I have been told that you’d like to add Turkish to your language combination.
Congratulations! That means you are at the beginning of a long, winding road. In the end lie the Mediterranean, olive trees, the Tigris and the Euphrates, mountains, the pastures of the East and an ever-changing political agenda, for those who have sporting blood.
First things first: Turkish is an agglutinative language. For example, “I am going” would be “Gidiyorum”. So in good hands, Turkish is magical. It is as economical and compact as a language can be, until a government official takes the floor and starts beating around the bush.
If you want to learn Turkish, you should also beware of the syntax. The verb comes at the end of a sentence, so if you are going to interpret from Turkish into English, you may have to wait for a while until you finally hear the predicate. This requires using the short term memory more while interpreting, compared to some of the other languages. If the sentence is really getting out of hand, you may want to take a cautious guess about the verb, which may turn out to be either right or wrong. For example, “I am not going to school” would be “Okula gitmiyorum”. There is no way for an interpreter to know for sure what the speaker’s predicate will be in the end: neither the action itself nor the tense or the subject. Of course, if you’re interpreting into English, you will need your verb right after your subject, so you will have to wait for it in Turkish.
Another peculiarity I love about Turkish is that there is no “she/he” distinction. Sometimes, interpreting into English, you need to assign a gender to an ambigious agent, but nowadays the use of “they” as a gender neutral pronoun runs to the rescue. There are no articles either, but suffixes that work as definite articles.
Turkish has a tense used for actions that the speaker has not witnessed themselves. It is formed with the suffix “-miş”. One could say that Turkish has a tense exclusive to hearsay and gossip. Quite compelling, isn’t it?
There are also some aspects to consider about the market in Turkey. In Istanbul, colleagues usually work in the simultaneous mode for the private sector, whereas in the capital of Turkey, Ankara, they often do a lot of consecutive for the public institutions. If you’re going to work for these, brace for impact- a lot of passive sentence structures lie ahead. Just who does all those things is and will remain a conundrum.
Moreover, if you consider working with Turkish, you should pick your side: Are you in for medical congresses or not? How about legal conferences? I think it’d be right to say that this is the main specialization interpreters develop. Having said that, you should know that the interpreting market in Turkey covers a large variety of topics. Not a single boring moment.
I hope I haven’t discouraged you by telling you all this. Turkish is a powerful and rich language. Persian, Arabic and French words are all part of the language and they come with a cultural baggage which unravels new worlds in front of you.
Finally, a well-established professional association, TKTD (The Conference Interpreters Association of Turkey), will certainly welcome you with collegiality on your journey with Turkish.
Ayşe Pınar Köprücü
Member of AIIC and TKTD, EU-accredited Conference Interpreter
P.S.: I’d like to thank my colleagues Aksel Vannus, Bahar Eriş, Elif Panayırcı and Esin Aslan for sharing their ideas with me.3