Surviving “Survival Turkish”

Well folks, we did it. We survived our two-day crash course in Turkish. When Professor Binnaz walked in she wasted zero time and immediately started teaching us a small conversation. Apparently we had a lot of Turkish to learn. Overwhelmed is one word to describe how we felt, or at least how I felt in those first initial moments. The way in which Binnaz taught was very different than what we Oles have experienced back on the Hill. After repeating these foreign words that Binnaz was saying to us (which honestly sounded like pig latin to me), we were asked to repeat the whole conversation with another person in front of the class. We would go around the room until every person repeated the conversation twice. This is something that was new to me and definitely made me feel a little on edge. After repeating the word for “thank you” about a billion times (teşekkür ederim), it was my turn to say it. I froze and couldn’t remember the word for the life of me! “I WILL KILL YOU!!” is the next thing I hear coming from Binnaz. She laughed slightly after that, as if she had just made a funny joke. Of course I knew she was kidding, but it was not something that I (in that moment) found very funny. I had only been learning Turkish for an hour, I was allowed to screw up, right?

From there it felt like it just went downhill. I was a little put off from what she had said to me, and during the rest of the lesson (aka the whole rest of the day) I had a somewhat bitter attitude and couldn’t get past what had happened. I had a question about what the word for “the” was and how you put that into sentences. My innocent little question turned into a fifteen minute explanation about the Turkish language, with examples that were far beyond our comprehension. At this point I felt really overwhelmed and realized how much I wanted to learn but how impossible that would be. At the end of the day I know some of us felt a little put off by how this whole lesson had gone, disheartened at how complicated it all seemed to be. We had learned so many words and had been speaking Turkish the whole day so we were tired. I was apprehensive for the next day simply because this teaching style was so different than what I was used to.

The second day started with practicing what we had learned the first day. We all did pretty well and I never forgot the word for thank you again (thank god). We practiced our numbers and counted all the way to 100, which consisted of us growing louder with each number. By 100 (yüz) we were shouting at Binnaz, clearly excited that we could actually do that after learning Turkish for a single day. This second day of Turkish went really well and I think we were all feeling pretty good about how much we had learned in such a short time. It was a crash course in Turkish, but we learned important words and phrases that I think most of us feel comfortable using outside of the classroom. Before we left the United States, we had been warned of the different teaching styles that we would encounter during this semester abroad. Having Turkish with Binnaz was definitely a prime example of this forewarning.

By the end of the lesson Binnaz had tears from laughing with us about learning  this language. As we stumbled over words and paused between every new sound we were squeaking out, Binnaz smiled and laughed. Maybe she was laughing at us–I guess we’ll never know–but her laughter felt in no way offensive, and rather endearing. She knew how hard it was for us to learn this language, and instead of correcting everything we said incorrectly (which, let’s be honest, was a lot) she patiently waited for us to choke out these foreign words. Not only did we learn Turkish, but we experienced a new style of teaching. We learned that although Turkish is difficult, complicated, and overwhelming, we can do it! Speaking of Turkish, we have a Turkish test in five minutes. Let’s see how much we’ve actually learned. Teşekkür ederim for reading!



About stotime

14 young adults, two fearless leaders, a multitude of language barriers and a world worth exploring.
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