Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Boş mu? 

A Small Breakthrough
"Boş mu?" a woman at the cafe asks me, gesturing to an empty seat at my table.

Immediately, my brain freezes. I stammer and try to say something, to explain why I don't understand
"Boş mu?" she repeats. Finally, Vahide notices my struggle and comes to my aid, answering the woman's question.

I'm left feeling frustrated. Despite the hours I spend every day studying from my book, the Turkish television progrmas I watch, and even the impromptu lessons Vahide gives me while we walk to the bus stop, I still can't understand.  Sometimes I pick out words in the conversation. Occasionally, I even pick out enough to figure out what the conversation is about.

The other day I was watching TV in the dining room.

"Is he asking to use his Father's car?" I asked Vahide

"Yes" she replied, obviously surprised at my comprehension.

But these moments of clarity are few and far between. So I'm left not undersatnding. I'm left struggling. Sometimes, if something is about me, Vahide will translate. Most of the people I'm around have a basic understanding of English, and will frequently attempt to use that to communicate with me.  There are still times, though, when I'm left quietly listening to the conversation, waiting for the day when I can join in.

These thoughts run through my head as I sit at the cafe, still frustrated. Then it hits me.

"Boş mu?"

I see the flashcard in my head: Bos- Free, Empty, Vacant. I remember Mu from one of my first lessons- use at the end of the statement to turn it into a question.

"She was asking wether the seat ws free!" I exclaim aloud.

Vahide looks at me, obviously confused at my sudden outburst.
"Boş mu" I repeat to myself "Is it free?"

It's not much, but it gives me a much-needed confidence boost.

The next day,  I'm waiting for someone outside the bathroom. The woman in charge of taking the money (yes, you have to pay to use the restroom) asks me a question I don't understand

"Tekrar lütfen?" I implore "again please?"

She repeats herself, and I realise I'm in over my head, but this time I don't freeze up.

"Turkce konusmuyorum. uzgunum" I say with confidence "I don't speak Turkish. sorry"

She nods. She understood me! It may not exactly be fluency, but it's a small breakthrough. Right now, that's all I need.

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