Friday, July 30, 2010


Şebek (shebek) is a Turkish word meaning baboon. Turks also use this term to describe a clown-like entertainer. In my understanding a şebek is a person that makes other people laugh, but those people are laughing at the şebek rather than at some funny joke he/she recited. That being said, a şebek must be someone that doesn't mind being laughed at. It wasn't long into our recent road trip through Turkey that I was labeled a şebek.

In my language learning adventure with Romanian I have learned so much about words, expressions, and accents. Even though learning a new language can be extremely tiring and stressful I have found ways to have fun with it. Many of us have heard the funny Indian accent of gas-station clerk on The Simpsons, or the countless comedic Chinese accents in so many movies including "Dude Where's My Car." We have also been able to laugh at other English accents, for example the Wisconson accent of "Fargo", or, my favorite, the southern accent of "Talladega Nights." Speaking in a foreign language, I have come to accept and even enjoy the entertainment that I offer others when I attempt to speak. In that rare occasion that I don't make one of the many possible grammatical mistakes, I still bring an interesting accent to the conversation that often times elicits a snicker if I'm speaking with somebody new. It brings a smile to there face, my face, and more often than not, it's understood. I had quite a bit of language fun in Turkey and this is in large part why I learned the Turkish term "Şebek" so fast.

I went to Turkey knowing some basic words from my last visit (hello, how are you, I'm very good, numbers, goodbye). I was excited to use some of those words and maybe even learn a few more. Soon into our visit I realized that our stay in Turkey would be quite the language learning adventure. Our hostess who speaks English well was unable to go on the road-trip with us, leaving us with a hostess who knew only basic English, so I thought. I say "so I thought" because up until that point I hadn't really spoken with her, only some google translater copy/paste action over skype. Monday morning we set off on a week long road-trip along the west coast of Turkey, two Americans, and one Turk.

In the 25+ hours spent in the car we all did some language learning, but for the most part site-mate and I were the teachers. Mama D, our hostess and friend, works incredibly hard to learn English. Since we last saw her in February she had made significant improvements. She would rarely get discouraged even though at times the fatigue of language learning and driving showed.

At first site-mate and I thought that the trip with mama D would be a bit tiring for us all trying to communicate with each other. Despite our doubts about the communication we vowed to go into the trip with a positive attitude. No matter what we were on vacation in Turkey, and we would have fun. The trip was a complete success largely to do with our positive attitudes, mama D's determination with the language, and Turkey's natural beauty. By the end we had developed an incredible relationship and made some lasting memories. Once again I noticed that when you're traveling it's the people you are with, rather than the place, that make the experience unforgettable. I also noticed that even when you are Şebek, attempting to learn and speak a foreign language goes a long way. Not only do you make people laugh but you also earn there respect by showing an honest effort to communicate rather than expecting them to speak English fluently.

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