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April 11, 2012, Wednesday

Learning Turkish the hotel way

In the depths of winter I trudged down to the Belediye building one Sunday to enquire about Turkish classes. The man in the office downstairs looked gloomy. “Is everything all right?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “Everyone has problems with their water. I’m so busy.”

Minutes later and I was upstairs, hunkered down in the back row of the classroom like a naughty schoolgirl who’d forgotten to bring her notebook and hoped the teacher wouldn’t notice.

These Turkish classes are one of Göreme’s most exciting new ventures. All of us know that to really get to grips with the country we need to learn the language but the trouble is that here in Cappadocia we’re hundreds of kilometers away from the language schools. Before settling here I went to a school in İstanbul to make a start with the grammar, but of course if you don’t live in İstanbul and have to stay in a hotel there that pushes the cost of studying beyond the means of most people.

So most Cappadocian expats have had to make do with learning as they go along, which often means knowing lots of nouns but few verbs with which to join them up. Now the authorities have decided to help by providing a free class every week. You pay your money for a textbook from Ankara and away you go.

Sadly, two hours of tuition a week is not really enough to make much headway and it was obvious to me that the absolute beginners were already struggling as the teacher introduced the present tense in its positive, negative and interrogative forms all in the one session. Back in İstanbul we had twenty hours of tuition a week and a whole week would have been dedicated to those three forms alone.

The other inevitable problem is that having only one class means mixed-ability teaching, something that was very a la mode when I was training to be a teacher in the UK but that never seemed to work there either. So on the day that I sat in on the class, it was obvious that there were people there who were well on their way to fluency sitting alongside those who had still to master the alphabet.

This is a problem with no very obvious solution in an area where there are not enough would-be students at the various different levels to justify splitting up the group. For myself, I suspected that coming to class might be good for revision but would soon become very frustrating.

Instead I’m falling back on a novel way of expanding my vocabulary, albeit one that is unlikely to prove useful on my next visit to İstanbul. When the Hezen Hotel opened in Ortahisar I assumed that “Hezen” must be the surname of the owner but oh dear me, no! A “hezen,” it turns out, is one of the tree-trunk-style rafters that I have been staring up at in the ceiling of my own bedroom for the past 10 years without ever thinking what to call them.

Now we have the new Gerdiş Evi hotel in Göreme. Gerdiş? Well, that is apparently the name given to the summer-houses which my neighbors used to use in the past when they wanted to stay overnight near their fields at harvest time.

Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.

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