26 May 2009
I admit that’s kind of a weird title for an entry, but it’ll hopefully make more sense in a moment.
I’m fascinated by the Azerbaijani language. It’s different than any language I’ve ever heard, and with good reason. It’s part of a family of languages with which I wasn’t the least bit familiar until coming to Azerbaijan. It’s interesting what goes through your head before coming to another country whose language you don’t know. I can remember running around the neighborhood in Driftwood, Texas the weeks before coming to Azerbaijan, thinking, “Yep, I’m going there for two years. I’m going to learn the language, although I have no idea what it sounds like.” Then, I remember learning my first Azerbaijani sentence: “Mənim adım Condur (My name is John (Remember that “Con” is pronounced like “John” in Azerbaijani.).)”. Wait. Where’s the verb? What’s with the upside down ‘e’? What’s with this crazy language?
Well, like other volunteers, I got the hang of it. I can pronounce the words okay and tag the verbs onto the ends of the sentences. As you start to get it better and better, you notice certain trends in how people talk. The command form of the verb is used a lot. Let me give you some examples:
John: Hey, first host mom, I’m going running.
First Host Mom: Run!
First Host Mom: Eat!
First Host Mom: Drink!
Random Group of Dudes at the Çayxana: Come. Drink tea!
Second Host Mom: Come. Eat bread!
Second Host Dad: Come. Eat Bread. Afterwards, sit. Write.
Do you get the picture? This is how folks talk a lot of the time. It’s funny when you think about it, kind of a style of talking that’s, in a sense, encouragement through bossiness. I mean, it sounds bossy, but it’s really just their way of getting the message across in a short-and-sweet fashion. When you tell the passerby, “Come. Drink tea!” that doesn’t mean he has to sit down and have a glass with you. That’s just your way of inviting him. When my host mom would tell me, “Run!” it was to send me on my way. She could’ve cared less if I run. The same goes for lots of scenarios.
Languages are funny, and the more you learn about a foreign language, the more you understand the people’s difficulties with English. For example, an Azerbaijani may tell you, in English, “Give me book,” which sounds rude to us, but, well, that’s what they would say in their own language. Similar trends occur in other languages, as well. I tell ya. It’s interesting stuff.