Saturday, September 23, 2006

Learning Turkish

Turkish is an agglutinating language, which means it makes the bits in your brain stick together and become something akin to Russian kasha.

This is how it works:
Where English and other languages, need seven or so words to say something like "I will not come to the Cinema", Turkish only needs two ("sinemaya gelmiyorum").

This is because Turkish agglutinates all the bits to the verb or the noun or both:
In the example above, the negative (m) is stuck onto the root of the verb (gel) and before the subject (here first person singular indicated by "um"). The preposition "to" is the "ya" at the end of the word cinema.

This all sounds pretty simple until you start trying to identify words as someone is speaking. You might get one or two words, but they could mean a number of things -or potentially the exact opposite- depending on what is stuck on to them.

To add to the fun, the basic word order is "the woman the book read" which again sounds simple enough, cause the book can't read the woman, but wait until the sentence you are trying to understand involves two people and try to figure out who is doing what to whom!

Unexpected use of prepositions with verbs (for instance "I like *from* my friend", which literally comes out as "friend mine from very like I") combined with no distinction in between masculine and feminine (no gender whatsoever) completes the scrambling of neurones.

On the positive side, most of the endings rhyme with the word you're adding them on to and there are only six letters in the Turkish alphabet which do not exist in the English one (of which three vowels, but Turkish has no Q, W, X) so at least I don't have to learn another alphabet!

Fun, huh?


Adam said...

Sounds not fun at all. Try learning Thai. 44 consonants and 32 vowels, a totally different alphabet, no punctuation, no sentences, no paragraphs, no spaces between words and 4 tones (high, low, rising, falling). The tones are the real killer. Words that look the same to us non-Thais have totally different meaning to Thais, because of the tones. Example: suwaii with a high tone = beautiful. So, khun poo ying suwaii maak (u are a very beautiful woman). But suwaii with a low tone = bad luck (and in buddhist culture to say this to anyone is very, very bad!).

Brooke said...

Ugh, and I thought Serbian was hard! Remind me never to move to Turkey or Thailand.

Adam said...

Actually Thai is kind of fun. I love being slapped by a beautiful woman who thinks I just called her Bad luck! Also, the Thais love it when u speak Thai to them, even if u completely screw it up. My only real problem is that every time I ask a taxi to take me to Soi 18 I end up in Soi 11 and vice versa....the sounds are very similar.

Sandra said...

Adam, you would! wouldn't you? A sado masochistic trait there...? A question: How can you use tone to express emotion if it's already used for meaning?!

As you well know, Serbian and Russian have their own difficulties. Especially the fact that absolutely every word is subject to the case system so you've always got to know if it's masculine or feminine you're dealing with, as well as it you're going to make it accusative, dative, vocative, genitive etc. Not to be underestimated!!!!

Ahhh the challenges of learning a new language past 30... ;-)

gabriela said...

Ciao Sandra....
Quelle surprise de te trouver ici avec un blog à toi et en Turique... waoouh...
Envoi-moi ton e-mail et je t'inviterai à rejoindre mon LinkedIn (plus facile de rester en contact).
Super ton blog.. je n'ai pas encore tout lu, mais tu as l'air d'être bien plus heureuse que la dernière fois que je t'ai vu..
Gabriela Ehrlich

gabriela said...

oups.. mon e-mail à moi:

Adam said...

Good point Sandra and one of the very frustrating issues. Often the tones do coincide with emotion, but not always and the sound differences are small so it is very easy to get it wrong. More than most This seems to be a contextual language. You kind of know what a person is saying from the context of the situation.