The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

On Peppers and Humility

A few weeks ago in a Turkish market, I wanted to ask if the peppers were spicy, but I apparently asked if the peppers would punch/injure me. The girl laughed but answered, “No, they’re sweet.” This is a perfect answer for both questions.

Later I learned about my error from friends–who were laughing heartily over it. Every time I think I have achieved a milestone in Turkish, something brings me around and humbles me to get back to work. I’ve been trying to immerse myself. I love to speak this language, I love it when I can get a set of phrases rolling, and I love it when I can make myself understood. I can only assume, though, that I am making myself understood. One of my friends recently admitted, “Your Turkish is good, really. But sometimes when you speak, I don’t know if you’re making a mistake or just being sort of creative.”

Today at the same market, the same girl was at the checkout. Humbled, blushing, I asked if she remembered the mistake I’d made before when asking about the peppers. “Oh yes,” she said with a grin, “My Grandma loved that story.”

Turkish ladies

13 comments on “On Peppers and Humility

  1. judilyn
    October 17, 2016

    The important thing is that you tried to use their language, and you were not overbearing and obnoxious, as some might have been in the situation. Nice you could provide a humorous moment for someone else at the same time!

    Virtual hugs,


    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 17, 2016

      Hi Judie,
      Any time I can make a Grandma happy, that is a win for me. 🙂 I am definitely trying (and failing and trying again) with this language. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process as well!

  2. joannerambling
    October 17, 2016

    I liked the story too, made me laugh

  3. Alison and Don
    October 17, 2016

    This is so wonderful. It’s always the way when we try with a new language, and kudos to you for making the effort. You unwittingly cheer people with your mistakes. I have a Dutch friend who is fluent in English, but just as your Turkish friends said, I notice she is sometimes very creative with the language. It’s very endearing.

  4. Jane Gundogan
    October 17, 2016

    My favourite is when I try to talk about my husband “eş” but I keep calling him my donkey “eşek”. I think it works on both counts

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 18, 2016

      Haha, Jane! 🙂 Ne komik! I bet people definitely tell their friends and family about that. 🙂

  5. This made me remember that many years ago when I was travelling in England and visiting a rather upscale hotel in Torquay, I ate something that included a whole peppercorn and I began to cough, drawing lots of attention. The maitre’d quickly appeared and said loudly “GIFT” which I didn’t understand to be anything but another word for present. Once he saw that I stopped coughing, my mother said that the word “gift” in German means toxic or poison. I supposed he thought that the hotel would be involved in a scandal, should I choke! I was fine, learned a new German word. Thank you for your wonderful way of recounting something very sweet.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 21, 2016

      It’s interesting that the immediately thought you may have been poisoned. I did see “Murder She Wrote” with German dubbing when I lived in Austria, so maybe he has afternoons free to watch. 🙂
      Thank you for sharing your story!

  6. thewonderer86
    October 20, 2016

    This story was like the peppers – sweet!

  7. Jeff Walker
    October 20, 2016

    My favorite part of this story is that it in fact became a story not just told by you to us, but by the girl to her grandmother. A truly shared experience. The best kind.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      October 21, 2016

      You know I love stories, and even if I have to become a story that makes Grandma laugh, I’m game. I have told the story to some new friends here and one immediately called his Mom to tell her. He said they had never met anyone learning Turkish before. They love hearing me grapple with it. So my shyness and fear is still there, but also falling away. 🙂

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This entry was posted on October 17, 2016 by in Travel.

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