Istanbul is a shopper’s haven … or nightmare. Vendors are quite passionate about selling their products–from exquisite rug carpets to fine jewelry to the delicious Turkish Delight. I was amazed by their creative ways of grabbing your attention.
While walking through the Grand Bazaar, a clothes vendor held up a shirt and told me: “Sorry, you need a shirt!”
“I do?” I said to myself while at the same time inspecting my shirt. Why did this man feel sorry about my shirt? Was it torn or soiled or out of fashion?
I continued to wonder about this until I passed by some stores on the way to the Hagia Sophia museum. I took a picture of one of the stores that had the sign, “Sorry, we’re not closed.” For me that was hilarious! Was this a marketing gimmick? I was quite sure that the owner was not apologizing for keeping her store open. So, what did the sign mean?
English is not the first language of Turkey, but with more than 11 million tourists visiting the country every year, the Turkish people try to speak English as much as possible. And I discovered that the vendors use the English word “sorry” to call people’s attention. It’s equivalent to saying, “Hey!” Are they wrong in using the word in this way? Are they misusing the English language by assigning a new meaning to the word?
English is also not my first language. Therefore, I normally pronounce English words according to the phonetics of Tagalog, my first language. I unconsciously construct English sentences following the rules of Tagalog grammar. It is quite common that native English speakers from the US or UK laugh at or are annoyed by the way Filipinos manhandle their language. Well, I used to make a big deal out of this. However, after engaging with so many people from different linguistic backgrounds, I have decided that I could never speak English as the Americans or the Brits do. Sure, I try to learn more about their language, but for now, I will not apologize for being fluent in Filipino English. And I accept the fact that those vendors in Istanbul are fluent in Turkish English. I applaud their efforts to communicate in a language that is not their own.