A Not So Turkish Life

The learning Turkish thing.

I took a Quiche to my mother-in-law today. Turkish cuisine has no equivalent to Quiche – the only comparative I could think of is borek..a most delicious stuffed pastry, not remotely quiche-like but eaten – like Quiche – for breakfast or lunch, hot or cold. So, while she dubiously looked at this wobbly pastry encased concoction (that may or may not have been closer to brown than golden on top) I said, “it’s delicious! It’s an English eggy, pastry like thing.,” then I went further, adding, “and it’s salty, but I made it without salt.” Now granted, Turkish has no word for savoury so you have to say salty, still, it was hardly the most eloquent explanation!

I’ve been here five years now, and while Turks may well be impressed by how much Turkish I’ve picked up in that time, I know, deep down, I could do better – could have done better. I say picked up, because I’ve never really sat down to learn Turkish. Sure, I’ve had sporadic weeks when I’ve attacked grammar and tenses, but those weeks have never turned into months or the grammar into sentences, I understand 99% of what’s said around me in everyday life, maybe 70% of what’s said on the news and can scan read a paper easily enough but it’s not enough to be M’s Mum here – especially the Mum of a Turk!

Turkish doesn’t have matching male/female prepositions, nor logical sentence structures to guide you along. It’s a complex mix of Ottoman derived sounds mixed with Arabic influence given modernisation from the west. There are a smattering of english words, and some Persian roots, but on the whole it’s a language that’s unique to itself since the alphabet was rewritten under Ataturk’s commission in 1928. The structure of Turkish is in general, one root word. To this word you add prepositions and tenses, you can make the word plural or add a verb on its heel. Essentially, you can say the sentence in a single word.

It might sound complicated, and it is; at the same time, once you grasp the basics (which I kinda have) it’s formulaic and easy enough to learn. You just have to practise and practise and practise some more. So, I have to stop being lazy, get over the embarrassment and just start to babble. Not to baby -that would be easy! – but to hubby, and to the in-laws and the random people I encounter through the day. And I have to add studying time to that scheduling thing.

Any tips for language learning to fluency?

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This entry was published on 09/08/2011 at 09:22. It’s filed under Externalise and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “The learning Turkish thing.

  1. Practise practise and more practise! I also have been living in Turkey for 5 years and didn´t know a word of Turkish (partly true in that my parents are Turkish but I never adopted the language of ways while growing and living in London!). I´d met my husband (then boyfriend), fallen in love and before I knew it was living in Istanbul! I was on my own most of the time due to his long work hours so shopping, travelling, finding a job, paying bills, attending to random people etc etc was all up to me! But now I realise that head first was the way to do it as I am now fluent! You have to make the mistakes, force yourself to explain your point or query and just literally blag your way around! The more you get used to the sound of your voice speaking Turkish the easier it will get! Turkish people can sometimes be really direct in their comments and tend to banter with the way us foreigners pronounce the words but trust me, I really do believe it is the easiest way to learn the language. Also along with the practical chat, I would definitely advice you to read as often as you can. This strengthens your vocabulary and will help you decipher sentences better. Thankfully, the Turkish languages greatest advantage is that it is read as it is written! I do hope these pointers help and always on hand for friendly tips! Good Luck! 🙂

    • Thanks for the tips! Yes, it’s how Turkish sounds coming from me that puts me off speaking – I’m not bothered about getting it wrong so much as my accent being plain odd. and these vowels are a whole new ball game…Congrats on overcoming it all to become fluent 🙂

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