Published: May 6th 2011May 6th 2011
As I flew over the gigantuous city that is Istanbul, noticing the many minarerts coming off the mosques, it struck me that I did not know ONE Turkish word. Not one. Feeling like an incredibly naive traveler and ignorant American tourist, I leaned over to the Swiss lady next to me who had lived in Istanbul previously and embarrassingly asked her "uhhm, how do you say hello in Turkish?" Merhaba, she responded, spelling it for me but informing me you do not pronounce the h. "Merhaba!" Alright, so I know how to say hello!
Yes, I was thinking that in such a massive city, many people would know English. But, more so than that, I had simply ran out of time for (or I guess not made priority) educating myself about Turkey before departing the states. There were far too many other things going on such as moving, packing, organizing, and storing my life for a year between two different houses and enjoying time with family and friends. Anyways, it turns out, English is not so much written anywhere (as I'd been hoping) and there are few English cognates (bummer). Of course, I am very interested in learning the Turkish
language, a huge part of the culture in which I will be living for a year. So, I quickly bought a Turkish purse-size journal from a Turkish man that will be solely dedicated to Turkish words and me learning Turkish. This journal will be my best friend, although we may have a love-hate relationship as learning another language can be quite frustrating to me. It requires patience...which I could use more of. :) At least after completing a TESOL certificate, in which I took many linguistic classes and got frustrated trying to understand my OWN language, I am much more interested in languages and how they work. I'm also more bitter than ever that my parents did not raise us bilingually. Seriously, couldn't those nannies have taught me another language. ;) It would make learning my third much easier right...
Anyways, back to my journal: it's already full of common Turkish words, words I see places, words I need to know, words to get me around so I can manage/survive via the buses (three inner-city bus terminals), two metro lines, two tram lines, "taksis," and dolmuş (taxi hop on/hop off, pay per distance buses). Thankfully, Turkish uses the standard
alphabet; at least I have that going for me. Their alphabet has 29 letters, 8 of which are vowels, and excludes q, w, and x . One difference is that [c] only represents the phoneme /j/ as in joy. Therefore, the little girl I nanny, Ece, is pronounced as we would say AJ. Two words are never combined to make one sound, ie: [Ç] (c with a tail) makes the /ch/ sound and [Ş] (s with a tail) makes the /sh/ sound but with one less letter; convenient, yes? Although this leaves me, the native English speaker, making mistakes like pronouncing the Turkish word meshut as "mesh-hoot" instead of "mes-HOOT." Oh dear... Also, there is a regular /i/ and an /ı/ which makes our "uh" sound. I had been pronouncing the dad's name, Sanli, like the i in indian rather than "sahnluh." Lastly (for now) [G] is always hard, as in gate and they have a separate soft g: [Ğ] or "yumuşak ge" which you do not ever pronounce, similar to our -gh like in though. It simply elongates the vowels before and/or after it making the Turkish word, tuğra, pronounced "toora." Oh, and the verb here goes on the
end because the Turkish word order is Subject, Object, Verb unlike English's Subject, Verb, Object word order. Ok, ok...I'll move on, for those of you who have no interest in other languages or are not learning Turkish at this time! :) But, now you know what I'm up to over here. You can visualize me, both loving and hating, my Turkish journal, from the Turkish man, full of Turkish words, in hopes of learning the Turkish language...
I've definitely arrived in Istanbul. I have lots to learn: the language and public transportation being on my mind, and most importantly learning the routines and structure of the family I am joining as a big sister, or "abla!" I've been greeted with hugs, smiles, gestures of kindness, and multiple "I luhh yous" from 3.5 year old Ege, who love, love, loves the pigeon series by Mo Willems. Looks like I may need to be shipping more of those our way. I've also been grateful to spend five days with Leslie, their aupair of 10 months, who departed for home this morning and starts grad school soon (probably in Germany). I was not only incredibly impressed by her Turkish, and her ability
to maneuver the city, and her patience while teaching/showing me everything, but also by her love for and part in this family, and vice versa. She will be incredibly missed, that's for sure.
More to come later. I'm off to do some cleaning and organizing in my room while the little Turkish ones are at school until 4. Next week, I'll be out exploring the city more. I wasn't quite up for the challenge today; not without a cell phone. I'm waiting on the Turks to approve my request to register my phone here... Here are some pics for now. All the ones in Historic Istanbul were taken on a quick trip around the city on a rainy day. More pictures and descriptions to come as I continue exploring this city that seems to capture the hearts of all who invest time here.
There are more photos below