Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Funny Side of Getting Lost in Translation

When I say I have been heavily relying on English/Turkish phrase books and iPhone translation apps since we got here, that would be an understatement.  Sometimes my words are understood, and sometimes I get confused looks when I try to say out loud what has just been translated for me electronically.  Now, I can't tell if it's because my pronunciation is so horrible, or if it is because what I am trying to say makes no sense.  In any event, trying to do everyday tasks in a country where you can't speak the language even a little bit, is hard. 
Yesterday, the communication problem reached a humorous peak when I went to pick up E from daycare.  I got there a bit early because I wanted to chat with his teachers and see how his first full day was...did he eat okay, did he nap okay, is he adjusting...those sorts of things.  I confronted the situation head on.  After all, I had two different translation tools in my grasp, what could possibly go wrong?
Well, things started out smoothly enough.  "E sleep one and half hour" I was told after the teacher consulted her own Google translate app. 
I smiled and said "iyi teşekkür," which basically means, "good, thank you."
This proceeded for another few minutes as I was told what E ate for lunch and snack, how well he played with others, and that he is already picking up on some Turkish words like "şapka" (hat) and "Merhaba" (hello). 
And then his teacher thought it would be a nice idea to tell me how many soiled diapers E had that day, which is great.  I would like to know that my child is having regular bowel movements.  Cuz Lord knows a constipated child is a cranky child.
So the translation process continued.  The teacher leaned over her app and typed something in Turkish. 
Then she turned the screen toward me, plastered a big smile on her face and said, "E shit two time!"
It took everything I had not to burst out laughing. 
What? Shit?  Really?  All I could think, besides, "OMG, did she just say shit?" was "what Turkish word is actually translated to shit?"  I mean, couldn't Google translate it as "poo" or "poop" or "crap?" 
She was so proud of herself and that sweet, innocent smile just made it all the more endearing.  Of course, I suppressed my urge to laugh and proceeded to nod and smile.  Because of course, who knows how many times I've said something equally ridiculous and funny to them.
But then she kept saying it. "No! Mistake shit!"
Ahh, she realized her mistake of using a curse word, I thought as I tried to hide my smile.  Good, because I don't want to have to correct her, I thought.
"Mistake shit!" she said again.  "E shit THREE time!" 
Oh boy.  Her mistake was with the number of times he actually pooped, not the fact that she was using the wrong word.  My smile was about to explode into full blown laughter, but I kept it together.  Even as she capped off the conversation with "Many shit! Big shit!" 
Yes, yes.  My kid pooped a lot.  Got it.  Teşekkür.
In the end I thanked her and bid her a good afternoon, all in Turkish and without the use of a translation app.  No, I didn't have the heart to correct her, but perhaps next time, after the shock wears off and I have had a chance to fully giggle at this little moment of being completely and utterly lost in translation. 
The fact is, E's teachers are amazing.  They are affectionate and caring and they are really helping him learn.  So what if we get a little lost in communication.  I can't wait to continue learning from them and I can't wait to see the progress E makes as well.  He is loving everything so far and I just want that to continue so I can continue to see that smile on his face everyday. 


  1. Loving it! Well played not cracking up on the nuances of English vocabulary. I think I would have been sniggering a bit, involuntarily of course. When trying to learn Turkish, which is a bugger, it is not hard to feel grateful and sympathetic to any efforts made to communicate also in English. Looking forward to more of your adventures and observations!

    And "hoşgeldiniz" to you and your family on your arrival to Turkey! If you ever get up to Ankara let me know!

  2. Ha, thank you! Same for you if you're ever in Adana!