Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Language of Suffixes

I have been taking weekly Turkish lessons since we moved here two months ago, and I can now officially say this language is hard.  And I mean hard.  I'm not naive enough to think there aren't more difficult languages out there, but this is truly giving me brain drain. 
Unfortunately, I don't speak any other languages fluently besides English, but I am very eager to learn.  I am quite aware that I am the epitome of that annoying joke that ends, "what do you call someone who speaks one language?  American."  But I want to speak another language, so I am trying my hand at Turkish.
I took four years of high school French followed by one year of college French, so I can hold my own in francophone countries.  But I am by no means fluent.  And having known S and his Venezuelan step-mom for the past 6 years has helped me pick up some basic Spanish. But again, I'm a complete novice.
I don't kid myself into thinking I will be fluent when we leave here in two years, but if I can just learn the basics to get me through the day-to-day, I will consider it a success.  So far, even the basics are proving to be more difficult than I imagined. Learning French was easy in comparison.  Picking up basic Spanish was even easy because if you know a word in French, you can recognize it in Spanish.  Or some words, at least.
And although Turkish does have some similar words to French or Spanish (i.e. bilet/billet/billete = ticket), it's the suffixes that really make the language hard to learn. 
For example, In French "Je suis" means "I am" and if you want to say "you are" informally, it becomes  "tu es."  Just like in English we say "I am," "you are," "he is," etc. But in Turkish, the subject's suffix determines if it means "I am" or "you are" etc.  So, "I am a teacher" becomes "Ben öğretmenim."  Teacher = öğretmen, but the "am" is the suffix, "im."  But if you want to say "You are a teacher" in the formal way, it becomes "Siz öğretmensiniz."  And if you want to say "you are a teacher" in the informal way, it becomes "sin öğretmensin."  See how the suffix changes?  But wait, it gets more confusing.  Suffixes change for my, your, his/her/it, ours and theirs, too.  So to say "your teacher" it becomes "Senin öğretmenin,"  or just "öğretmenin."  See, a new suffix. 
All this is to say that my brain is swimming in suffixes right now and I just left my tutoring session feeling like a total idiot because I keep forgetting the difference in "my teacher" and "I am a teacher."  But learning a new language is hard and I will just keep trying, I guess.  Baby steps, right?
Oh, and to any of you fluent Turkish speakers out there, I apologize if I screwed up my explanation above.  I was confusing myself as I typed this!
Now I get to tackle my homework.


  1. Taking those baby steps along with you, just a few kilometers up north. I have total respect for those who conquer this language and use it to do their daily jobs. I don't know if I'll ever get close to survival abilities before I leave, but that is the goal I'm striving for. Best of luck as you tackle those suffix endings!

  2. Thanks! Best of luck to you too! :)