It’s my Turkiversary – do I speak Turkish yet?
On June 19th, I celebrated my Turkiversary. In Istanbul, I took my mom and Kim on a walk in search of a fish restaurant I had read about in the Sultanahmet area. Since we couldn’t find it, and my phone battery was dying due to excessive use of google maps, we finally surrendered ourselves to one of the restaurant hawkers and climbed up to a sixth floor terrace restaurant in the Sultanahmet area. I can’t remember its name, but the food was decent for such an obvious tourist racket and the views were impressive. We looked one way to the minarets of the Blue Mosque and the other way to the domes of Hagia Sofia during sunset, moonrise, and somebody’s wedding firecrackers that I decided to claim as my own for celebration of my Turkiversary. Like all fireworks show that we enjoy surreptitiously, we didn’t exactly get the camera focused in time, so pardon the blur.
Now that I’ve lived in Turkey for a year, I feel obliged to examine the question – do I speak Turkish yet?
The optimist side says definitely, of course I speak Turkish, silly. I’ve been studying it for a year and a half – it would be a shame not to be able to communicate by now. And indeed, for basic interactions, I can hold my own. I can even execute merchant-tricking bargaining in Turkish, such as when I bargained the prices for three separate carpets at the same time and got a lower price for each, probably because the guy was tired of dealing with me and my antics. I can tell jokes, and earn genuine laughter (I hope) and smiles in return. Telephone conversations are no big deal. When I meet new people, it’s easy to explain what I do, and it’s easy to understand what they feel like telling me.
My Turkish studies exaltation came several times in Ankara when some random on the sidewalk asked me for directions, and in addition to understanding them, I was able to direct them to their desired location without ever betraying my identity as an American studying Turkish.
Of course, I have to burst my own bubble. Although I’m positively somewhere on the line of survival Turkish, and even feel comfortably intermediate, I’m not fluent, and definitely not yet at an academic level, which is my desired destination. When helping me “fix up” a paper in Turkish, a friend probably corrected 90% of every page! I still feel like a ten or eleven year old when I speak in grad school classes.
To get there, to fluency, I have a whole summer to read some Turkish novels, at my own pace, and hopefully that will help me with the language studies while I’m hanging out in Romantic language speaking destinations like France, Italy, and Spain. I also have the sometimes enjoyable task of deciphering all of my Turkish friends’ Facebook posts, which, for me, fall somewhere between good writing and reading “ttyl” or “lmao” before I was hip to how the kids texted these days.