I’m a few weeks behind on an update, and suddenly the mission is over. I intended to do some blog posts last Sunday and the Sunday before that, with some video, to demonstrate how everything was going, but frankly, life got in the way. I was low on time – a lot of work – and I had a choice: I could study my Turkish, or take the time to write in my blog about how my Turkish was going.
I chose studying Turkish.
And now my mission has come to an end. I just got back from the TurkFest, and had the opportunity to speak Turkish with some people there. How did it go? Did I reach my intended goal of a B1 level in Turkish? What worked for me, and what didn’t?
Just out of reach
When I started this mission, I self evaluated my Turkish as A1 speaking and A2 reading, and I admit that going for B1 in a month was a pretty intense goal. I wanted to push myself, and it worked. I learned about 1000 new words over the course of the month, I completed the Teach Yourself: Turkish book, and I had some good Turkish conversations, and I wrote a lot of Turkish journal entries that I then posted on iTalki. However, when all is said and done, I think I merely rounded out my Turkish at an A2 level.
I am, however, quite proud of this accomplishment. I learned a lot of grammar, and judging on how I read now compared to how often I needed a dictionary before, I wonder if I was only an A1 or high A1 in reading when I started.
I may not have made it to a B1 level, but I made all around improvement, and that’s great.
“No man is an island”
It’s always easier to judge through hindsight, but for this mission I think I knew all along what I was lacking: People. I’ve gotten pretty good at creating immersion for myself in a language. I narrate my daily life as I walk around. I write in my journal. I Listen to the radio. Yet the one thing I can’t reproduce as easily is real conversation with native speakers.
Over the course of the past month, I had a few conversations on Speaky, and they were great. It was clear that they were the most beneficial thing for me because they gave me the opportunity to try new things and correct in real time. However, scheduling was a big issue for me. I live in Seattle (UTC-8) and Turkey is (UTC+2). That means that the best time to talk to someone in Turkey is likely in the morning or rather late at night (for me).
Since I work for myself, I do have some flexibility with finding time to talk with people. I have been, however, extremely busy at work (less flexibility), and the best time for me to work is earlier in the day. So, I mostly found myself working or sleeping when I would have had the best chance to speak with someone in Turkey.
Engage the community!
What about Turks in the community? That’s the right attitude! In fact, I always prefer talking with people in my local community if I can. Seattle, however, does have a smaller Turkish community than some other places in the US (or the world). I’m not saying this is impossible, but I am saying this would be a very different story if I lived in Berlin. Likewise, despite all the effort I have put into growing the local Seattle Polyglot group in the area, there have not yet been a lot of members with whom I can practice Turkish.
I admit that this is still an excuse, but it’s a pretty legitimate one for many people. Language is a way to connect with people, across culture, thought, space, and even time. Having a hard time connecting with people can put a serious damper on a language project. Is it a challenge that can be overcome? Yes. Is it one that I feel I have the energy and resources to do right now? Not really.
Then, what next?
It may sound like I’m saying I’m done with Turkish. That isn’t quite accurate. I am really happy with the progress I have made: I have met some great people online that I want to keep up with, I have unlocked more beautiful poetry that I am excited to read, I am more confident in writing Turkish poetry myself, and I am more confident that Turkish will stick in my brain if I take a break.
Though I feel like I want to take a break from a more active Turkish to a more passive Turkish. I will keep reading and listening to Turkish, like I do with all my languages that I maintain, and I’m sure I’ll talk to myself in the language, but I’m going to turn the next month towards other language pursuits.
What kind of pursuits, you may ask?
I have a bigger project I would like to do starting right after Thanksgiving, but that means that I have about 5 weeks to do another project. I have some ideas. My experience trying to speak with people in Turkish really made me think it would be valuable to choose a language I can use more in the next month, whether that’s from normal Seattle interactions, my friends (wherever they may be), or my Polyglot Meetup. But I think I need to give it a day to think about it. (READ: Follow-up post coming soon!)
The issue, as always, is not a lack of things that sound exciting, but too many things. How do you decide when you have a lot of exciting possibilities drawing you? What makes one language pull ahead of the pack?
Let me know in the comments! And while you are at it, tell me what language projects you are working on right now. How are they doing?