2013 was the year I started studying Turkish. I knew I’d be visiting a couple of times, and not just sticking to tourist hotspots, so I wanted to at least be able to find my way around… and order food. I wouldn’t say I achieved all my language goals, but I did make a good start, which I’m hoping to build on in 2014.
One of the most amusing moments last year was when I found myself, at a conference, dining out in Kuşadası with some Indian colleagues. As we were all vegetarian, we really needed to know what we were ordering, and it fell to me to translate the menu. Into Hindi.
I don’t actually speak Hindi, but while my colleagues spoke good English, they didn’t recognise many of the British words for ingredients. My first attempts to translate the menu into English fell on confused ears. Fortunately, I’ve ordered from enough Indian restaurant menus to have some food vocabulary. Enough, at least, to explain that ‘patlıcan’ was ‘baigan’, ‘ıspanak’ was ‘palak’, and ‘peynir’ was, well, ‘paneer’. We all had a good laugh at that one, and successfully ordered some dishes that suited everyone.
My incipient knowledge of Turkish also came in useful in some surprising places. Later in the year, I was at another conference, this time in Germany, when I found a little Turkish restaurant around the corner from my hotel. It turns out that my Turkish is now more comprehensible than my somewhat rusty high school German – and I was able to explain to the slightly surprised proprietor that I only knew a little of his language, as my father was living in Turkey.
I’m not sure what 2014’s #milestones will be, but even though I’m not sure when I’ll next be back in Turkey, I’m confident that Turkish can only continue to prove useful at the strangest of times.
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