Based in Houston, Texas, GEV is a blog by The GreenEyed Venuist. Her posts explore travel and photography through her green eyes.

Try Not to Sound Like an Idiot: Learn the Language!

I'm fluent in Spanish. I started learning the language when I was in elementary school. I continued it through high school, sneaking in a Latin class here and there, and then I went on to minor in Spanish Language and Literature in college. Since I had so many credits from high school, I was able to skip some of the lower level classes and focus on the extra, more specialized one like literature and business related classes. 

I have a natural talent for foreign language. While I was in college, I traveled to Monterrey, Mexico on several occasions to do projects with students at Monterrey Tech University. We communicated with them all semester via satellite and then my class hopped in a coach bus and drove on down to Mexico to meet them and do the presentations we had collaborated on. Working with those students and taking the trips to Monterrey was one of the highlights of my undergraduate career. After that experience, I returned to San Antonio and taught financial literacy classes in Spanish to members of the community. This was during my senior year and part of a business class I took, that was taught in Spanish, which contributed to both my minor and major in business. I was also reading classic Spanish literature (think the Spanish version of Shakespeare) which is hard to understand in English, let alone Spanish and sometime Catalan. So basically, I spoke, wrote and read Spanish like I was Hispanic but I'm not.

Over the years, I've lost my ability to speak the language as fluently as I did in college. I haven't really had anyone to practice with so when I'm called on to speak it, I can never recall the words and I get a little embarrassed at first...but if I take a minute to get my life together, I can communicate with relative ease. 

When you know a language like Spanish, it's easy for you to pick up other languages as well. I can understand some Italian and French (romance languages). Even better, after I've been in a place for just a short amount of time, hearing the language and attempting to communicate with the locals, I'm able to understand and even speak back enough to get by.

 So when we went to Brazil, my friends looked to me to translate Portuguese so we could communicate with the Brazilians. Unfortunately Portuguese is a very difficult language to understand with lots of unfamiliar sounds. I was able to pick up on a few things and by the end of the trip I could understand some basics. But I prepared myself prior to the trip by using language learning apps. Before I left, I had a basic understanding of the essentials. (While I was there, I found myself slipping into Spanish...which isn't as weird as it sounds. Some Brazilians can understand and speak Spanish as well). It didn't help that the Brazilians thought that I was a native, would walk up to me and start having a full blown conversation in Portuguese....while I stood there with a confused look on my face. 

Nevertheless, I generally make it a point to try and memorize important phrases like please and thank you before a trip. I try to figure out how to ask for directions or whether or not a person speaks English, where's the bathroom, the numbers so I can accurately count money. I think it makes the locals feel like you're putting in some effort and they're more willing to help you and be nice if you need directions or struggling to order lunch in their native tongue. Most people need a while to learn these things...but like I said, I have a gift so I can do it the week before, or at a bare minimum, on the plane ride over. 

Seeing as how I'm headed to Istanbul, Turkey on Friday (and even though I'll be there barely over 24 hours) I thought I would look into learning a few phrases today. Don't get me wrong, I know that Turkish is wholly different from Spanish or Portuguese, but I just wanted to look into it. So I Googled, "Important Turkish Phrases" and selected a Trip Advisor article called, Turkey: Important Phrases. Excellent....that's just want I wanted!

I clicked the link and started reading. Then this overwhelming sense of despair came over me lol....um...there's no way I'm going to be able to learn any of this before I leave. I can't even understand the phonetic pronunciation of the phrases  on the page. Yikes!

I think, with Spanish, my brain is able to identify some rhythm in the words and phrases which makes it easy for me to pick up. I actually think in Spanish sometimes. 

Not so much with Turkish. For example, if I want to tell someone Thank you, for bringing me this fabulous glass of wine (or whatever spirit I've order in Istanbul...and there will be spirits) I have to attempt to say this:


Teşekkür ederim

(pronounced TE-SH-QU-ERR ED-ERR-IM) 


Now, the article tells me that Turkish is a very phonetic so I can sound this out and it'll come out right....um....or nah. That does not give me confidence. 

So I'm a little nervous about communicating in Turkish, needless to say. Elizabeth assured me that we'll be in a touristy part of town so I shouldn't worry. But I pride myself for my gift and natural tendency towards learning languages and I feel somewhat defeated because I know I won't be able to learn this before we leave.There's no chance of it. I don't want to be fumbling over words and sounding like an idiot when I'm asking for directions or ordering food and then the waiter brings me something unrecognizable. Then this will be my face lol...



Don't even get me started on Greek. Gyro? Souvlaki? Spanakopita? Tzatziki? That's about all I got. I just know I'm gonna get to Greece and be so shackled when its time to eat lol. Here's to hoping we get menus with pictures.

Less than 3 days left! 

**There's no where to go but everywhere...so get going! ~GEV





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