It’s all vanity. I just couldn’t resist when national IMC-TV asked me to be on their late night show to talk about developments in the Kurdish issue. In Turkish. Vanity, a will to be part of the debate, a wish to speak out. Could I do that properly in Turkish? The funny answer is: I’m not sure.
I know my subject, I don’t doubt that. I have an opinion about it. And I try to analyze what’s happening – that’s the hardest part. While formulating my thoughts, I always wonder if there is something I have overlooked, any development I failed to take into account, or if I’m not too negative, or too positive. I think nuance is very important, and so is admitting sometimes that you just don’t know the answers to some questions. Especially when it comes to the Kurdish issue in Turkey, there are so many blanks. What is happening behind the scenes? So when you talk on TV, you want to show that you know your subject, but also that you realize there are many unknowns and not every question can be answered.
In Dutch, that’s easy. In English I can do that too. But in Turkish? Nowhere near as well, of course. And that made me very nervous and insecure. More insecure than I need to be, actually. Because for IMC-TV, and for other TVstations I’ve appeared on (AHaber and CNNTürk), perfect Turkish isn’t necessary. All they are interested in is how a foreigner, one who actually moved to Diyarbakir as the only foreign journalist in the country, looks at the matter.
That my language has flaws is not at all a reason for them to take me less seriously. On the contrary: speaking in Turkish, even if it’s broken, is considered way better than in perfect English with a simultaneous translator, which would be seen as arrogant.
So if speaking in Turkish as a foreigner actually contributes to my credibility, why would I be insecure about it? For one of course because I want to explain myself as good as possible, but I think it also has to do with where I come from, the Netherlands. There you have to speak flawless Dutch before anybody will take you seriously in a debate. How well you know Dutch seems to get linked to your intelligence. One mistake and you’re out! And giggled at, at least. Even though I find this ridiculous, it does play a part in how I judge myself. I take myself less seriously because my Turkish isn’t flawless. How stupid is that?
In short: it was a nerve-wrecking experience, and my most difficult TV appearance ever. I hope it takes some time – let’s say five years – before I’m asked again, so I have time to further improve my Turkish. And if there are any earlier invitations? I’m afraid I won’t turn them down. Like I said: it’s all vanity 😉
Want to see the show? I’m not sure if it’s online already, but I admit I didn’t really search properly.
Very interesting to read, and like I’ve mentioned to you earlier, very similar to a Swedish perspective I think.
I think this is one of the reasons immigrants have such a hard time getting a job in Sweden, and being listened to. Swedes still think of the accent and if a person looks “Swedish”.
If you don’t look blonde enough, you often get judged as a “foreigner” and it’s assumed you don’t speak Swedish well.
It makes me curious about what the attitude is in different countries, regarding how foreigners speak their own language compared to, your example, with using an interpreter to speak English with.