Wednesday, July 9, 2014

PIT 7/9/14

"I didn't really bring school supplies, did you?"
"What? It's not like we're here to go to school or anything."

For the past two and a half years, I worked as an English language teacher for the Program in Intensive English (PIE) at NAU. Many of my students, particularly those from certain countries (I won't name names here) came to class unprepared. It seems now that the tables have turned.

On Monday, Jena and I began taking an intensive Turkish class. In the back of my mind, I call it the Program in Intensive Turkish (PIT). This is an exaggeration, though. It is not a pit. In fact, Jena and I are the only two students in the class, so it's very personalized. After merely two days of class, it feels like we have learned a lot. Already, for example, I have begun to recognize certain vocabulary words, and I have at least started to pay attention to the end of Turkish words, even if I don't know what they mean. (The Turkish language uses a lot of affixes, particularly suffixes and infixes.)

We have class for four hours a day. While we didn't necessarily bring school supplies to our first day of school, beyond one not defter (notebook), we did show up on time. Just that action seemed like it warranted applause. I can now see how some of my students must have felt coming from their countries to Flagstaff, Arizona of all places.

During our marathon classes, we have three ten minute molalar (breaks). At these times, our generous teacher gives us tea and sometimes coffee. Because I am not a caffeine drinker regularly, these beverages get me super high. Each sip has me hanging onto the teacher's words, although I rarely know what she is saying. By the end of our lessons for the day, my vision is going in and out of focus, and I feel like I'm going to collapse. This sensation, too, gives me new insight into the language learning experience that my students undergo.

It's a little rough being in a class with one's spouse. I have a hard time getting through the moments when I need more time to understand a grammar rule or those when Jena memorizes a word before me. My default, as has been my habit throughout my twenty years of schooling, is to hunker down and try to out-study my peers. This pattern of behavior is somewhat problematic, however, as Jena and I are here to experience Turkey as well as to study the language. I've found myself wanting to stay indoors the past two days and to try to memorize all the vocabulary that I can find. Somehow, I would like to find a balance.

Our class takes place from about two in the afternoon to about six, which isn't my favorite time of the day for school--I'm more of a morning person--but this time of the day is the hottest time of day in Izmir. The schedule allows Jena and I to come home after class and to take walks on the waterfront to cool down. Here in Alsancak, neighborhood in the city's center, there is a grassy park beside the water where hundreds of people congregate to watch the sunset. The people sit in little pods on the grass, smoke cigarettes, drink malt beer, and eat snacks. It's beautiful to watch. The street dogs (my favorite residents of Izmir) play on the grass as well. Some watch the people for handouts and others run around, playing with one another and with the leashed dogs that walk by.

For Jena and me, the walks on the waterfront are an opportunity to people watch as our brains organize the little shards of language that we've accumulated that day. After getting a handle on the word, ak┼čamlar (night), I heard it a couple times as we strolled around. By the time we return, it's nearly time for bed, and we're exhausted anyway. From there, we go to sleep, wake up, exercise, do our homework, and then it's time for class again.

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