November was a busy month for me. So busy, in fact, that I haven’t posted in November at all. It’s been a bit of a hiatus for my blog, and I’m determined to make it the only hiatus for the duration of my stay here.
Also, for those non-Turkish speakers, I want to make sure you know that the Turkish version of this post’s title is as much a play on words as the English version. “Aralık” means break or hiatus…and it’s also the word for December. So, seeing as my November “hiatus” (aralık) from blogging came before December (Aralık)…*cue crickets.*
Before I get back to my regular blogging, here’s a glimpse of what I’ve been up to:
In November, I took a Turkish course. Since my first foray into the Turkish language nearly six (six!) years ago, I’ve taken a grand total of two university level Turkish courses, each a semester long. Despite being designated a “critical language” by the U.S. State Department, Turkish education is still a bit difficult to come by in the States. Of course, this also depends on location. And Iowa just doesn’t happen to be the most hoppin’ locale for Türkçe.
I started my very first Turkish course in January 2010. It was an intensive round of elementary Turkish – a year’s worth of grammar stuffed into a semester, just like the most crowded of dolmuş. It left me with just enough of a grasp of the language to push me through two years of conversation courses in the following school years…because my university didn’t have the resources for intermediate or advanced courses.
(I would like to note here that I had three astounding Turkish teachers during my time at Iowa. All three were Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants, and without not just their instruction but also their encouragement, I would absolutely not be in Ankara right now.)
I didn’t take my next Turkish grammar course until Fall 2012, when I studied abroad at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. And just as I started to get the hang of intermediate Turkish…I returned to Iowa (in January 2013). This time, not only were there no grammar courses, but there were also no longer any conversation courses.
So I connected with some conversation partners and friends and once again tackled the language by talking.
Once in D.C., I took a few grammar courses offered by a local NGO. They strengthened my grasp of the language and allowed me to make some amazing friends (including my current roommate here in Turkey). But the courses took place only one day a week – enough to help me inch forward, but nothing like the sprint I needed.
So a month ago I enrolled in a one-month intensive course at TÖMER (run by Ankara University).
I wasn’t sure what to expect. Much of the grammar was a review for me, with a few new rules and explanations. But even small things like learning to see the passive form in a new way can transform your approach to a language. Yet perhaps the best result of the course is that I have made considerable strides in reading comprehension and vocabulary.
I’ve had a lot of practice with conversation over the last six years. I may continue to make grammatical mistakes, but two years of conversation courses basically killed my fear of speaking Turkish. But I’ve had far less reading practice. Now I feel much more confident, and even more prepared to tackle my research, which is important, because…
…in November, I purchased and started reading two somewhat daunting books on Turkish foreign policy and African politics. And both are in Turkish.
I have never before attempted to tackle academic Turkish. Short stories, newspaper articles…they’re not always easy, but at least I’ve had my practice. But academic writing? That stuff can be exhausting even in your own language. Yes, even researchers get tired of it once in a while.
I have no illusions: reading these books is going to be an arduous process. But every time I get intimidated, I remember that this isn’t my first time tackling academia in a foreign language (one of my majors was French).
In November, I also:
- worked more closely with AÇAUM at Ankara University by putting together a review of news from Africa in September, October, and November.
- witnessed a march by women’s organizations against violence. Long story short, it was the most moving experience I have had in Turkey to date. Which means that I will be writing a longer post on it, so keep your eyes out!
- got my residence permit! Unless you’ve gone through the Turkish residence permit process, you cannot fully appreciate the triumph that this is. Having my ikamet izni (as it is called) means I can now actually travel outside Turkey. Though traveling inside Turkey is also a worthy endeavor, which is why I:
- visited Eskişehir. It was my first time out of Ankara since spending Bayram in İzmit. I was very generously invited by a friend to join her and her classmates for a day trip to this beautiful city, made possible by the wonder that is the Yüksek Hızlı Tren (high speed train). We left at 9 am, returned just past 9 pm, and had a wonderful adventure in between.
So now that you’ve suffered through (or scrolled past) my updates, let me close out this post with a few pictures from Eskişehir: