Sunday, November 6, 2011

Speaking Turkish & Other Disasters

The other day I asked my host mom what 'mut' meant. Because mutlu means happy and mutsuz means sad. And the endings for with and without are '-lu' and '-suz'... Well apparently mut means absolutely nothing. And my host mom laughed at me for about twenty minutes straight.
Not: Kut, works the same way. Tat does not. Tat means taste (tatlı is sweet, tatsız is tasteless)
Sometimes, when cooking a soup, it is always good to use a large saucepan. Tencere is a pot. Pencere is a window. Cooking in a sheet of glass might be a little bit more difficult than anticipated. And your stew might not have the right flavor, consistency, or edibleness.
Earlier today at anneanne's house, I was learning about containers when setting the table - you know how the thing that holds the stuff has a name, usually something to do with the thing that it holds. Like a salt-shaker is a tuzluk and a pepper-shaker is a biberlik and a bread-basket is a ekmeklik. Compound nouns, luv. Good to know that the thing that holds water is not a suluk. That's a leech. A water pitcher is su sürahi, meaning, specifically, a carafe for water.
Not (to Jim): I'm glad we make the same mistakes, except yours was with ovaries, not leeches. <3

Thank you Turkish for again making me look silly. <3

I want to talk to you about learning a language. Not like learning Spanish in school for a few years, repeating the present, past, future, conditional over and over until your tongue bleeds, no, I want to talk to you about what it is like to learn a language. So that that language is evident in every word you say. Until you don't think about what you want to say, but the ideas just flow together. There's no translation: it's just natural.

Granted, I haven't exactly gotten there myself yet. I want to. I dream of it. Everyone who knows me knows that all I want is to make sense. To put words together in beautiful sentences and have a genuine comprehension, understanding, of what I'm saying. I want people around me to be able to talk to me. I want to be able to talk about whatever I want, not what I'm limited to. The point of coming here is for experience of a new thing, but it's hard to experience when you can't communicate. Charades only goes so far. How do I talk about philosophy with a few hand gestures? Talking about where I see my future headed is not like asking for a glass of water. Miming isn't a final solution.

My goal is complete fluency. Speaking seamlessly, chattering on about meaningless things or meaningful things - what's the difference? All I want to do is to be able to talk again. To make sense again. To really learn it.

And that is why we do it. We exchange students go to another country for many reasons. But the goal is to evolve yourself and become something new. And language helps. It helps you understand the culture, how people think and act and live their lives. Without the language, you can't begin to understand the culture. The language is evidence that the culture is different from the others.

Learning Turkish is hard. It's not Spanish or French or even Latin. The way you form a sentence is different. The way you pronounce letters is different. The way you think is different. Unlike Romantic or Germanic languages, Turkish is set up like stringing together beads for a necklace. I start with my verb. If I want to include more people I might pluralize it; and then, if it's the opposite, I'll add in a negative; maybe I want to change tense and I'll add a different ending. Maybe my mouth will fall out with the effort I expend in trying to simply say things right. Like the longest Turkish word is 'muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine' Good luck saying that. It means 'As though you are from those we may not be able to easily make a maker of unsuccessful ones.' Any takers for pronouncing that?

My goal is to know Turkish. I don't want to be the person who elongates a conversation, giving five minute pauses between the question and response to think about the language. I want to have a conversation that simply bounces back and forth, not sporadically but rhythmically.
I told a friend once that listening to people speaking Turkish was like going to the opera. I could hear the movement in the music they made with their mouths. The singing tremolo of each word as it entered the ear. The way I listen to Turkish is how I enjoy music - I love the crescendo rise and swell of an argument, the cadenza of an afterthought, the pianissimo of a whisper.

All I want to do is to be able to sing along.

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