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If you have spent any time with Turks, you will know that they are a particularly demonstrative group.  It doesn’t matter what part of the country they are from, they have a shared hand language that replaces what other cultures use whole sentences and even paragraphs to express. This non-verbal language is so ingrained in Turkish culture that Turks who come across the book initially don’t believe that this is something special they do that other cultures don’t. It took a bi-cultural child with an observant eye, a great love of all things Turkish and a habit of stepping off the beaten path, to capture this rich body language. Where else can these gestures take us? What can Turks learn about themselves through the eyes of an inside-outer like Tara!


As any tourist or student of Turkish language and culture knows, Turks use their hands and facial expressions like we use emoticons and

exclamation points. They use one gesture where we use a lot of descriptive words, and the meaning is clear.  Take, for example, the thumb on the teeth of “Ödüm patladı,” or the threatening hand of “Bir tane çarparım,” or the crumb-wiping motion of “Bitti.”  This is a paralinguistic phenomenon that is quite rich—I have collected and documented over 150 independently meaningful gestures.

This aspect of Turkish language and culture is all wrapped up in the Turkish character and makes its study essential to any serious student of Turkish.  Plus, it’s really funny.   Here is a sample of my 80 page book, Turkish Hands: Gesturing your Way Home, to introduce you to its concept, general outline and hilarity.  Two pages are devoted to each gesture, one with a photo(s) of someone doing the gesture and the other with the words usually accompanying the movement with an English translation and situations in which you might encounter the gesture, to clarify its meaning.

As a few professors in Turkish language departments have already done, you will likely want to include this book on your required reading list

 Turkish Hands: Gesturing Your Way Home 

Book 1: A Hand Guide for Tourists, is a delightful and fascinating book.  In addition to photographs of the gestures that you will see wherever you look while in Turkey, author Tara Alisbah includes the Turkish expressions that usually accompany the gesture, an English translation, and brief explanations about where and when you are most likely to encounter each gesture.  Although not an exhaustive list (there is a book two in the works), this light and very packable 80 page text includes many of the most useful and common gestures so that you will know, for example, when someone is trying to warn you to beware of pick-pockets, or offering you something to drink, or letting you know it’s time for you be on your way rather quickly. Allow yourself to ease into the grace of the moment, be touched by Turkish hands.


Tourists; Students and Teachers of Turkish Language and Culture; Business People with a Turkey-focus; Ex-pats; Anyone about to marry into a Turkish family or who has ever had Turkish friends; a whole host of academics: Linguists, Sociologists, Anthropologists; any Turk with a sense of humor, which is all of them, and then the category which includes people who like to laugh.


Turkish Hands, Gesturing Your Way Home; Book One: A Hand Guide for Tourists is funny and provocative and

light-hearted and deeply perceptive and will make you both laugh and think. Body language in Turkey has very specific meanings, which are essential to understanding the Turkish character and culture. Using physical gestures to express oneself in a new language is also the quickest way to removing imagined barriers to communication, both internally and externally. And frankly, this is a huge shortcut to learning about the Turkish language and culture in a fun and interactive way.
On a mountain trail in Ihlara valley in Goreme, a handsome mountain goat of a man explained to my eight year old

son the porousness of the rock, the geology of the valley, and the need to take care on the smooth stones…

I couldn’t hear him through the wind, but I could understand almost everything he said. 
I was watching the phenomenon of Turkish hands.




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