These Are Just Berries, Flowers Will Come Soon


Dear H.,

I’ve started on my new quest: the Turkish language. Luckily, when I made my first step into the realm of Ç and Ş, I didn’t know what it is all about; otherwise I would have thought twice. Now, when I’m into it up to my neck and my curiosity is ablaze and I can see the beautiful structure of the language, there is no turning back. Besides, my pride of a language explorer won’t let me drop a language when I’ve tasted the first crumbs of it.

I counted and here you are: Turkish is my 9th language, not counting Thai, since I happily learned and quickly forgot only the everyday basics, except for, probably, one – “sawadee ka” – the phrase that every backpacker knows like a prayer. So, giving a look at those eight languages stored in my bag of acquired knowledge, I call Turkish one of the hardest. Even Mandarin with its tones and characters seems like a joke. For me, that is. “How come?” you would ask me and I will answer you: “Words. They are very long.”

Yes, the German language was somewhere there in my past, as well.  German words seem to me as long and sticky, as Turkish ones and when in German everything you have to do is to change the ending, in Turkish you add: this ending to show the tense, that one to show the mood, another one to demonstrate the voice and more of those suffixes and affixes to make it all cheerfully dance. Luckily, there are no gender differences in Turkish.

I think you are lucky to have the Turkish language in your matrix since childhood: you don’t need to make an extra effort to say, write, listen or read in it. And there, it seems to me, a lot to hear and to read in it, at least. I remember meeting some foreigners who study Russian: I saw them puzzled about its logic, sweating blood over a parade of inflexions and a dance of consonants and vowels. At that moment I felt grateful to have Russian in my system and not to need to learn it, if I was into reading Dostoyevsky in the original.

There is one Russian proverb: These are just flowers, berries will come soon,” meaning that later on it’s going to be tougher. Well, with the Turkish it already is. While studying Mandarin I felt like an explorer, deciphering all those ancient pictures. While studying Turkish, I feel like a herpetologist, trying to decipher the meaning of dots and lines on a skin of a brightly patterned snake: this one is rather a spot than a square, so the meaning of it might be this; and that one is rather a line than a curve… or… wait, maybe it is a curved line?? Yes, there is a rush of excitement while trying to recognize a familiar combination of letters in a ten-centimeter word, but there is also uneasiness at the thought, whether this python of a word would swallow me up, at the end, or not; would I master it or would it overwhelm me and put me back. I’m all excited and sweaty at the end of each class and my head is stuffed to the brim with sounds and grammatical structures.

To tell you the truth, when I stayed in Istanbul for some time, around three years ago, I tried to learn a bit of Turkish, but unsuccessfully. Ok, not learn but memorize something but the words just didn’t stick in my mind. It was like a mish-mash of sounds to me. A bread maker in a small shop, which I patronized, started to recognize my face at one point and tried to teach me the basics, like numbers and “Teşekkür ederim” and all the rest. I diligently repeated after him, but in ten seconds forgot everything clean. A tabula rasa. By the end of my three months in Turkey all I could boast was: “Tshmnmnm.. Thanks!”  I was embarrassed. The baker waved his hands at me in frustration. I even started to change the shop or cut on bread. Instead of it I just left for Asia.

Well, I hope you are not going to cut my bread hahah…! After a couple of weeks at my desk, I am proud to write you this letter and notify you, happily: İki hafta sonra görüşeceğiz!




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