For the last three days, the Chicago Turkish Festival has been happening in the plaza downtown. Turkish people from all around the Chicago area come to celebrate their culture. There are information booths with travel information about Turkey, and tourism details from Turkish Airlines. Oh, and plenty of great food, too.
I saw this as a great opportunity while I am learning Turkish, so I've been going to the festival — in fact I am there now, as I write this. Sure, I use the opportunity to ask for food in Turkish, and to use "yes, no, please, and thank you" in Turkish, but my level is still not great and what I really want to do is hear it spoken and learn more!
How to get people to talk to you
Today I'm going to tell you about a trick I'm using to meet new people, to make new friends, and to hear their language. It's a really simple trick, but it works well.
I arrive early, just as the booths are opening and before any music or dancing has started. There are no lines and no crowds. I get some food, I find an empty table, and I sit. And I stay there. That's it. That's what I do. It's easy, anyone can do it.
As the festivities go on, and as the crowds start to arrive, seating is scarce. People want to sit, especially if they have food. Several people will come along and ask if they can sit at my table, and of course I tell them "yes."
Learning Turkish from the families at my table
Over the past few days I've had several groups of Turkish speakers share my table, including one group of three who stayed for several hours talking to me. And in that time, I've picked up a lot!
One example is when someone asked saat kaç? which literally means "hour, how much?" — in other words, what time is it? This one phrase taught me a lot about how questions are formed, and it also taught me a valuable, extremely useful phrase.
The response was on iki, which I recognized to mean ten two. I knew it was noon, and therefore "ten two" must be the Turkish way to say twelve. I pulled out my Sözlük app on my iPod and looked up thirteen, sixteen, etc, and found that is indeed how numbers are stated. Like so many things in Turksh, it's very simple!
I've also heard many people say efendim when they can't hear someone. Google says it means sir, but the way it's being used seems more like pardon? to me.
I'm learning a lot just by being around Turkish people, speaking to them occasionally, but mostly just listening. And I don't even need any special social skills to make this work.
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.