A clumsy learner’s adventures: 7+ funny Turkish words

Here we go again. Back to the basics. It is not a secret that learning Turkish is a demanding job, needing a lot of your time, energy and… imagination. You must commit yourself with all your heart and mind. Unless you want to end up in a “complicated relationship” lasting forever and ever. Which, by the way, is still better than nothing.  Anyway, don’t despair! Besides all the sweating and frustration, learning Turkish can be fun! It depends on your perspective. When you feel you had enough and your brain cells are about to throw up all the Turkish they had stored, instead of looking glumly at your learning materials, take a deep breath and laugh your head off. Think about those Turkish words or expressions that make you giggle. Here’s my short list of funny words/ expressions. Hope to make you(r day) brighter 😉

  1. Piliç çevirme ~ What could you ask for more as a yabancı when you get both chicken (piliç) and translation (çevirme). And no, this meal is not a “translated chicken”, is grilled chicken, another meaning of çevirme being grill on a turning device.

    Photo: Pizza Gold

    Photo: Pizza Gold

  2. Mısır~ I don’t know about you but Mısır is on my holiday bucket list. One day I will visit this amazing country. No, I’m not talking about the land of corn (mısır). I don’t even like mısır (corn) that much! I’m talking about the land of pyramids, Egypt (Mısır). You got it! Turks use the same word for Egypt and corn.  Not so weird if we consider the fact that Türkiye in English is called turkey (animal). So what Turks have to do with turkeys and Egyptians with corn? But wait, there is more:
  3. Hindistan ~ Hindistan is the Turkish word for India. Nothing strange at the first sight, right? Wouldn’t be weird at all if the stem of the word weren’t hindi, which means turkey in Turkish. So India is another turkey, should we call it Turkeystan? 🙂
  4. Batman ~ Turks have their own Batman, or maybe Batman’s hometown is in Turkey. In South-Eastern Turkey there is a city called Batman, and guess what, there is also a Batman University. But I really doubt they are going to teach you fighting techniques.  Batman
  5. Şeftali ~ the fifth word is actually peach, which means şeftali in Turkish, a word you must learn, unless you want to get on people’s nerves, shock them or cause laughter. You probably wonder why, peach is an inoffensive word, right? Not in Turkish. If you read Elif Şafak’s bestseller novel Baba ve Piç (The Bastard of Istanbul), you already got the point. If no, never too late for a great novel. 😉 Piç pronounced as the English peach means bastard, having just like in English negative connotations, used often as a curse. If you ask me, there’s nothing more stupid than calling someonepiç/bastard. Why this word should be offensive? A child who’s parents didn’t get married or who doesn’t have a father is not a shame, is a child, an innocent child, judged by some societies. But that’s another story. Let’s get back to our list!

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu's

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu’s

  6. Pis ~ pronounced as the English peace, means dirty in Turkish. Although many Turkish people do know the meaning of peace, using it could get you into funny situations.
  7. Canı istemek ~ “to want”. This expression is a little bit confusing for a non-Turk, as the expression is literally translated as “the spirit/heart wants” (can means “life”, “spirit”, “heart” while istemek means “to want”). For example a Turkish song says: Canım seninle olmak istiyor = I want to be with you, lit. my heart wants to be with you. Nothing weird, right? But I can’t say the same about Canım elma istiyor ~ I want apple. lit. my heart wants apple. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but still…

+some words for Romanian speakers:

  1. Tembel ~ lazy, in Romanian means stupid. So you could guess the look on my mother’s face when one of my Turkish friends jokingly called me tembel 🙂
  2. Cem ~ a common Turkish name which in Romanian (written as gem) means jam. At least it’s sweet 😉
  3. Murat ~ Turkish name, in Romanian means pickled. I guess is not very pleasant to be called like something preserved in vinegar or salt water. But for sure is funny. 😉

From İnşallah to Maşallah

8862194241_92a75d1d2d_oPhoto credits: Anita Gould 

Since I’ve started my irregular Turkish language learning adventure I developed an extraordinary ability to complain. Whenever I get the chance to talk with somebody in Turkish after the usual Merhaba (Hello), Nasılsın? (How are you?) and Ne yapıyorsun? (What are you doing?) a painful need to say Türkçe çok zor! (Turkish is very difficult!) terrorizes my brain. It’s not because I cannot continue, it’s more like an absurd need to inform my interlocutors about how difficult their language is.  I succeed to silence my stubborn mind and to continue the conversation for a while. Untill I “smash into” the first linguistic obstacle… and then my “struggle” is suddenly over.  There is nothing left to do but wave the white flag and surrender by finally saying the “magic” words: Türkçe çok zor! And what do I get instead? Hadi ya! (used to express disbelief) Gerçekten mi? (Really?) Türkçe dünyanın en kolay dillerinden birisidir. (Turkish is one of the easiest languages of the world.) Of course, Turkish is easy… for Turks. But it really is difficult(gerçekten!) for foreigners. Actually is the most difficult language I’ve been learning. Yes, I’m aware that the other languages I’ve studied, Italian, Spanish and French, are Latin languages, therefore it’s not so difficult for a Romanian to understand them.

But wait, I’m half Hungarian!

And both Hungarian and Turkish are Ural-Altaic languages. But so are Finnish, Estonian, Tatar and Mongolian. That means I should learn them easily, right? If only it would be so simple… Knowing Hungarian didn’t make my job (much more) easier. I cannot deny that there are some similarities between Turkish and Hungarian grammar and both have sounds like ‘ü’ and ‘ö’. I even found a common sentence Cebimde çok küçük elma var.(Tr) -Zsebemben sok kicsi alma van.(Hu) (I have many little apples in my pocket.). But that’s all, this is the point where the two languages sign the divorce papers in my mind.

So I’m on my own again…

Me and Turkish. Sometimes we are so happy together! We are in seventh heaven! But our occasional quarrels bring us back down to earth with a bump… Even though I did learn the grammar rules on my own and I’ve been working on my Turkish vocabulary whenever I had  spare time, I still have problems when reading literature. I still need the dictionary, patience and… time. I still make mistakes when writing long complex phrases. Oh, we have such a complicated relationship. Me and Turkish. But we will manage somehow, İnşallah! (if God willing! I hope so!) Adım Adım. (step by step). I’m dreaming about the day when I won’t need to ask people Tekrar eder misiniz, lütfen? (Can you, please, repeat?) or Bu ne demek? (What does this mean?). The day when Anlamadım (I don’t understand) will disappear from my vocabulary. The day when my Turkish will be Maşallah! (Magnificent!) and not just güzel (pretty, good)The day I will talk like a Turk.

On my way to Maşallah… Since I have a busy schedule I will set some milestones:

  • discover my weaknesses and turn them into strengths (in other words find the most common mistakes I make and do some research)
  • read (and finish!) a novel in Turkish (devote at least a half an hour/day to lecture)
  • listen to Turkish music and translate the lyrics (post a song+lyrics/week on blog)
  • watch a Turkish movie/week
  • speak and write in Turkish as much as possible
  • Post every day on Turkish Delight Bazaar’s Facebook page

İnşallah I’ll reach my destination!