Lost in Translation

As you can imagine, living and working with people while not sharing a common language can be a challenge. On the boat, we resort to hand gestures (and, occasionally, full-out charades), doodles and diagrams when our ability to communicate disappears, and we all have Google Translate on our phones. (Although, to be honest, even Google Translate lets us down - a lot!)

incomprehensible translation of a sign at a Turkish bus stop

There are days when I feel like a walking thesaurus when I ask the crew to please take out the garbage / trash / rubbish / waste, hoping someone will recognize at least one of the English synonyms and respond appropriately. Sometimes, even that not enough.

I've encountered English / Turkish translation challenges since my first visit to Turkey. My travelling companion was in stitches as she listened to a conversation I was having with a new Turkish friend.

First time to Kai? he asked.

I replied that my itinerary didn't include a destination named Kai. Is it near Cappadocia? I asked.

No, to Kai he said emphatically.

Is it near Istanbul? I queried, trying to figure out whether we could add it as a side trip.

"No, to Kai he said slowly, enunciating carefully as if speaking to a small child with a severe learning disability.

After about 10 minutes of back and forth, I figured out that what I was hearing as to Kai was actually the Turkish pronunciation of "Turkey", and he was simply asking if this was my first visit to his country...

shop sign saying sorry we're not closed

A subsequent conversation about the rock shop didn't go much better. My suitcase was practically bursting at the seams, and much too heavy to be lugging chunks of marble, quartz and granite around the world. Besides, we have rocks in Canada. Why would I buy rocks in Turkey? As it turns out, I did buy a rock, a magic flying rock (rug), at the carpet shop in Istanbul!

I am proud to say that, after living in Turkey for over a year, I'm now solving these word puzzles more quickly. For example, I made a recent vegetable purchase at the local farmer market. Half past one, said the vendor, and I confidently handed over a lira and a half. And, if my crew tell me that something will take one and one quarter clock, I know they mean an hour and fifteen minutes.

Unfortunately, there are still many, many times when I don't have a clue what Turkish people really mean...