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Language Barrier

Here at Koc University, I am enrolled in a Turkish language course for the semester. Turkish comes from the Altaic language family, so it’s grammer, structure, and vocabulary are very different from English or other Indo European languages. I’ll be honest, I’m not doing super hot. It’s sometimes hard to motivate myself to try to read and speak at a preschool level. What can I say, I can’t help it, I was born with a crippling disability called Americanitis. I got a C on my last quiz and put it up on my broken mini-fridge since it was my highest grade yet. However, I believe that school is about learning and not grades, so being the arm chair linguist that I am (or is it linguistic? linguini?), I will try to examine how aspects of Turkish language affect Turkish culture. Take these with a grain of tuz, if you will.

1) Turkish has a lack of definite articles (the), and minimal use of prepositions (above, in, on) and common verbs (is, has, etc.). I feel like this contributes to the chaotic layout of Istanbul. Buildings are just laid out on top of each other, streets end arbitrarily, random trees are growing out of sidewalk cracks. It really embodies the urban jungle quality, for better or for worse. But when you take in the city sight from a rooftop terrace, it’s literally breathtaking, since everyone around you is smoking cigarettes.

2) Turkish has vowel harmony, which means that any verb conjugation or noun modification require the ending to have a similar sound with the root. This gives the language a musical rhythm that is unique and very pleasant to listen to. So pleasant that it often makes you forget what you were doing. It’s so mesmerizing that Turkish people get lost in each others words, immersed in their sweet speech that they end up an hour or two late to wherever they were planning to go. But it’s all gucci cause everyone else is an hour or two late. Except me, great.

3) The words for ‘left’ and ‘right’ are eerily similar. Left is ‘sol’ and right is sağ with a silent ğ. This has to be why every time I take taxi home at night I wake up in the street covered in baklava with no shirt on.

4) The word for cake is ‘pasta’. In the IPD travel guide, that’s a valid excuse to eat cake for breakfast lunch and dinner.

But in all seriousness, Turkish is a beautiful language and I hope I get a B on my next quiz.

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Mac Mustafa spittin hot fire on the chalkboard.

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