In Turkish, the same concept is expressed with a different metaphor:
“Boşa kürek çekmek.”
It literally translates as “to row in vain.”
For example: “Yükselmek için yıllarca çalıştı durdu ama sonunda boşa kürek çektiğini anladı.”
These days, twelve years into my relationship with M., I feel the rowing in vain feeling all the time when it comes to language.
I have hundreds of Turkish words that materialize easily in my mouth – but only two or three basic sentences. Verb conjugations stymie me. Rosetta Stone’s fantastic program has given me a leg up, but I’m still only partially in the boat that I’m trying to row, in vain.
Perhaps I should just forget my dream of learning basic conversational Turkish…be a realist and just smile in my silent non-understanding through tea time conversations and bazaar bargaining bouts.
Karagöz mocks me when I think in this way – “yes, forget it, you only visit for a month per year now anyway.”
But then, Hacivad Bey kicks Karagöz out of the way in those moments, saying “but how nice it would be to engage in charming niceties during your visits!”
And of course Kenne, the Queen of Manners et Alia, she says “you don’t want to be an ugly American, now, do you?”
Esma, the hippie puppet takes a different tact, saying “you could equalize your relationship with M. by having more Turkish in common instead of your language, English. This would be equitable, fair and respectful.”
And so it goes with each of the puppets weighing in on what I should do and how I should feel about this sticky (for me) topic.
M. says he doesn’t mind if I learn Turkish or not…but I think he would secretly be proud if I did. I suppose I’ll only be able to make the jump if I row my heart out and head for that grindstone with my nose!