I’m a Question: Arkadaşım, Kardeşim, Kardashian?

“What did she ask me? Do I have a Kardashian?” I thought. When what my Turkish teacher was really asking me one morning was whether or not I had a sister. “Kardeş” means sibling. Then it took me what seemed like several minutes to formulate the answer, which in direct translation means something like, “My sister there is.”

In addition to verb conjugations for the present and the past tenses, we’ve been learning a whole lot about suffixes for going to somewhere, coming from somewhere, placing something on something, getting something from someone or some place and other such assorted combinations.

Did you know that in Turkish you can conjugate adjectives and nouns?

Well, you can.

There is a “to be” verb in Turkish, “olmak.” Apparently, it’s just not used the way we would use it English. All of that “being” stuff is handled with, what else, suffixes.

This has been driving me crazy. To start, just like with the verbs, you attach a different ending depending on who or what is something. Look at my notes.

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You don’t say, “I’m a doctor. You’re a doctor. She’s a doctor. You all are doctors. We are doctors. they are doctors.”

Instead, you say, “Ben doktorum. Sen doktorsun. O doktoru. Biz doktoruz, Siz doktprsunuz. Onlar doktorlar.” And you do that with every adjective or noun.

Then, if the word ends in a vowel, you have to add in a “y” for the pronouns “ben” and “biz.”

Why the “y,” you ask? Because in Turkish, vowel harmony is very very very important. So all kinds of accommodations are made in the service of this all-powerful, governing principle.

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“Öğrenci means “student.” It’s pronounced “eu-ren-jee” The ğ (called “yumuşak g”) is silent.

Oh, and if the word ends in a “k” or “p” or “c” or “t,” then the “k” becomes a “ğ” and the “p” becomes a “b” and the “ç” becomes a “c,” and the “t” becomes a “d.”

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This is all for the present tense. For the past tense, you put on different endings so that you can say, “I was pretty. I was fat. I was skinny.” Etc.

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It gets even messier when you start asking questions, like, “Were you fat?” or “Where were you before class?” or adding locations or the direction of an action depending on the verb….My head is filled with suffixes. In dreams I conjugate Turkish nouns and adjectives with those suffixes.

At one point on the day of the Kardashian question, after the teacher had gone around the room having each us students conjugate an adjective, she said, “Rich, soru?” I proceeded to say “Ben soruyum…” and everyone started laughing. And so did I. “Soru” is the word for “question.” In effect, what I had said was, “I’m a question.” I defended myself by pointing out that I did have the correct vowel harmony, which my teacher did acknowledge.

I knew then my brain was fried for the day.

I have one more week in the class. Next Friday, I take a test in order to pass the course. If I want to take the second elementary Turkish course, I’d better keep working at memorizing these various endings in order to keep track of who was what, who is doing what to whom where, and who does what every day or every weekend in some place, and so on.

Note: I realize that my primitive, printed handwriting tells the world the following: “Hi, my name is Richie and I am a big boy who is 9 years old.” I normally write using my messy, cursive writing. It’s faster and when I’m writing, I’m usually in a hurry. For Turkish, I need to make sure I can distinguish between the i’s and dot-less ı’s, the c’s and ç‘s, the s’s and ş’s, and the o’s and u’s that have the umlauts and those that don’t.

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12 thoughts on “I’m a Question: Arkadaşım, Kardeşim, Kardashian?

  1. I love this post! It’s a worry I’ve had myself.
    I’ve had this moment of panic when I want to tell my boyfriend, “You’re my man,” but I worry that I might be saying, “I’m a man.” So I embrace the optional SEN. Sen benim adamim. 🙂 I’m sure there are better ways, but we’re not yet at a place for corrections.
    Merry Christmas,
    Paige

  2. Dear Rich how well you formulate the sense of Turkish!Now apply all that ‘who did what to whom where and why’s to Turkish politics and see where it takes you!!

  3. Rich, Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  4. Hey Richhell,
    i’ve read several articals pf yours and you just made my day .. am new in here in Istanbul too and it’s really confusing me lol .. i hope i can make it ..

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