Here it is! My first attempt at speaking Turkish (first minute of the video), followed by a look around where I live (in English).
Technically I arrived over a week and a half ago, but I’m calling this the end of my first week because I mostly just slept or was dreadfully tired my first days due to flight problems and didn’t achieve anything in terms of getting to know the city or the language in that time.
Due to lack of natural light in my apartment, I continue to sleep in very late (sunlight, rather than alarm clocks, are what has been waking me up for years) and be awake until very late as a consequence, so I may just have to accept this for the moment and work with it, even though I usually do my best work/study in the morning.
But there is no time to waste! I’ve studied some basic vocabulary, flicked through a grammar book (a more in-depth study will come in a few weeks when I have a decent flow of the language), and hit people with a few words. Ordering food and asking directions is never a problem, but I’m finally starting to get the basic gist of what some people say when they speak slowly to me about more general things. Paying attention to context and non-verbal cues help a lot.
My biggest challenge so far with the basics of the language is the reverse order of sentences requiring me to think backwards. I’ll get used to this quickly (Hungarian has something similar, although it’s even less familiar in Turkish) and it will become second nature, but in initial stages it does require some “rewiring”.
For example, in the video as I was speaking, I had to think not what you read in the subtitles but “Instabul-to welcome! One week-since more-than here-I-am…”
Just to be clear: I had a native translate the introduction for me in advance and learned it to recite for the camera. So I can’t speak spontaneously like that yet, but I hope to be able to by August.
However, I was genuinely thinking about what to say rather than reciting noise, and understand the structure of what I was saying. Simply preparing to make this video and learning it has pushed me that extra bit harder, which is a boost I needed from my initial slow start. I would have liked to have done several takes, but my camera battery was about to run out, so this really is my first ever attempt!
This pressure and distraction also meant that I didn’t point the camera anywhere interesting for that first minute – sorry about that!
Oh yes, and here are those cats from the video again – they sleep in this flower pot in front of my house every night, and there are a lot of them around this part of the city!
As stated in the video, I live in a very central area, close to lots of nightlife and western comforts. Eating as a vegetarian has been no problem here. I’ve had very little culture shock here, and was surprised that the dress sense isn’t different at all in this area (very pretty Turkish girls in mini skirts can be seen everywhere in the evenings; something you certainly won’t hear me complaining about!)
I also managed to invite a cute Turkish waitress out for dinner with relative ease and walk hand-in-hand all the way there, so all my stereotypes about male-female interactions in this Muslim country are being destroyed. I imagine Istanbul is an exception in the country, but it’s great to see how secular it really is.
I have yet to get over to the Asian side – I will discover it with time, and will spend several full days there of course. I’ll also try to get out of Istanbul once in the next weeks to see another part of the country.
I’ve gone to some expat meetings and as expected many of them (living here much longer than me) haven’t bothered to learn the language yet. The local Couchsurfing meetings seem to be populated almost entirely by Turks, but many go there with hopes of practising English with foreigners, so I’ll be trying to branch off into different social groups as soon as I can.
There is a lot to discover considering how much of the city I have been restricting myself to, but I look forward to taking my time to get to know it, especially within a few weeks as my improved Turkish allows me to communicate better.
If you have any thoughts on what I’ve done so far in Istanbul or on my Turkish, let us know in the comments below!
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This article was written by Benny Lewis
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