Learning Turkish and Looking Stupid

/ By Josh

Learning a new language is like being given a key to a whole new world. While you can come to a place like Turkey and see the sights and even watch the people, learning the language allows you to delve into a whole other level of experience where you can really interact with those people and dig into their lives.

Kars Beşkilise Khtzkonk Blog

One of my favourite memories was in Diyarbakır when Nathan and I saw a sign for a cave and pulled over to investigate. Before going up to the cave we sat with a local farmer and were able to chat for awhile, learn about his work, his life, his family, the land they worked, and get the warning that exploring too much in those hills would potentially get us shot. So not only was it a fascinating conversation but it also turned out to be more than likely life-saving!

swimmers in Tigris river from cave Diyarbakir blog
Just below the cave of death…

I won’t pretend to be a great language learner and have heaps of wisdom for you but I do want to say this: the two most important things in language learning are hard work and humility.

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When learning a language, you will become an idiot. On a good day you will say stupid things, on a bad day it won’t make enough sense to be funny. But if you can laugh at your own mistakes and keep rolling with it you’ll get there. You’ll eventually get that key that opens up new relationships and adventures and get to explore a whole new world!

With that in mind here’s a collection of hilarious language mistakes that people I know here in Turkey have made while attempting to learn language. Many of these are pretty embarrassing but we were (usually) able to laugh through the humiliation and keep working at it! Enjoy!


What he thought he was saying:

“The problem with American food is that there’s too many preservatives in it”

What he actually said:

“The problem with American food is that they put too many condoms in it”


Conversation he thought he was having:

“Do you have mushrooms in Australia?”

“Yeah, of course! Loads of ‘em!”

Conversation he was actually having:

“Do you have a girlfriend/mistress in Australia?”

“Yeah, of course! Loads of ‘em!”

It became clear there was a misunderstanding when he went on to mention putting all those mistresses in the fridge.


What he thought he was saying:

“Man, my shoulder really aches”

What he actually said:

“Man, my bananas really ache”

This was met with silence and they didn’t speak again. 


What she thought she was saying:

“Would you like to share my plate?”

What she actually said:

“Would you like to share my penis?”

It took half an hour for the laughing to subside enough for people to explain what was so funny.


What he thought he was saying:

“Hi, what’s your name?”

What he actually said:

“Hi, my name is Clever”

After saying this he waited to learn the guy’s name but was only met with confused looks. 


What she tried to say at the bakery:

“I’d like two fresh loaves of bread”

What she actually said:

“I’d like two fresh men”


Conversation he thought he was having:

“What grammar are you studying?”

“I’m studying the dik/mesi endings”

Conversation he actually had:

“What grammar are you studying?”

“I’m studying perky breasts”

“What kind of school are you going to?!”


What she wanted to say:

“Are you right-handed?”

What she actually said

“Are you an idiot?”


What he tried saying:

“That was really smart of you!”

What he actually said:

“You’re really stupid!”

Our friends need to be thick skinned.


What she thought she had been saying for the past few years:

“Could I get 2 jugs of water?”

What she had actually been saying for the past few years:

“Could I get 2 drops of water?”


What he thought he was saying:

“The guy was squeezing the meatballs” (to shape them)

How the conversation actually went:

“The guy was F@*!ing the meatballs”

“He did WHAT to the meatballs?!”

“He was F@*!ing them!”

“Don’t eat those meatballs!”


What she thought she was saying at the restaurant:

“Can I get some service?”

What she actually said to the handsome young waiter:

“Are you single?”


What he thought he was saying:

“I’ll have a bowl of soup”

What he actually said to the waiter:

“I’ll have a sock”


A guy was riding in a taxi and at one point the driver asks:

“Are you circumcised?”

Not knowing the word circumcised in Turkish he went to look it up in the dictionary saying:

“Let me check”

The driver, thinking the guy didn’t know whether he was circumcised said:

“Yeah. Yeah, you should really check!”


There are some other hilarious stories that are great but not really appropriate for here though I think you get the point anyways. We make mistakes, we look like idiots at times, we totally embarrass ourselves, but we laugh and learn from it and push on. With humility, a good attitude, and hard work we eventually get to the place where we get to jump into life in Turkey and enjoy a whole other exotic world that would be otherwise closed to us.