Thursday, June 18, 2009

Çok güzel Türkçe ama...!

I've had this conversation in Turkey so many times--at döner stands and train stations, in restrooms and art galleries--I've begun to feel remiss about not writing it down earlier:

Me: "Afferdersiniz..."

("Excuse me..." and then whatever question I have to ask.)
Them: "Alman mısınız?"
("Are you German?")
Me: "Hayır, Amerikalıyım."
("No, American.")
Them: "Çok güzel Türkçe ama...!"
("But your Turkish is very good...!")
Perhaps knowledge of Americans' general ineptness with other languages precedes us around the world. Or perhaps there are so many Turkish immigrants in Germany that your average German knows a few words of Turkish, like Americans (at least in the West) know "gracias" and "cerveza." Either way, I certainly can't say I don't benefit from the low expectations.

11 comments:

Yazar said...

It happens to me too. Or I get the stare as I speak Turkish to friends and English to the kids!

Schaufensterbabe said...

Actually, I'm amazed at how few Germans speak any Turkish at all (or are even vaguely interested in learning it)since it all around us. Even Lahmacun they just order as "Turkische Pizza". I do know that there is a pretty widespread stereotype (at least here) that Americans are too stupid to learn a foreign language. I've heard that often, also having people speak to me in English when they hear my accent even though my German is waaayyy better than their English in most cases (yes, I am bitter about this!)

Jen said...

That's interesting (and a bit sad) to hear about the Germans and Turkish... and I can totally understand being bitter about people waving off your language skills! Although when that happens to me here, it's usually because people want to practice their English. So they speak their crappy English and I speak my crappy Turkish and somehow it all (usually) works out ;&

How is the lamacun in Berlin?

Schaufensterbabe said...

The lamacun here is really good, or at least at a couple of places where they make it fresh. A lot of places just warm it up in the microwave which is to be avoided.

There's also a great Ocabasi around the corner which I assume means grill house since it is one(?) Either way, the food there kicks ass.

Nomad said...

Turks are so kind and forgiving for anyone attempting to speak their language

Kate's Occasional Blog said...

I have discovered something interesting with regards to the Turkish-learning thing. When I first came to Turkey, and could only say 'Merhaba' and, on a good day 'teşekkür ederim', people were gaga over my fantastic Turkish. Now that I am approaching semi-fluency, I don't get the compliments any more. In fact, I've even got a few people who told me my Turkish wasn't very good! What do you make of that? I'm perplexed, but it kind of brings me back to the feeling that i've often had in Turkey that while one is warmly welcomed as a guest -- 'guest' meaning temporary visitor -- when it goes beyond that, to a foreigner really integrating and becoming 'Turkish,' there is a resistance. 'We'll give you tea and feed you, but you can't be one of us'...something like that. Am I off base on this?

Jen said...

That's interesting, Kate. I haven't experienced it myself yet, likely because no one would mistake me for a fluent speaker (maalesef). But I have heard a similar comment from Turks or people of Turkish descent who grew up outside of Turkey -- even if they are completely fluent, they say people criticize their accent and ask why their Turkish isn't better.

I definitely think foreigners get a pass on a lot of things here, perhaps due to the tendency toward hospitality you mention. But maybe the expectations do become higher once the novelty of your foreign-ness wears off. I've only been here a little over a year and a half, so I haven't experienced that yet either. Would be interested to hear others' thoughts...

Noor said...

Oh thats really interesting. When I was in Istanbul and learning a bit of Turkish they were amazed at how well we said our 'merhaba' or 'cok guzel' and stuff, really made me feel i had a shot at learning turkish!!

:)
But true, people around the world dont really think Americans learn other languages, but its good to see u breaking that stereotype!

emre said...

Kate's experience does not surprise me (but I'd like to hear more about her experiences). She's graduated from tourist class. Resident class is currently not accepting new members, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

heey you guys are funy but the truth is Turkish is very hard to speak for many poeple..
But when you get it it is fun.
buy the way it is not lamacun lahmacun...
Amerika'da yasayan turk bayan...

Jen said...

Oh, don't I know it! Turkish is still VERY hard for me. That's why I think it's funny when people say my Turkish is good. 'Cause it really ain't. Fun to try, though!