Maintaining the Language from Afar

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My wife was giddy last night when she told me that she thought her Turkish was as good as when we left Turkey two and a half years ago.

I am giddy for her though I can’t say the same for my own Turkish.  I’ve needed to move on to other things.  My heart, while still in Turkey in so many ways, doesn’t have it in it to work hard to grow my knowledge of a language that I just don’t use that much.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use it.  I call friends. We’ve found some Turkish friends back here in the states, but it’s hard when I am so geographically removed from Turkey.

But my wife has done it with out much effort and as she home schools our kids, she is helping them do it too.  It’s not perfect and it’s not easy but for her and the kids, it has been enjoyable.

The kids start nearly every school day with a Turkish cartoon.  My wife ends most every day with Iki Dunya Arasinda, a Turkish prime time show that is so filled with over the top drama and outlandish situations that it’s a drama that has nearly moved into the realm of comedy.

And it’s worked.

We all were really pretty proficient with Turkish when we left.  There wasn’t really anything we couldn’t do with the language, though I always remind people who ask that no Turk would have ever mistaken me for a native.

But we were Turkish speakers and we still are – it’s just that while my level of Turkish has stagnated and begun the slow slide backwards, my wife’s has continued to inch higher and higher.

I’m proud of her and excited that with so little hard work, she has continued to improve.  It’s fun for her and the show is pleasant company for her evenings of sewing or knitting or creating artwork.

I’ve talked about TV in the past but it was mostly written from my own experiments and observations over a short period of time and my reading of other’s experiments with watching TV in the target language.

But for two years now, I’ve been able to watch both my wife and kids look forward to their daily shows not because it was helping them maintain and grow their Turkish, but because they enjoyed the shows.

I will say that since my daughter was six and my son eight when we left Turkish, their twenty to thirty minutes of Turkish a day has not been enough to really keep them where they were at when we left.  My son was pretty completely bilingual and my daughter was close behind him.

They’ve lost a lot of ground.  They get frustrated that they can’t seem to talk the way they remember they could.  They don’t always understand as much as they’d like.

And yet, two and a half years out of the daily immersion of life in Turkey and they still clamor to watch Turkish cartoons every morning as they understand more than enough to stay with it and enjoy the show.

And that is exciting.

We hope to return to Turkey for  a visit this summer and I am contented to know that the two of them will be so much better prepared to have a great visit than if we hadn’t kept up the daily dose of cartoons.

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Welcome to The Everyday Language Learner. My goal with this site is to empower everyday folks to learn language well and to point language learners toward great resources, activities, information and ideas. My name is Aaron Myers and my family and I live in Istanbul, Turkey where we too are everyday language learners. My hope is that I am able to help you be a more effective, more efficient language learner and to help you have a lot more fun on the language learning journey. Have an amazing day! -Aaron
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