Learning any new language has its challenges. From the fall of 2017 to the summer of 2019, our family of six had been submerged in the Chinese language of Mandarin and doing our best to learn a language with a completely different alphabet structure and way of speaking. Stephen and I did not have the advantage of going to a formal class the way our four children did. At least 4 or 5 times a week, they would take an hour long class to learn how to read, write and speak in Mandarin. Our oldest son was most successful in picking up the basics of the language. I learned how to say a few basic phrases and I learned how to count. But I could never read more than a few general symbols in Chinese and I wasn’t able to carry on any kind of conversation in that language.
After that huge struggle, I have been pleasantly surprised as the ease in which I am learning how to speak basic words in Turkish. It does help that the alphabet is very similar to English, except for a few letters having accents and “embellishments” that change the sound of the letter from the way we pronounce it in English. Being able to recognize letters, read the words and pronounce them correctly makes a huge difference in the learning curve of a language.
Before you start to be impressed, I will confess that I still don’t even know how to say “you’re welcome” in response to “Thank you” and I can’t ask the simple question, “How are you?” and answer it. However, I have learned about 20-30 words in the past fifteen days. So, I’m proud of myself at the moment.
One thing I am very glad to have learned fairly early are the words for “yes” and “no.” For “yes,” you say, “evet” and for “no” you say, “hayir.”
The word for “no” literally sounds like the word “higher.” Now, one might not realize immediately the circumstances in which this word is used in English that might cause confusion in the mind of a Turkish person who doesn’t speak your language.
So, let me take you to the Turkish playground where a small child who speaks English has just asked you to push him or her on the swing. You give the child a firm push and you watch as their swinging feet move higher off the ground. The moment of confusion would come when the child requests a firmer push on the swing with the most common command we would hear in English: “Higher!”
So, you push the child even more firmly so the swing continues its course further up and away from the ground. As the child continues to plead to be pushed “higher!” try to imagine what it must sound like to the ear of a Turkish person. Soon, you might have several alarmed people in the park thinking you are torturing a child who keeps yelling “No! No!” to you.
But have no fear. I have come up with a perfect solution. Before causing any need for Turkish child services to hunt me down, I communicate to that child that if he or she wants to be pushed “higher” on a swing, they should simply request, “Up! Up!” And to get off the swing, they should say, “Stop!”
That will work for now, until I can remember the much longer phrase in Turkish that actually is “push me higher, please.” Yeah, it’s not in my 20-30 word Turkish vocabulary yet.