Leveled up in Turkish

Hanging out on Clubhouse from the beginning made me realize how lacking my Turkish was. I got on the app when Germany came online and I think Turkey launched shortly after that and only then did it kick off in the Netherlands.

That particular sequencing gave me an interesting perspective on how different cultures adopted the service. Germans went into panel hell. Most of the sessions were dominated by journalists and politicos and therefore were extremely boring. Turkey got online in no time and was dominated by influencers who launched all kinds of funky repeating formats and casual chatrooms where people were going until deep into the night (I would listen until 1-2 at night which in Turkey would be 2 hours later still). The Netherlands went into a marketing fervor with a strong showing of douchebags.

Clubhouse had its moment and fizzled, but tuning into the app again recently, I can say that it’s still there and with all the klout and hype chasers gone, things are again weird. Weird is good.

Lexicography

In the Turkish rooms I would hear words that I didn’t know every other sentence, sometimes entire concepts like kadının beyanı esastır. Finally, I had a situation where I was exposed to a high level of Turkish and I had the motivation to improve this.

I started noting these words down in Anki, which I had bought previously to study the HSK. Adding a word to my deck here and there was slow: switch to dictionary (now I use the official one), switch to Anki and write the card, switch back.

For some extra speed, I dug up a master word list I had made more than a decade ago. Back then I had read most of Orhan Pamuk’s then bibliography (Yeni Hayat, Sessiz Ev, Kara Kitap, Kar, Benim Adım Kırmızı) and then too found lots of words I didn’t know. I passed over them and wrote them down on a piece of paper. I transcribed these papers into a list and looked up some of the meanings. But this being before Anki, I had no real way to systematically learn these words and get better at Turkish. If I had, I would have improved steadily with each book I read and everything would have been great.

I went through this old word list letter by letter and over the course of a month made cards for all of the words in that list. The result of that effort is the 1000-word deck I have made available online now.

And now, after months of revising daily (life during the pandemic has been very exciting, why do you ask?) and also continuing to add words as I go—the recent events in Afghanistan made me add the half-Arab half-Farsi ridiculous Turkish word for charge d’affaires—I finally am out of “New” words. From now on it will just be polishing the lexicography of the deck, adding a word here and there and continuing to revise.

This also means I have capacity again to go back to studying HSK3. Or I might switch back to learning Japanese after all. Watching some anime recently and seeing Japanese speaking gaijin on Tiktok have revived this itch.

A feeling for Turkish (and Arabic)

So now what? I am a lot more confident when it comes to my Turkish after having learned a bunch of the words commonly in use in the higher echelons of society. I can now look for and find complicated words much more easily. My usage will likely be incorrect often, but I should be able to get by with my sizeable intuition for what remains the first language I learned (and learnd to read in). I can also consume complex material far more easily than I used to.

I now realize how many loan words from Arabic Turkey has. The exact numbers are obscure, but almost every uncommon word either is of Arabic origin or has an Arabic equivalent. This also explains why after being in Syria for a while I understood what people were saying without knowing Arabic.

I’ve also been amazed by how overloaded the language is for certain concepts like disaster (afet, badire, facia, buhran), sorrow (ıstırap, üzüntü, matem, yas, kahır, hicran, gam, tasa, keder, nedamet, teessür) and many others. Also all of those words are Arabic in origin except if I had to guess by word shape: üzüntü (I guessed right!).

White Turks

Delving into this part of the language and the people who use it, I came across the concept of White Turks. The division between white and black Turks underlies a lot of the dynamics of the Turkey of the past decades.

The people who I was listening to and whose language I am now emulating are usually white Turks. Me and my family originally are black Turks.

I’m sure I’ll never pass as white, though I’m now in a socio-economically better position than most white Turks in Turkey and most black Turks in Europe. Language is a key aspect of this division and when people clash it is usually the first weapon that they resort to. Now that I have levelled up, I don’t have to be exclusively on the receiving end of that weapon anymore.

An extremely damning account of the way Vice and also the NYT have treated Naomi Wu with some choice bad behaviour from people like Doctorow in part 2 as well.

I get that she got into it a bit naive like many people do when it comes to esteemed publications like the Times. I’ve been at the backstage of an event once where there were people from the NYT and everybody there is ass kissing them all the time because they want to either 1. be covered positively in the ‘paper of record’ or 2. get a job there since it’s one of the last places paying journalists well. In such an environment, it’s hard not to believe that you are better than others.

Taken from the title of Chinese sci-fi writer Liu Cixin’s 2008 book, “the dark forest” region of the web is becoming increasingly important as a space of online communication for users of all ages and political persuasions. In part, this is because it is less sociologically stressful than the clearnet zone, where one is subject to peer, employer, and state exposure. It also now includes Discord servers, paid newsletters (e.g., Substack), encrypted group messaging (via Telegram, etc.), gaming communities, podcasts, and other off-clearnet message board forums and social media. One forages for content or shares in what others in the community have retrieved rather than accepting whatever the platform algorithms happen to match to your data profile.
Additionally, dark forest spaces are both minimally and straightforwardly commercial. There is typically a small charge for entry, but once you are in, you are free to act and speak without the platform nudging your behavior or extracting further value. It is also interesting to keep in mind that the dark forest shares the same cables and satellite arrays as clearnet channels, is accessed via the same devices, and essentially all of its denizens continue to simultaneously participate in clearnet spaces (as contemporary professional protocol demands). It is therefore not analogous to legacy countercultural notions of going off-grid or “dropping out.”


https://www.documentjournal.com/2021/01/the-internet-didnt-kill-counterculture-you-just-wont-find-it-on-instagram/

[Cryptoart is] a crime against humanity.

I’m horrified to see this willingly traded for an opportunity to reproduce the worst parts of the existing physical art market, where “the original” is useful foremost as a rare thing- a unique thing- that, in its scarcity, is an asset.

Many would call me unrealistic and naïve for this, unwilling to make compromises in the world we are living now because of an idealistic vision of a tomorrow; and to them I would like to say that we literally invented an extra-sovereign monetary system that within 10 years has generated trillions of dollars of worth and is held up with the power consumption of a small country.

https://everestpipkin.medium.com/but-the-environmental-issues-with-cryptoart-1128ef72e6a3

Instagram scam attempt

This is an interesting Instagram scam.

The account is pumped up to a large number of followers with actual content which I guess is what makes its messages enter my primary inbox. When they send this message, the avatar of the account is changed to the official instagram logo, which makes it look real if you don’t read the username.

I didn’t reply and the next day the avatar has been reverted. The account continues its life as a ghost fan account. I wonder whether I’ll catch it again with its avatar changed.

I reported this chat and account to Instagram as a scam but nothing has happened.