Talking Turkey

Istanbul tea vendor TurkeyDid you know that the Turkish word for turkey is hindi? The big gobbler is originally from the Americas or Indies, which caused the naming confusion with India. But in English we call the birds turkeys because they were introduced to Europeans by the Turks! If you think that’s confusing, then spare a thought for Kate Drummond when she tried to talk Turkey…

“You step foot in a new country eager to learn the local language – it’s simple right? Well, arriving in Turkey and trying to get the hang of the food, the customs and the history (wow, there were 3 great empires here and heaps of important sub cultures)… my language learning took a back seat! But then I started travelling and realised that a handful of Turkish words was very necessary!

Slowly I started to study the language on the street and at night in bed. There are additional letters in the Turkish language and although the majority of letters look like English, in no way do they sound familiar. ‘A’ is not ‘eh’, but a hard ‘aarr’ sound and ‘C’ is pronounced more like the ‘J’ in jigsaw. This explained why people were laughing so hard when I tried to read from my phrase book!

Basic phrases seemed so difficult and strange. Thank you was a mouthful, tesekkurler – so I resorted to “teacholatelar” said very quickly, hoping that no one would notice. But there came a day when I had both the time and opportunity to expand my vocab by studying at a local school.

These days I am able to carry off my Turkish with more confidence. I love to teach Intrepid travellers some local words and help explain the incredible politeness of the language. Ataturk, the great reformer and founder of the Republic of Turkey, cleansed the language of most religious references and changed the script from Arabic to Latin, yet the essential politeness of Turkish remained.

Turkey is a country stuffed with historic treasures, stunning landscapes, remarkable monuments and wonderful people. Learning some of the local language will increase your appreciation of this timeless land and you can read below for a few of my favourite phrases to ensure a fabulous connection with the locals and impress them with your good manners!”…

Kolay gelsin – kol-eye gel-sen: “May it come easy”, is said to anyone who is engaged in some kind of physical activity that isn’t actually sleep. Even sitting comatosed in a place of business doesn’t exclude anyone from these polite words of encouragement.

Elinize saglik – eleneze sa-lick: “Health to your hands.” Say this to anyone who has prepared you a delicious meal and your are sure to receive extra helpings!

Affiyet olsun – a-fee-yeht-olsoon: “May it be healthy”, just like “Bon Appetite!” This is used when someone is about to consume anything from a cup of tea to a huge banquet or even a cigarette!

Gecmis olsun – gech-miss ol-soon: “May it pass.” A house may have burnt down or someone is a little sick, this phrase is used to cover the whole range of setbacks the adventure of life has to offer.

Estagfurullah – estafurulaa: “I ask the pardon of god” or “Sorry, but it’s true what can I do” can be said when someone pays you a compliment like, “My goodness you are beautiful.” It’s an extremely polite Ottoman word guaranteed to impress the Turks.

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* photo by Nick Jacobs – Intrepid Photography Competition

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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