You can't find it in a Turkish-English/English-Turkish dictionary

I was dreaming some high-tech magic would move my luggage automatically from Turkey to Washington, the way the Star Trek crew is beamed from their ship to a planet, when I woke to my mom calling: ``Don't forget to keep your diary. I am sure you're gonna see a lot of interesting things to record.'' I heeded her and therefore have some duly recorded impressions to share from my first few weeks as a visiting journalist here in the US.

First, the weather. When I arrived at Dulles airport, I took my heavy coat off and wrote in my diary, ``I felt like Steven Spielberg's E.T. at the airport: On a typical summer day I appeared with winter clothes as if coming from another cosmic system.'' But the day after, I woke to crashes of thunder.

I then recalled that my questions about weather had been answered very strangely by people who had visited the United States. They didn't agree with one another. I got, ``You should take your winter clothes,'' and ``do not forget to take your shorts,'' at the same time. Now they were beginning to make sense.

Next, the pitfalls of language. My first day in Washington gave me a lesson in the problems of American English. In any English-Turkish/Turkish-English dictionary, the word ``Negro' refers to black people. Trusting my vocabulary, I was talking to a group of black people about discrimination. I observed that most of the people in the capital are black and added my impression that US administrations are putting more emphasis on the Negro community. ``Why do you keep saying `Negro'?'' one of my listeners asked. The word was quickly deleted from my vocabulary.

How to pass a driver's exam. On arriving in Boston, I decided to get a drivers' license. I wanted to expand my knowledge of the city beyond what I had learned from the movie ``The Boston Strangler.'' Still, it took a while to decide to apply for the license, especially after watching discouraging morning TV programs about Boston ``traffic jams.''

When I finally went to the government office, there was an unforgettable moment: I was asked if I wanted to take the written test in Turkish! I couldn't believe my ears, but it was true and I was handed the test. I thought nothing was more exciting than having a Turkish test in Boston. But I could hardly answer even seven in the long list of questions. There was nothing wrong with my knowledge of traffic rules - it was my own tongue! The translation into Turkish was not good.

I very much appreciated the idea of having a test in Turkish, but asked for the English version. I passed!

How do you get to the what? It did not take long to realize that every city has its own jargon. The electric underground railway suddenly became a serious point in my English knowledge. I had been taught that the railway system is either called subway or tube. But in Washington, it's the ``metro.'' New York, which seemed to me the world capital, suited my vocabulary; I happily turned to the subway. In Boston, nothing worked. When I mentioned ``subway'' or cautiously ``metro,'' I received the reply, ``You mean the `T'?''

Haldun Armagan, a reporter with Gunes, a newspaper in Ankara, Turkey, recently spent a month in the Monitor newsroom as a participant in a scholarship program sponsored by the Turkish Government.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK