Swinging into the Turkish Language

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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.

Turkishalphabet

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.

swing

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.

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Luke: from potty training to preschool

August 2012 – This year I’ve watched my energetic and self-determined toddler develop into a full-blown preschooler.  Our first challenge after he reached his third birthday on January 5 was to begin the process of potty training in earnest.  He had been watching Jared use the toilet for quite some time.  He would use it very inconsistently.  I had completely switched him out of normal diapers and started using the Huggies “pull up” diapers to encourage him to learn how to pull down his clothing on his own.  But I didn’t really focus on potty training in earnest until mid-January.

The process took a little longer than I had originally expected.  It didn’t help that Luke caught a stomach flu that gave him diarrhea during the second week of being potty trained.  But I was determined that we were not going back to pull ups again and that I was not purchasing another diaper to put on that child’s behind.  I think it took a full three weeks for Luke to be officially potty trained.

Our biggest challenge with Jared was getting him potty trained at night.  After the first week of potty training at the age of three, Jared has had only a handful of day-time accidents.  However, he would continue to wet his bed for another year and a half.  The interesting difference with Luke was that he seemed to gain night time bladder control almost immediately.  Luke will still have accidents during the day, because he gets so engrossed in whatever activity he is doing and will “hold it” until it’s too late to get to the bathroom.  But he rarely wets his bed.

It was actually, this process of potty training that began planting doubts into my mind of Luke’s readiness to start any kind of school program in the fall. It has always been harder for me to capture the attention of Luke than Jared. He seemed to manage pretty well in a nursery setting, but I just wasn’t sure he was ready for a classroom setting. I couldn’t help but transport myself mentally to the time that I taught English at a little Korean language school in South Korea in 2002. I had the youngest class which included three and four year olds.  I had scoffed at the parents who sent their little three year old “babies” to school who were just barely potty trained.  I remember telling myself then that I would never send my child to school that young. Now, here I was contemplating doing just that.

I also felt that Luke had been in Jared’s shadow in his learning development.  As I worked through preschool activities with Jared, Luke would do his best to keep up, even though he wasn’t quite able to comprehend everything that I was teaching Jared.  Up to this point, Luke had never been separated from Jared for more than an hour or two at a time. I thought it might be good to keep Luke at home so that I could focus on him without being under the shadow of his big brother.

Stephen made fun of me at first, saying that I was having a hard time letting go of my kids.  However, once school got started, he began to agree with me.  It became especially clear that we had made the right decision when we watched Luke being unable to get ready in the mornings as quickly as his big brother. Luke still cannot really make his bed and needs help dressing himself.  He also has a hard time staying on task unless someone is standing right beside him.

I don’t worry about any of this now, because it just makes it clear to me that Luke hasn’t reached that stage of independence.  Slowly, he is making progress.  He is learning how to communicate himself more clearly.  Earlier in the year, he was having trouble completing his sentences and would begin stuttering and then rushing his words together in a blast of phonic sound while appearing as if his entire face was going to explode.  (Seriously, it was quite an interesting thing to watch.) Now, he’s able to make himself understood most of the time and enjoys joining in conversations with the family.

As with our decision to keep Jared in the half-day kindergarten program, I have not regretted for a moment keeping Luke out of school altogether.  I am really enjoying the pre-school activities I’ve been doing with Luke.  He’s been working on his alphabet, basic phonics, writing letters and writing numbers, and learning how to count different items.  I’ve also been using different flash card games to help him build his vocabulary. Another activity that has become part of his morning exercises is going over a section out of his Awana Cubbies book.  Luke has been so excited that he is old enough now to participate in the Awana program with Jared.  Luke also enjoys learning Bible verses and doing the activities and projects that the book recommends.

Luke has been enjoying this time that I spend with him in the mornings.  You may wonder what Grace is doing at this time.  I usually am feeding her the rest of her breakfast and letting her look at little books and play with small toys until Luke is finished with his exercises.  I don’t spend more than an hour and a half in the morning on these activities.  Then, Luke and Grace play on their own unless we have an outing planned or a list of errands that Mommy wants to take care of before picking up Jared at school.

Luke is really beginning to understand what it means to be big brother now that he is the one that Mommy turns to for help while Jared is at school.  He is also starting to look to Grace more for companionship now that Jared isn’t here as much to fill that void. In the past six months, Luke has grown three inches, gone up one shoe size and is wearing 4T in most of his clothing.  He is still about six inches shorter than Jared, but has slowly caught up to him in weight so that he now is only two to three pounds lighter than Jared.

Luke loves music and impresses his Sunday school teachers by being one of the few enthusiastic “worshipers” during their praise and worship time.  They tell me that Luke always makes his way to the front of the room so that he can dance and do the motions to all the songs they sing.