The way the dust of the Mesaoria gets whipped up into little swirls that dance across the dry yellow fields in the hot wind of the summer, words in various languages start to do their own whirling motion in my mind, encouraging me to pick the right words, in the right language, depending on who I’m speaking to.
For the most part, those words manage to form themselves in the right way as they make their way out of my mouth and across to either the Greek or Turkish speaker, but inevitably sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I lose the thread and end up speaking Greek to the Turkish speaker and vice versa.
“Do you translate it in your mind as I’m speaking and then tell him,” someone at work asked me.
“Hmm I don’t know, right now I’m thinking about how to explain this,” I responded.
However, after having this question posed to me I realised that during Greek to Turkish translation – which is undoubtedly the hardest for me – that’s exactly what I do, especially as time is of the essence.
When someone is not an interpreter but must do the job of an interpreter, it’s tough. As I have already mentioned in previous posts here and here, I have recently started a new job which requires me to be in the north a lot and also requires me to do Turkish-Greek and Greek-Turkish interpretation. It has been a steep learning curve as I’m not an interpreter and Turkish is my third language.
However, apart from the practical advantages of constantly using all three of my languages, or more specifically of using Turkish throughout most of my day, I get to experience what it’s like for two people to understand each other, who normally would not be able to communicate adequately. Seeing the delight in someone’s face as they’ve understood the whole story as opposed to very little of it or none at all, is priceless.
And as any bi-lingual or multi-lingual person knows, forgetting words comes with the territory, creating a world of funny scenarios. I’ve forgotten words, I’ve struggled to tell a story in a specific language as I’ve told it in another and I’ve changed the syntax of my mother tongue (English), all in the name of being fluent in all my languages.
Admittedly, by the end of each day the thought of speaking Turkish does not fill me with joy, but the thought that I’ve achieved a goal; the goal of re-learning a once forgotten or at least neglected language of mine is incredibly fulfilling. For me, this is the definition of claiming my Cypriot identity.
- Cyprus, I love you
- Checkpoint adventures