Learning Türkçe: Rowing in vain?


 Sometimes you try and try but you can’t get what you want because you are beating a dead horse and your endeavour is futile.

In Turkish, the same concept is expressed with a different metaphor:

“Boşa kürek çekmek.” 

It literally translates as “to row in vain.”
For example: “Yükselmek için yıllarca çalıştı durdu ama sonunda boşa kürek çektiğini anladı.”

These days, twelve years into my relationship with M., I feel the rowing in vain feeling all the time when it comes to language.

I have hundreds of Turkish words that materialize easily in my mouth – but only two or three basic sentences. Verb conjugations stymie me. Rosetta Stone’s fantastic program has given me a leg up, but I’m still only partially in the boat that I’m trying to row, in vain.

Perhaps I should just forget my dream of learning basic conversational Turkish…be a realist and just smile in my silent non-understanding through tea time conversations and bazaar bargaining bouts.

Karagöz mocks me when I think in this way – “yes, forget it, you only visit for a month per year now anyway.”

But then, Hacivad Bey kicks Karagöz out of the way in those moments, saying “but how nice it would be to engage in charming niceties during your visits!”

And of course Kenne, the Queen of Manners et Alia, she says “you don’t want to be an ugly American, now, do you?”

Esma, the hippie puppet takes a different tact, saying “you could equalize your relationship with M. by having more Turkish in common instead of your language, English.  This would be equitable, fair and respectful.”

And so it goes with each of the puppets weighing in on what I should do and how I should feel about this sticky (for me) topic.

M. says he doesn’t mind if I learn Turkish or not…but I think he would secretly be proud if I did.  I suppose I’ll only be able to make the jump if I row my heart out and head for that grindstone with my nose!

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This entry was posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Learning Türkçe: Rowing in vain?

  1. Learning a language with a different alphabet, and a non-European culture to boot, is a HuGE undertaking. I think you’re doing splendidly well, and that all you need to adjust are your expectations for what success will be. Fluency takes years in any language, and yet being able to manage some simple phrases is possible, and should be worth a celebration as a real achievement. Look: you’ve learned to cook Turkish food, you visit and can arrange tours, you care deeply about the political events of the day. This is a lot, m’dear. Take a bow!

  2. mytravelingjoys says:

    Agreed! Learning any foreign language is tough. A few bits that worked for me: flashcards, Rosetta Stone or something similar and speaking to Turkish friends. Would M. do that with you? Good luck! 🙂 I’m thrilled to be able to speak English for awhile!

  3. Alan says:

    . . join the club – terrific vocabulary but still struggling with construction after 18 years – sometimes it feels as though the demolition ball has gone through my brain!

  4. lizcameron says:

    Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, Nancy. Unfortunately, I feel extra guilty because Turkish does use our Alphabet with only a few different modifications to our letters…ş ö ğ ü ı…so I don’t have that to fall back on!

  5. lizcameron says:

    I hear you on the demolition ball

  6. lizcameron says:

    Thanks so much for the tips – much appreciated. Flash cards here we go!

  7. Jay says:

    I’m getting ready for my move to Turkey in November, and have been making friends with my old copy of Rosetta Stone in a valiant attempt to brush up on my accent and pronunciation so that when I get there, I’ll be a little bit more prepared. I’m still having trouble with those rolling/trilling r’s though!

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