I recently got the chance to spend two weeks in north Nicosia, being trained for a new job. Every day from 8am to 5pm I was in the company of Turkish Cypriots – speaking and hearing Turkish and absorbing information – in Turkish – for my new job. The fact that everything was in the dialect and not standard Turkish is a minor detail, and made no difference to me whatsoever.
This experience encompassed everything I needed not only for language learning, but for my own personal development and actually understanding ‘the other’. I might also be classed as ‘the other’ but considering I grew up surrounded by Greek Cypriots, I don’t feel that I have the same point of view as a Turkish Cypriot who grew up in the northern half of the island.
As we all know learning either Greek or Turkish in Cyprus is no easy feat, as the native speakers of these languages tend to want to practise their English on you, never allowing you the chance to improve the language you may be learning. And having spent time with Turkish Cypriots who mostly speak perfect English, this ends up being the language of choice. Not this time though! Being surrounded by Turkish Cypriots who speak no English – except for a few words here and there – not only pushed me to cast any fears aside when it came to speaking Turkish, but it gave me the chance to embrace my own inner Turkish Cypriot. In one of my very first blog posts on language here I talk about how trying to learn standard Turkish was fraught with difficulties as I couldn’t relate to it.
It was a breath of fresh air not to hear anyone trying to throw in a few English words; in fact they were too busy trying out their Rumca on me (a word used in Turkish/Turkish Cypriot dialect to describe the type of Greek spoken in Cyprus).
Apart from my language awakening, I also got the chance to drive to my place of work/training every day. Yes this was my first time crossing the border with me behind the wheel. I’ve spent quite a few years saying that I would not, and could not drive on the other side. The drivers are crazy – in a different way to Greek Cypriot driving – but nonetheless still terrifying. Not only did driving on the other side cure me of my long lived phobia, but I realised it enabled me to actually view my country as one, geographically – something I wasn’t able to do beforehand.
The experience was surreal, eye-opening and challenging. I recommend it.
- Karpasia or Karpaz?