Language mate

‘Are there any tea wanters?’ That’s the example sentence I often use when explaining how different the structure of Turkish sentences is from West Germanic languages, like Dutch. The sentence is a literal translation of how Turks ask whether anybody wants tea. Years ago I didn’t know that and would build some rudimentary sentence myself in such a situation. Turks would understand me because I used Turkish words, but good Turkish, no, it wasn’t that.

And still my Turkish consists of Turkish words used in grammatical structures from Turkish, Dutch and English. I am sure making progress, of course, but when I hear myself talk, I know I could say things in such a more beautiful and ‘higher’ Turkish. And since yesterday, I know I’m finally going to take it to that level. I found a language mate. A Turkish medical student who returned from Amsterdam two months ago after doing his hospital training course there. His Dutch was at an amazing level, but he was afraid he’d forget it and offered to meet me regularly to talk: one hour Dutch, one hour Turkish. Good idea!

On the street, it’s hard to take your language a level higher. You just don’t have an advanced discussion about language with people you meet in daily life, at work and on the street. With Turkish friends I sometimes do, but not like yesterday, when I conversed with my language mate for the first time. Two hours of great language talk. If we keep doing this for a few months, I’m sure I can finally turn around the button in my head and take my Turkish to the next level.

And then what? Then I will start with a new language. For years I’ve been thinking about learning Kurmanji, the Kurdish dialect that is spoken by most of the Kurds in Turkey. In order not to drive myself crazy I didn’t want to start before my Turkish was at an acceptable level. Now it almost is. It’s almost time to start a brand new beginner’s course!

2 replies
  1. sam
    sam says:

    I’m almost afraid to ask….but how long have you been learning/speaking Turkish? I’ve been at it for a year now, and progress has been VERY slow…

  2. Fréderike Geerdink
    Fréderike Geerdink says:

    Hi Sam, well, don’t get crazy, it’s very normal not to make very good progress in only one year. It just ain’t easy. I’ve been learning for about five years now and still am far from fluent. Try to also see the progress you make, don’t only feel the frustrations. Keep it up, you will sure get better!


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