Taking your language on the road
My trip to Turkey was too short, but very nice. Thought I'd share just a bit about some language experiences I had to encourage anyone else wanting to practice a language they are learning while traveling. The basic take away is to try all you can, hope for the best, and enjoy what comes.
Even though I only know a little my goal was to use as much Turkish as I could. I created my own travel phrase book that I studied on the train ride to the airport and all along the way. I noticed I was already recognizing Turkish words I'd studied here on DL at the airport in Germany and then while on the plane. I could barely contain my happiness when my plastic water cup with words in Turkish/German/English was handed to me! :)
It was exciting to read Turkish signs from bus windows, read it on menus, and overhear it in conversations. I used it with everyone I could and didn't let myself get discouraged when some did not respond or seem to understand. It was very satisfying just to try. Even just telling those who asked if I knew any Turkish the random words I've memorized so far led to lots of laughter and smiles. :)
While speaking German and English over lunch in a busy market street the call to prayer in Arabic suddenly began in the nearby mosque. The waiter came over and I tried a little Turkish with him. It was so fun when I saw a look of recognition come over his face as Turkish words came out of my mouth! Sometimes I had to repeat myself, but I stayed brave, kept smiling and got the pronunciation.
Although I've only studied a little Turkish it now has a more familiar feeling. I love that part of language learning - when the unfamiliar sounds become words I can use too. Nearly every sign has an English translation (and often a German one) next to the Turkish, but it was still fun to try to decipher the Turkish now that I know more about pronunciation, word order, and how to recognize plurals.
My German was of course very helpful in Turkey. This was the first time I was able to hear the experiences of Turkish immigrants who have lived in both Germany and Turkey in German. One tour guide grew up in Turkey, moved to Germany and then later back to Turkey. He interestingly mentioned that this had led him to make extra mistakes in each of the languages, and not quite be a "native speaker" of either he felt. He made it his mission to correct various misconceptions he believed Germans might have about Turkey and Islam. It was interesting to hear how he compared and meditated between the two cultures, especially around politics and religion, and to try to observe how the German speaking audience received it.
(View of snow covered mountains from Hierapolis)
I had the chance to visit various ancient sites (Ephesus http://www.culturaltravelguide.com/ephesus-ancient-wonder-travel-part-3 and Hierapolis http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/hierapolis-pamukkale by Pamukkale) and hear tours in German. The signs in these sites were all displayed in Turkish, German, and English. My German vocabulary has built up well over my nearly two years of study, but there is still a ways to go. Nevertheless I could not believe I was standing on a remnant of an ancient Greek road, looking at buildings with Ancient Greek writing, overhearing tourists speaking many languages and mostly understanding my German speaking Turkish guide. I never expected German to be such an important language for me and I am so glad I've put so much into it and am encouraged to keep growing it. :)
I also went to a Turkish bath for the first time and even though I had only a few new words in Turkish to toss into the conversation it added a lot of fun and laughter to the experience. I was also sung to in Turkish in the baths, quite unexpectedly, and I can't tell you how stirring and delightful it was to hear Turkish echoing off the marble walls of the hammam. And if you've never been, they do some pretty amazing things with bubbles! :)
I also noticed there are languages hidden under other ones. When my partner was overheard speaking Arabic this opened up the door to friendly conversations in Arabic and a deeper understanding of the non-Turkish population in Turkey. I can't count how many times now I've met people in Turkey who feel the need to "hide" their other languages. People do this all over, and the decisions and reasons around this vary of course...but it really makes you think though about the social masks people must wear sometimes.
(Temple of Artemis)
At times I didn't know what language to speak when. I remember getting off the bus to see the scarce remnants of the one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World near Ephesus and unconsciously switching between German and English. I had to ask myself a few times what language was I just using? It was also fun to see the international visitors at my hotel (mostly German, but also British, Columbian, Belgian, Swedish, French, etc.) all enjoying music together mostly in English but also a few songs in Spanish. Then there was the other tour guide who explained there was "no such thing as being Turkish" as he had aunts and uncles who, due to the history of the Ottoman empire, lived in all the countries surrounding present day Turkey. I think he meant it was a complex identity historically and linguistically due to shifting borders.
(Image of 3rd largest Ancient Library in Ephesus)
A side trip to a nearby Greek island became especially memorable when a German tourist who is deaf approached me to ask about the bathroom. She was asking with gestures, but it didn't quite sink in at first she was deaf and wasn't speaking out loud. I just absorbed the question and responded - communication. This soon led to a whole day spent with a fun person and trying to communicate with written German, signs, lip reading, pointing, made up movements, smiling and laughter. I'd never spent such a long time communicating with someone who is deaf and found the broad expressions and movements quite enjoyable and lively. The word for boat was easy to pick up and we used it alot. The blank pages at the end of my phrase book came in very handy and were filled up with many pages of eager, but messy German questions and answers.
This day was also poignant because we saw a small boat with refugees trying to cross from Turkey to Greece. I scanned the news later to see what might have become of them as there was so much in the news these days about deadly voyages in the Mediterranean, but only found news of another tragedy that had occurred earlier that day in the same waters.
At the airport on the way back we offered some treats to the mother and son seated across from us in the waiting area. This led to another unexpectedly insightful conversation with people who live in both Turkey and Germany. The son was caught between two worlds linguistically as well. His Turkish "wasn't good enough" to get himself a Turkish wife (his mom's dream) and he felt unaccepted in German society as well. When I was studying Arabic I memorized a few things that came in handy to warm their hearts a bit. :) And they tried to impress me with a little English, but we mostly spoke German. :)
I am already dreaming about my next visit to Turkey and studying more Turkish in the future. I hope for many more trips and unexpected encounters there. :) Thanks again to the course creators and DL. It never would have occurred to me to even try Turkish if not for this course/website!
** Not my personal photos. I barely remembered to take any! :) (fingers snapping)
With long posts, the reading can quickly get quite boring - but not in this case! I've started planning a trip to Turkey for next year and I'm super excited but also a bit nervous with the whole language thing, so I'm glad to hear that this all really did help! Were you able to order things for example? Or make small-talk in the streets with people?
Güle güle ve iyi şanslar! :)
Oh thanks very much - nice use of Turkish by the way! :) I edited it a bit to make sure I stayed on point, but I am not always good at being brief as you see! ;)
Yes, I could do basic ordering by individual words/pointing, but Turkey (in contrast to my time in Greece) is highly geared towards towards international visitors (in terms of friendliness and engagement) so there is usually a language "safety net". I think I only had one "full sentence" Turkish encounter while ordering food (with this waiter that didn't speak German/English) but that is because I patched together two separate sentences in my phrase book and made a new one for the situation. (Thanks to things I learned about word order here.) But that was a great learning experience! I haven't taken the time yet, but one thing I mean to do is go back to my phrase book and figure out what sentences I really needed. Of course at this early stage you are also limited by not having enough vocab/structure for the replies so you gotta be careful what little conversations you try to strike up. :) I had a strategy of always leading with "Merhaba" instead of "Hallo/Hello" to show I was friendly, open, respectful, and might know a little Turkish and then moved into German or English. But just bringing up a little Turkish folks would ask if I knew more Turkish and I could say I was just starting with it and knew a few words, but really like it. :) When the person only seemed to speak Turkish (and not German or English) it was also good because I could reduce down to basics and they knew not to expect too much from me. :) But most Turkish people where I was knew either German or English (usually one or the other, not both) so I had that as a back up. :)
Hierapolis is amazing by the way if you are in the area! I didn't have nearly enough time there - there is a LOT to see and do!!!
Ah okay, yeah i get that hahaha, have it sometimes as well.
It's so great to know that, cause sometimes when there's not really that feeling of "it's okay to make mistakes in the language cause they appreciate me trying" it's very demotivating. Glad it's not like that in Türkiye :)) Und warum können so viele Menschen Deutsch sprechen in der Türkei? I didn't expect that haha...
I'll be sure to put Hierapolis on my list then! Lütfen!
Oh, I live in the German speaking part of Switzerland so I have sort of a curious experience living in the German speaking world. :) I go to Germany pretty regularly and when you travel in certain places they cater pretty hard core to Germans because they have the biggest (I think) population of Western Europe and tend to take lots of trips. Also there is a historical relationship between Turkey and Germany so there is that connection. But it was interesting to be in a space between these cultures and peoples and not be from either group. :) I didn't encounter any Americans while there though and they are always kinda suprised when you say you come from there. :) Even in the setting I was in, not actually my preferred kind of travel, I was able to break out at certain moments and make more of it than it might have been. The last time I was in Turkey and I was even more spoken to and embraced by people. This time was different, but I find it just helps to reach out to people and say funny things people don't expect. ;) Yes, Hierapolis is a jewel. :)
"I love that part of language learning - when the unfamiliar sounds become words I can use too."
Me too! I love reading or hearing something, and having that startled realisation I can understand it, or writing or saying something that would've been incomprehensible to me not so long ago.
It's one of the things I really love about learning new alphabets, as well. It's a very long time since I learned Cyrillic, so that seems quite ordinary to me now, but Hebrew, for example, I still remember when it just looked like squiggles to me - especially the handwritten alphabet - so to be able to sit down and write something in Hebrew is really quite strange and wonderful.
Thanks for writing so much about your trip, this was really fun to read, you really brought to life your experiences and it seems like you got a lot more out of it than the average tourist, not to mention being able to use your skills in several languages. Thank you for sharing!
Examples just for your satisfaction :D
Last time I was in Israel I remember seeing graffiti in Hebrew and it just looked so totally different to me, not like any alphabet I had ever seen. I still don't read it anything like fluently or what have you (especially casual, non learner friendly writing meant for people who already speak the language!), but just being able to read some of it makes my day <3
Hahahahahahaha :D yeah you should see my handwriting in English... or maybe you shouldn't...
Ahhhh I loooooove Arabic script, but I really never got my brain round it, but I know what you mean about the fancy stuff. A street sign I might be able to work out the city or town name. The florid stuff on a mosque wall? wow, it's gorgeous, but I wouldn't know where to start.
There's actually an Arabic calligraphy course on (90% off!!) sale on Udemy that I gave in to temptation and bought, so you never know, I might even get my brain round it. (Or I might just end up throwing up my hands and requesting a refund, but I figured it was worth looking at when it was on such a great deal.
Oh nice! :) I just read a little about it here: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karşıyaka
You remind me now of the drive over to the port to catch the ferry to Izmir. :) What great views! Izmir was fun too - was a newer area and the old market area. :) Oh, and you also remind me now! For anyone who is hoping to go - you MUST get ice cream in Turkey! :D I don't know how to describe it other than to say they play the funniest tricks with ice cream, and it has a very unique consistency! :)
Nice! You would have liked those tours! I was soaking up every minute of it! And it is really so beautiful there. :) Other than the story about the ruler who brought malaria into the city on purpose to wreck it, and force everybody to move, it looks like it was an amazing place to live in ancient times. ;)
Thank you so much for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your various observations and I think it's cool that you got to communicate in Turkish and in German. I'm so glad you had a good time, too! I remember visiting Ephesus for the first time when I was 15 and just being in awe. And aren't Turkish baths just heavenly? I don't have plans to be back in Turkey until sometime next year, but now I don't know if I can wait that long :)
Oh, I was hoping you'd drop by and comment! :) Thank you! Yes, Ephesus was impressive. Didn't know I was going there so had no idea ahead of time what I would see as I walked through the ruins of the whole city. Man what a place that must have been! :) It completely blows your mind to be in that area! :) When I was sitting in the amphitheatre another Turkish guide brought in his group (Russian visitors I think) and began singing to all of us and having a little fun with the acoustics! Magic! :) The baths were interesting. It was my first time. I am pretty open, but also humble, so the idea of someone giving me a bath takes some adjusting to it. But honestly, it was great! :) Well, I hope you get back soon! Happy Turkish learning! :)
Aww thanks haha :)
I would've loved to be there for the little concert in the amphitheater. The day we went to Ephesus, it was cold and drizzly, so it was only me and a few friends and our local tour guide. Something about the weather and the fact that it was only us there made it feel even more breathtaking and humbling somehow. I don't know what it's like now, but I remember being amazed at how you could just walk through the whole thing, without all of the ruins being roped off or behind glass or whatever like so many other places are. It really allowed you to just feel a part of it and take it all in, if that makes sense.
And I know what you mean about someone giving you a bath. I still feel awkward sometimes just getting a pedicure or a massage. But if you can allow yourself to just relax, it is truly luxurious and rejuvenating.
And I just have to say again how much I enjoyed your post. I absolutely love traveling, but I hate when people travel and just want everything to be like home, or are rude, or don't want to learn about any of the culture and history, etc. So it's always lovely to read a travel piece by someone who seems genuinely open-minded and down-to-earth. Please be sure to share any of your future travels! :)
Happy Turkish learning to you too :) ~Nati
Ah, thanks! :) Yes, that experience really intrigued me. The person was from an area that Turkey apparently annexed - it was formerly a part of another country. So, that is what this person wanted/needed to keep "hidden." I am dying to know more Turkish and German to be able to hear/read more about the history and identities of people there. :) It's gonna take awhile, but fingers crossed...:)
Thank you for snagging my attention towards this post. It was really great to read about your adventures. Your bit about extra pages in your phrase book was an especially excellent thing for me to keep in mind if I travel in the future. Thank you for sharing your many other observations with us as well. This was an insightful read. :)
Oh thanks a bunch! :) ...And I've been meaning to write to this warm, funny person again and invite her to visit me here anytime. It was amazing how much I could "hear" when she was speaking. She also impressed me with her bravery traveling alone to many, many places. She told lots of travel stories. It stung to hear stories about people cheating her sometimes, taking advantage of her deafness. Things like this make you want to just keep adding languages to the to-do list. :)
Although I have all my senses I am still wary of the traffic and I guess that would be the main danger for deaf people too. Everyone please be careful crossing the road. Drivers usually stop at red lights but NOT at crossings which are just painted on the road without lights. Even if the crossing does have lights please watch out for cars turning in from a side road and jumping the pedestrian crossing light.
One of our neighbour's cars has a sticker (with both a graphic and written in Turkish) informing other drivers of their deafness. Turkish drivers tend to use the horn a lot.
Our city has an official interpreter between Turkish and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkish_Sign_Language so I guess all big cities do. Although he tells me that few of them can speak English apparently they are represented on international bodies if anyone wants official info.
I held off on reading this post for a couple days due to it's length, but I read it just now and I have to say - amazing! I've never even thought about going to a place like Turkey, and in a single post you have pointed out so many things that I now want to see and do there - starting with getting sung to in a Turkish bath. ^-^
Please, travel more often so that I can read all about your adventures.
:D Thanks bro! I actually already look to be heading to Turkey again later this year if plans hold. Ay, ay, ay! It's not really my style - resorts - but as you see I can break outta that and make the most of whatever comes. :) I was hoping for Italy, the whole place is practically an open air museum and you know how much I love Italian, but perhaps another time if I can get a good job and some extra $. Years ago I traveled in alone in Mexico as cheaply as possible and those were some of the best vacations. I made no reservations, just found hotels on the streets or from Let's Go. I loved the moment after I'd check into a room and then walked over to have a look behind the room's door. I can still remember a funky hotel in a colonial Mexican city, San Miguel de Allende, with a funky suit of armor in the hallway. :D It seemed so out of place. They have a great mummy museum there too and even make mummy shaped candy! :D Oh, I am lost in thoughts...Thanks for reading. I wasn't sure about posting all that stuff, but I hoped I framed it well enough to make it useful to folks. :) Muchas gracias!
p.s. Oh, and the singing! What a surprise! I think she likes to sing to whomever she bathes and she tickled my feet too and laughed when I screamed after she unexpectedly threw cold water on me! :) It is so...odd...to be bathed, I'm a humble gal, but pretty great all in all. :) Yeah, and for us in the US Turkey is only what we eat in November! ;) Never would have occurred to me to go there either had I not been here.