People that I meet are always interested in how I communicate in a different country. This is a topic that will actually take a few post to answer…
I’ll start with an experience in Turkey.
When I first moved to Turkey, I didn’t know any Turkish. I don’t think I had ever even heard Turkish before. Let me tell you something about Turkish, it is completely different from English.
As a language teacher, I can tell you that the best way to learn a language is to be completely immersed in it. However, for the first year that I lived in Ankara, I rarely spoke a word of Turkish. I worked at a language school where speaking anything other than English was forbidden. None of my students were allowed to speak Turkish to me, and at the time I was working so much that I rarely left the school.
So, when I met Seyfi, I could barely put a sentence together. Sure I could read a basic menu, and ask a bus driver to pull over so I could get off, say some really basic grammar structures, but that was it.
It was when things between Seyfi and i got serious, and I met his parents, that I thought I’d better get working on my Turkish. Seyfi sat down with me and went through some more of the grammar and vocabulary. I slowly started to get better.
A few months later, I asked my parents to come and see where I was living, and to meet Seyfi and his family. (I knew I would marry him, and wanted them to see where I would be living, and who I’d be with).
Now, I am going to tell you a funny story, a story that my in laws tell everyone, a story that I tell students to make them feel better when they make mistakes in my class room…
While they were in Turkey, we travelled around together, Seyfi was always there to help us out with the language. But one afternoon, in a different town, Seyfi and my dad had to go to get the car looked at, so my mom and I went to a little restaurant to get something to eat.
I think my mom was a bit nervous about going to a restaurant without Seyfi, but a reassured her, that there would be no problem, that I could speak Turkish now, that all would be fine.
So, we sat down, looked at the little menus on the table and decided to get some soup. Here is how the conversation went:
Waiter: Hoşgeldiniz. Welcome.
Me: İki çorap, lütfen. Two socks, please. (Pointing at soup)
Me: iki çorap, lütfen. Two socks, please. (still pointing at soup)
Waiter: Pardon, çorap? Pardon? Socks?
Me: Evet, çorap… Ah! No! Corba istiyorum! Yes, socks… Ah! No! I want soup!
Waiter: hahaha (laughing at the cute foreigner with her mom!)
I made this mistake for years! My mother in law thinks it is hilarious, my mom still mentions it to me. But most importantly, this story helps my students see that anyone can make a mistake when learning a new language, the most important think is to just keep trying, because when you stop being nervous, and learn the language, an whole new world will open up to you.