You are not just learning language. You are not just learning language. This is the constant refrain in my head these days. You are learning to communicate and there is a way of thinking and a culture that comes with it.
And fortunately because of that my life is full of non-stop foreigner mistakes and entertainment. And one of my favorites so far deals with my bathroom. Before you read any farther I feel obligated to promise you that this story is free from all gross bathroom humor.
When I moved into my new appartment the sink was leaking in this bathroom a lot. For a while I just dealt with I put a bucket under the pipe everyday and emptied it once a day lest it overflow and start flowing out into my hall way. I probably would be still doing this until one of my friends offered to call a Tesisatçı (a plumber) for me. Always thankful for help my friend called the plumber. Then my friend left- this is not what I expected to happen.
I suddenly realized it would be up to me to explain to the plumber what was wrong with my sink. I looked up the words for to form phrases like “my sink has a problem” and “the water always flows from there”. And for the next 30 minutes I did a crash course in Turkish home repair vocab. And forgot the all important lesson: Matt you are not just learning the language.
The plumber showed up during my study session. I pointed out where the bathroom was tried my hand at my phrases I had learned. Everything was going rather smoothly. He tried to turn on the light in there which also did not work (did I mention I have quite the quirky place?). And just as I thought I was nailing this he asked me a question. A question I did not understand. A question I did not know was a question until he said again. I did what I always do in these circumstances I smiled and nod.
This did not satisfy him. He then started repeating one word over and over. Terlik! Terlik! Terlik! I panicked I had not learned this word. And had no idea what it meant. I had not learned this word in my cramming session. He kept saying it. I scrambled for my phone but before I could look it up. He went and put on my sandals and went happily to work.
Terlik- the word for house slippers
He wanted slippers. It is a custom here people in their homes alwaysto wear some form of house slippers. It is also customary to offer them to guests. This to him I am sure was more important to him lest he get his feet wet doing the repair.
If you happen to stop by now I can tell you one thing you will be greeted with an offer of slippers.