Angela’s Journal #2 – Thinking in Turkish

Title: Thinking In Turkish


I love foreign languages because to me, they sound so pretty. For example, when I hear people speaking in Turkish, the words sound very graceful and poetic. I have been taking Turkish classes for three months and sadly I sound neither graceful nor poetic, but I am trying! Being a foreigner in a country that you do not speak the language can be scary. You are not alone though. Friends, teachers, and other exchange students have helped me pick up on a number of Turkish phrases that help me every day. You would be surprised how quickly you learn a different language when you hear it everyday! Suddenly, Turkish does not sound so foreign anymore.


I do not remember the first word that I learned in English. I do not remember the first word that I learned in Spanish. Both are languages that I have grown up with and in a way, they are a part of me. I do remember the first word I learned in Turkish. Merhaba means “hello” in Turkish and for days I said Merhaba to everyone with such pride! I am taking a Turkish class in order to gain a better knowledge of the Turkish language, but it is tough! Learning any language from scratch is a challenge. Have any of you started to learn a foreign language? Living in a country where most people do not speak my language was very scary at first, but the more I tried in class, the more comfortable I was when I needed something in Turkish.

There is a place that I always go to at school to get lunch and they do not speak any English there. I am a vegetarian, so I made sure to learn an important phrase: etsiz. This means “without meat,” and so every time I would go to get lunch, I would point to the food I wanted and ask, “Etsiz”? Every day they said there was no meat, and every day there was chicken in my food. Why didn’t they understand me? After weeks of giving my chicken to my friends at lunch, I finally worked up the nerve to tell my favorite food place that I was not eating this chicken any more! Low and behold, I had been using the wrong word for “meat” the entire time. To the Turkish, chicken is not really “meat.” Instead, they consider cow, lamb, or pig as meat. As soon as I understood this, ordering food became a delight and now the employees there always chuckle when I walk in. “Etsiz” they say, and I always laugh.

If it were not for some of the Turkish student I have met while studying abroad, I think I would have had a difficult time understanding some of the Turkish customs. Once, a pair of shoes I bought broke and I needed to return them. The only problem was that I had no idea how to even tell the shop-owner that the shoes were broken! One of my Turkish friends, Merve, came with me helped me so much and I was able to return my shoes without a problem. It is tough to be in a country where the native language is not easy to understand. I used to think everyone in the world spoke English, but it is not true and sometimes it is up to a native speaker to lend a helping hand to someone who is struggling with a new language. We can help our friends who do not speak the native language by studying with them, taking them to our houses and having a meal with them, or even going to the movies! It is important to remember that even if someone does not speak your language, they can still be nice people with the same interests as you! Merve and I have a lot in common, like our taste in music and what we study in school. If she hadn’t stepped out of her comfort zone to help me (a foreigner) I would still be walking in a broken pair of shoes!

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