Returning to Learning - Driving Mr David

Between the summers of 2009 and 2012, I was doubling up as both a teacher in the language classrooms of TED Ankara College and a distance MA student at the University of Manchester. During that time, I started this blog, hence the title which sits at the top of the page.

Having completed my studies last August, receiving my results (pass with distinction!) last November and graduating (albeit in absentia) last December, I was starting to wonder if the ‘Learner’ part of the title was a bit redundant (‘lifelong learner’ has never sat easy with me - it’s just one of those catchy terms that seems to be used as a blanket cover for things that are a normal part of life from improving professionally to making changes to acquiring new skills). However, fate or, perhaps more truthfully, time has thrown me a fresh opportunity to learn, a new chance to occupy the student’s role and view education from the other side… But, no, this is not a ‘language teacher learning a foreign language’ kind of thing (although I do find such posts interesting). My new learning experience will involve me acquiring an important everyday skill and doing something I should have done a long time ago…

I’m going to learn to drive…. and I’m going to be doing it in Turkish!!!

I shall resist the temptation to insert a ‘crash course’ pun here - Image by @senicko via eltpics

Why now?

Well, my wife is currently pregnant with the baby due in late March. After that, someone will need to run our (soon to be) eldest son to school and run other four-wheeled errands. Plus, at 34 years old, telling people I can’t drive is getting a bit embarrassing…

Why not before?

I have all my excuses lined up (they’ve become second nature over the years!) When I turned 17 (the legal age for driving in the UK) my final year of high school was just starting and I wanted to concentrate on my exams. I figured I wouldn’t get the chance to actually use or own a vehicle until after university so why bother? Then, of course, I got the TEFL bug after graduating and figured I would learn when I returned home after a few years teaching abroad. I never returned home, as you know, and it remained on my things to do list for a long time (too long you might say).

Why blog about it?

Good question (even if I did pose it myself!) What relevance to teaching does me sitting behind the wheel of a specially designed car with an instructor next to me and finally doing something I should have done long ago have to what I do professionally?

Well, I could just say “it’s my blog” but that wouldn’t entice many to read now, would it? The truth is there are several reasons why I want to blog about this. First of all, I’m going to be utilising my second language skills in order to learn how to drive as the entire course, all the driving instruction and the tests will be done in Turkish, making this like the ultimate CLIL course! Not only will I be taking in all this new information but I’ll be processing it and formulating my responses and questions in Turkish. I am hoping this will lead to increased concentration on my part, somewhat like those crazy chess-boxer guys (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Secondly, I am, for the first time ever, going to experience the Turkish education system from the student’s perspective. Sure, I’ve taught here for a long time but I like to think my lessons are a little bit different to the accepted norm. Now I will be in the student’s seat. The thing is, learning to drive here is a not the same as the the UK (and I dare say, a few other countries as well). Over the next 4 weeks, I will spend all my ‘learning’ time in the classroom as I take a theoretical course. We will learn about the rules of the road, traffic signs, parts of an engine, first aid and all that kind of stuff. There will then be a written test after which I can finally get behind the wheel of a car and do some ‘practical’ learning. The more astute of you can maybe see parallels with more traditional approaches to language learning i.e. grammar first and worry about the ‘useful’ stuff later.

Thirdly, I think this makes an interesting twist on the whole ‘teacher as learner’ post series we see in the ELT blogosphere every so often. As we all know, teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life and there is always something useful to observe and reflect on in any situation. And finally, it’s my blog so… ;-)

Wish me luck!


  1. Happy New Year Dave and good luck with the driving!
    I passed my test. 4 years ago here in Spain where it is simular to in Turkey. The whole idea of memorising a lot of theory before even getting into a car had put me off for a long time. The cost too! I'm sure you will acquire lots of new language, although whether you will use it again after the test is another story!

  2. Happy new year Dave (and Michelle).

    I too learnt as a "grown-up" in Italy where there is both a practical test and an extensive MC theory test (which allows only one mistake out of 30).

    Curiously I didn't find the theory too hard. There was a good variety of practice materials. Curiously I did find myself doing a lot of back-seat driving; I mean while riding as passenger I did look at the driver's feet and hands, and really clocked all the road signs.

    For what it's worth here's my advice:

    1. Make yourself a Turkish driving dictionary - "press the clutch, release the brake, mirrors, gears, overtake, etc."

    2. Be ready and willing to ask your instructor anything, anytime.

    3. Don't let them bully you into doing the test if you don't feel ready yet- that's what bitter experience taught me ;)

    But I nailed it the second time!

    Loads of luck, and congratulations - we're expecting our second in a week or so!

    1. Happy New Year to you as well Alan.

      There seems to be a good rnage of materials here too. I was given a book full of explanaitons and sample tests when I signed up and it's all multi-choice with many of the answers obvious or guessable from a bit of logical/deductive thinking. There is also a database on the Ministry of Educaiton website with every past paper from the last decade or so!

      Thanks for the advice - all good stuff that I'll be sure to follow! I won't get much choice over when to take the tests though as they are on fixed dates.

  3. I will be following your experiences on the other side with great interest. Insights from someone actually going through what many of my adult learners are going through! Kathy

    1. Thanks Kathy. Despite the different nature of the lesson compared to your typical EFL scenario, there have been a few interesting points to reflect on so far, which I'll be sharing in due course.

  4. Good luck with your driving lessons!
    I got the driving licence in Turkey last year. My native language is Russian, so Turkish in the test was also challenging for me, especially in the "motor" part of it. I didn't know the Russian words for most of the things on the pictures.
    That being said, the test itself is quite easy: as you said elsewhere, many questions are self-explanatory, some are just funny, and there is a very generous error allowance (I think it's about 30%). I passed the test without going to the course, by studying at home, both with the books they gave me and youtube videos. The disadvantage of my way, though, is that I did not learn the traffic rules well to use them when driving, I keep getting doubts while on the road.

    1. But I think most people in Turkey don't know the rules that well... or they just blatantly disregard them!

      Good to know that you've 'been there, done that' though :-)

  5. Good luck, Dave. It's the whole CLIL concept... ;)


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