Final post from Istanbul, which I’m writing on Tuesday afternoon as we’ll be leaving for the airport to fly back to Bologna early on Wednesday.
I was planning to write about a.) what we’ve been up to since Monday morning and/or b.) how I’ve been getting on with my Turkish in the six days since we’ve been in town, something I assumed would be of general interest to people learning languages.
And yet, I’ve had several emails saying basically “That was very interesting, but I’d rather read it in Italian.”
Well, I said to my (Italian) wife, perhaps they’re right?
“Ma, che palle!” she exclaimed.
“If they can read Italian that well, they don’t need your website. There are millions of travel blogs written by Italians. Why don’t they go read those?”
Ninety-five percent of OnlineItalianClub.com members are at levels A1, A2, or B1, which is to say they don’t read in Italian at all, hardly at all, or ‘con fatica’.
And, though my Italian is C1/C2, I’m not a native speaker and don’t pretend to be.
Personally, I’d never hire a non-native speaker to write articles to send to a list of thousands of people (currently around 13,000).
Imagine the time you’d waste editing and proof-reading.
Quind, sì, che palle!
“You can’t write that!” my wife said. “I certainly can” I replied, “Watch me!”
OnlineItalianClub.com has 1493 pages of free materials, around 500 interactive .html exercises, and 1088 of these articles (this will be the 1089th), with around 120 more added each year.
At the point at which we ran out of ideas regarding new materials to publish on this site, we figured we would hire writers, rather than teachers, and pay them to produce simplified texts.
The club is free to use and has minimal advertising so we started a separate online shop to sell ebooks and online lessons: https://easyreaders.org/ .
As a result of the sales of ebooks and lessons, we were able to provide work to young Italians (teachers and writers) who needed it.
Revenues from the shop are, at least in part, reinvested, for example with our new and rather costly https://easyitaliannews.com/
So just to sum that up, we have:
1.) Thousands of pages of free materials for learning Italian that anyone can access at any time without registration. I heard that the British ‘Open University’ has stopped/is stopping teaching Italian. We still do, for free.
2.) Regular publications of orignal ebooks / online lessons with teachers selected and monitored by our own teaching manager – a professional. Neither of these are free, but the revenues pay the bills for 1.) above. People all over the world use our materials and take lessons with our teachers. We have hundreds of students, dozens of teachers, and sell thousands of ebooks, so something must be going right.
3.) And a semi-professional ‘easy news’ service, which makes a huge loss but provides work for people who need it and is also funded by 2.) above. Over three thousand people receive each edition, via email, at absolutely no cost.
Excuse me if this bores you.
MY, role in all this, then, is not to write in Italian but to be the ‘point man’ and promote the free materials, the ebooks and lessons, and the easy news.
And given that I already know Italian rather well, to do that I write about my experiences learning other languages. The process, the experience, the ups and downs.
Several years ago, club members voted that I should learn Swedish, which I am now doing. I wrote about my experiences as a beginner, I wrote about taking online lessons (I was nervous), I wrote about how I do a lot of listening and reading, and how well that works for me.
Years back I knew Turkish, having lived in the country. I imagine many other people have had the same experience of ‘losing’ a language they once knew well. So I’m writing about that, too.
Given that, as I pointed out above, most people who get these emails don’t read in Italian, all this is in English.
If that’s not OK with you, there’s an ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of every email I send out.
Final comments on Istanbul
Today we took a ferry to the ‘Adalar’ (islands). There are nine, according to Google. They’re off the Asian coast of the city. Four of them can be visited.
The islands are a tourist ‘must do’, but I’m a terrible tourist.
On the way out we looked seawards, trying to figure out from Google Maps which island was which and where we would be stopping.
On the way back, we had a view of the city.
What does sixteen million people, all in one place, look like?
Picture the New York City skyline, I’m sure you can.
A big city, towers in the middle, ships heading to and from it, planes flying overhead.
At this point, an Italian would say “Hai presente (the New York City skyline)?”
That’s a useful expression – sort of like, do you have it in your mind? Can you picture it? You know…?
“Hai presente the New York City skyline?”
OK, now mentally look to the left, stretch the city-scape as you turn your head.
And now, actually move your body to the left, so you’re at a ninety degree angle from where you started.
And stretch that cityscape all the way around, a whole quarter of the clock, ninety compass degrees, all city!
“Hai presente ninety degrees of city?”
And NOW, turn your body ANOTHER whole quarter, another whole 90 degrees, and stretch that urban vista out, all the way around, until you’re facing backwards from where you began.
It’s city, city, city, city, all the way down one side of the clock, 180 degrees.
THAT’S what sixteen million people look like.
Oh, and by the way?
It’s that final bit at the end, the last ten degrees of the semi-circle, which contain all the famous tourist attractions, and all the tourists.
While the enormous stretch of humanity spread out along the the coast of the Marmara Sea doesn’t feature at all on the ‘Red Bus’ tourist route, which stops at the Bosphorus suspension bridge.
I regret that I didn’t realise this before, and so take a day or two from my holiday to get to know the vast Asian part of the city.
The other 180 degrees of the clock is sea, obviously. There’s a lovely breeze, big ships, ferries, and kids learning to sail in small yachts.
But not a lot else to look at – other than the nine small islands, which attract a mass of Arabic-speaking tourists and enthusiastically sell them pricey fish lunches and rides in horse-drawn carriages.
How’s it gone with the Turkish, Daniel?
Thank you for asking.
Actually, I’ve now forgotten how to speak Italian, which is both embarassing and satisfying.
Literally, when I want to speak Italian to my wife (that way we can gossip about people around us without fear they’ll understand), only Turkish, or a bastard mix of Turkish and Italian, comes out!
However, I’ve discovered that I’m much better at haggling when I’m not speaking English.
“How much is that?”
“That one’s 95 TL.”
“Is that your best price?”
“Well, for you, 85 TL.”
(Smiling) “Did you say 75 TL?”
(Smiling) “No, 85 TL”
(Translates for the wife, who’s pleased…)
“We’ll take it.”
Other than souvenir shops, it’s mainly been corner grocery stores (beer, biscuits, water), restaurants, bars, buses and the like.
One important thing to note: if you START in the language, you may not understand the reply, you may not feel in control.
But if you don’t, you’ll never get used to doing it.
I had an interesting conversation with a Turkish photographer, on the ferry back from the islands.
He’d overhead Stefi and I talking in English (I’m married to an Italian who never speaks Italian to me…) and interupted to say how pleased he was that at least someone wasn’t speaking Arabic.
I replied in Turkish, he continued the conversation in English (he’d been in the UK for a couple of years), and so we went on, in two languages, neither one of us willing to give up the chance to practice.
Yesterday, I followed my own advice and went into a bookshop. I bought a couple of Turkish translations of Tintin books, remember him?
And read twelve pages of what was orginally ‘Tintin, L’étoile mystèrieuse’, now rendered into ‘Esrarengiz Yıldız’, and no, I have no idea what that means, but Tintin in Turkish is Tenten.
I understood perhaps half of those twelve pages, but comic books are easy to follow and I knew all these stories well as a kid. I find Turkish hard to read, so any practice I get is good. I’ve also been reading ads whenever I see them in the street, or on TV, and translating them for the wife, who doesn’t listen.
Talking of TV, I watched over an hour of the candidates’ debate in the vital Istanbul mayoral election, which is being re-run at the moment. Over an hour of TV, no subtitles, I was proud!
Perhaps I got twenty percent of what the moderator and candidates said, but it was more than enough to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each would-be mayor (“Look how that guy’s blinking and looking anxiously off-camera, lying bastard!”)
Final, final thing.
Patatesli GÖZLEME, you gotta try them.
Here’s a link to the video recipe. Yes, I know you’d don’t understand a word she’s saying, but look at the pictures, you’ll figure it out (it’s worth it, I promise).
Like YUM! And if you don’t cook, find a Turkish restaurant and give GÖZLEME a try. We had ours at Otantik. They cost something like two dollars each and were hand-made by a sweating lady in a headscarf in the restaurant window.
Which brings me back to where we started.
This website, of course, is about learning ITALIAN (“Che palle!”), not Turkish.
So do you watch Italian-language cookery videos on Youtube?
If not, why not?
THIS is how you learn a language – talking to people, forming relationships, reading, following the news, having opinions, eating the food, drinking the rakı, and so forth.
At least, as far as you are able to.
Not with grammar books.