For the last month or so, probably out of nostalgia for the lovely trip we made last summer to Turkey, I have been treating myself to a Turkish-style breakfast with bread, hummus, dates, figs and cherries every morning. I generally don’t enjoy breakfast – toast, waffles, pancakes, cereal, eggs, or any of that stuff – but I loved what we were served in Turkey. So I have decided to eat a Turkish-style breakfast to start my day off better. I also bought myself some fabulous baggy Turkish pants at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul last July. They are comfortable in the summer heat, sort of cool-looking (as cool as I ever get!) and they remind me of the lovely city and its people.
One aspect of our trip to Turkey that I am not going to be able to incorporate into my life, however, is the Turkish language.
I made a bold attempt to try to get my head around it while we were there. I bought a Lonely Planet Turkish phrase book and read the introduction to Turkish grammar. I studied Japanese at college and later spent a year during my Master’s degree learning Korean. I’m apparently good with languages, and because some linguists in the 19th and 20th century have argued the existence of a Ural-Altaic language family that includes Finnish, Hungarian, Turkish, Mongolian, Korean and Japanese, I figured I might stand a chance at decoding Turkish. But, while I could see some resemblance in the way Turkish and Japanese verbs function in sentences, and I was able to get used to various diacritical marks on the letters, after a few days I gave up and began to wonder if there really was any truth to that linguistic theory. Japanese and Korean – sure they’re related, but Turkish – I am skeptical. We were only there for 9 days, so in the end I decided to be satisfied with Merhabā, Teşekkür ederim and Güle güle, and like most tourists in Turkey hope that the locals speak English.
I held on to the phrasebook. I’m not sure why really. If I hadn’t learned Turkish in Turkey, there was little chance I’d study it again here. Our nextdoor neighbors Frank and Tony (see February 26, March 10, May 24 and July 13) are heading to Turkey in a couple of weeks. I am not sure how much of a linguistic challenge they’ll want while they explore the wonders of Istanbul, Ephesus and Cappadocia, but the book is small and it is handy for very basic information. Perhaps they’ll dip into it on the plane, or perhaps they’ll decide to pass it along to another tourist they meet in Turkey who has more time to take on this very different language. All I can say to them is, “iyi şanslar!”