Language Arts

The other day there was a group of Australians at the Karaköy Iskelesi, chatting about wherever they teach English. Without pausing to think about it or consider how, you know, borderline creepy it was, I followed them on the boat and sat near enough to them that I could overhear snatches of their conversation. It wasn’t that what they were saying was terribly interesting, but I hadn’t realized until that moment how starved I am for understanding what’s being said around me, especially on public transportation where what other people are saying is the chief entertainment.
I now know how to say good morning, good evening, hello and goodbye in a few different ways. I know how to say I am well and how are you? I know how to say where is the _____? Pardon, excuse me, and what? I can count to 900 million, (I assume. I haven’t actually tried.) and ask how much something costs. I can order food. I don’t know many nouns, but if I did I would know how to pluralize them. I know the months and some of the days of the week.
And all this was hard won. I don’t think I’ve ever had a great affinity for languages, but trying to cram such foreign words into my thirty-something year old brain has proven a lot harder than I anticipated. And then, of course, when everything here is less foreign and when I am less overstimulated by barrages of new information, I expect it’ll get easier.
But for now when I’m wandering down the crowded streets or crammed onto a bus or queueing for a ferry, I’m surrounded by a buzz of meaningless sound from which emerges, every now and then a word I know. “Buzz buzz bir buzz buzz börek buzz buzz cuma buzz buzz Lady Gaga buzz buzz.”
It’s a little lonely.


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