reading. Try to learn the words and pick up on the linguistic points highlighted below:


Use the flashcard below to review the vocabulary. Click on the words to hear their pronunciation. Vocab audio courtesy of Seçil Yılmaz.

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yürümek - to walk
yürüyorum - I'm walking
olmak - to be, to happen, to become
oluyor - it is happening/becoming
ağlamak - to cry
ağlıyor - he/she is crying
çalmak - to play, to steal
söylemek - to say
türkü söylemek - to sing a song
kalmak - to stay, to remain

ölüm - death
çocuk - child, kid
bu çocuklar - these children
avuç - palm of hand
arka - behind, back
sokak - street
türkü - song, sometimes Turkish folk song
hüner - talent
hünerli - talented, gifted
yağmur - rain
tiner - paint thinner
gökyüzü - sky
mavi - blue

-da - suffix signifying in or at
Beyoğlu'nda - in Beyoğlu
gibi - like or as (comes after noun)
bir şey - something
bile - even (as in "even if")

Yaşar Kurt - Hünerli Çocuklar

Listen to the song by pressing play above

Click here for later live version

Beyoğlu'nda yürüyorum, yürüyorum Beyoğlu'nda
I'm walking in Beyoğlu, walking in Beyoğlu
See how yürümek becomes yürü-yor(present tense)-um(I). Normally a noun with a locative suffix such as "Beyoğlu'nda / In Beyoğlu" comes at the beginning of the sentence, but for emphasis or poetic effect, it can be moved to the end of the sentence as we see here.
Ölüm gibi bir şey oluyor / Çürüyorum Beyoğlu'nda
Something like death is happening / I'm feeling worn in Beyoğlu
"Ölüm gibi" means "like death." When he says "something like death is happening (oluyor)", perhaps he means that it feels like death as we say. Note that the word for "like (gibi)" comes after the noun. The verb çürümek means "to rot or decay", but here what Yaşar Kurt is saying is that the sight he sees wears him out emotionally. He could have said this in many other ways, but çürüyorum rhymes with yürüyorum.
Beyoğlu'nda yürüyorum, yürüyorum Beyoğlu'nda
Bir çocuk ağlıyor avuçlarında / Yürüyorum beyoğlunda
A child is crying in the palms of his hands / I'm walking in Beyoğlu
Again, see how "ağlamak" becomes ağlı-yor(present tense). There is no ending on the verb for the third person (he/she).
Beyoğlu'nun arka sokaklarında hünerli çocuklar vardır
On the backstreets of Beyoğlu, there are talented children.
Recognize the special verb at the end of the sentence "var", which means here "there is/are." We will deal with the -dır suffix later.
Bu çocuklar yağmuru bile çalarlar.. Bu çocuklar
These kids would even steal the rain
"Çalmak" means both to "steal" and "to play", as in an instrument or sound. Here, the meaning is "to steal".
Bu çocuklar türkü söylemez / Islık çalarlar, ah bu çocuklar
These children don't sing songs / They whistle at you, oh these children
"Türkü söylemez (they don't sing songs)" is from the verb söylemek (to say). Note that its conjugation is different from the present tense verbs above. That is because it is a different verb tense that will be dealt with later (advanced point: Also note that "çalmak" here comes in the meaning of "to play" rather than "to steal").
Beyoğlu'nun arka sokaklarında / Tinerli çocuklar vardır 
On the backstreets of Beyoğlu, there are children with paint thinner 
Bu çocuklar gökyüzü olsalar / Gece bile mavi kalırlar, ah bu çocuklar
If these children were the sky, they would stay blue even at night, oh these children.
Not everything should be explained. I'll leave it to you to ponder what Yaşar Kurt means by saying that "if these children were the sky, they would stay blue even at night."

That's it for our first lesson. If you were able to follow along with the text and identify our phrase "Beyoğlu'nda yürüyorum", you're already well on your way. But if you want more present tense listening, try these:

Esin Engin - Papatya Gibisin

Before moving to Lesson 2: Essential Things, work on this quiz below, which will help you learn the lesson's vocab as well as improve your typing skills (click here to learn about typing in Turkish).


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