Istanbul Diaries: Dec. 5 (conversations with Ghengis Khan)

One week ago today I finished my Turkish language course. I took an exam and everything… I even passed it.

I’m pretty sure I learned as much Turkish in one month as I did of Spanish in a whole year of high school. Maybe that’s why they call the course “intensive.”

So I have my diploma and I have much more Turkish in my head than when I started. Let me just review what that does and doesn’t mean:

It DOES NOT mean I can talk politics or religion with any of the locals.

It DOES, however, mean that I can carry on a long conversation of about two minutes with the eight-year-old daughter of my host family. Of course, over the last month she’s learned to speak Tarzan Turkish to dumb it down for me. She now speaks with all infinitive verbs. The English equivalent would go something like: “You, me, to play, after, to eat” complete with a mini game of charades built in.

I actually know that conversation by heart because we have it every evening. That and the one about watching a Barbie movie…yes, in Turkish. And yes, I will be leaving Turkey with the music from “Barbie and the Secret Garden” stuck in my head. Now I just have to work on the words.

Having a diploma in first level Turkish also DOES NOT mean I should be making any phone calls in Turkish.

My travel companions, however, think it DOES mean that. Apparently the diploma earned me the designation of official translator on our excursion to Yalova last weekend. I ended up in charge of all the ticket purchases and general asking of directions and bus schedules, etc. It’s a wonder we didn’t end up in Syria.

I even had to call for a taxi. Anyone who has learned a second language knows the hardest thing to do is talk on the phone. You can’t see the other person and they can’t see you so pantomime is out the window.

Fortunately for me, we had already talked to the guy so he knew I might call.

The call went a little like this (but in Turkish):

Taxi Driver: Hello

Me: Ghengis? (yep, that was his name. Ghengis as in Ghengis Khan. Nice guy, by the way.)

Taxi Driver: Yes?

Me: I’m American.

Taxi Driver: Yes, ok, ok, tamam. (“tamam” is Turkish for ok)

Me: We go?

Taxi Driver: ok, ok, tamam.

Me: Tamam, ok, tamam.

Taxi Driver: Tamam. Ok. 15 minutes.

Me: Ok, tamam, ok.

Taxi Driver: Ok, Ok, tamam. see you later.

Me: tamam, ok, see you later.

And that, folks, got us a taxi at our front door 15 minutes later.

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