A Turk’s take on proper English

an evening last week. Fulham to home

My driver has a thick Turkish accent. He barely stops talking throughout the journey. My end of the conversation comprises mostly laughter, and short bursts of interested-sounding noises. His hands fly around augmenting his expression as he rapidly jumps subject and I struggle to keep up.

“I have been ice skating for 20 years. I had a gap of 12 years and then I put my skates back on. It was like I learnt only yesterday. The only thing I’m no good at is the single rollerskates, you know the single ones. Blades. It’s no good, I can’t balance on them. I think I’ve spent too many years on the ice. Ice skating is better I think, more professional”.

“When I was young I used to go to the sports centre in Finsbury Park. I loved it there. Once though I had a very bad fall and then I stopped for years. It’s a dangerous sport. Especially when they allow the young kids to skate. You have to be careful of the fingers and the kneecaps, you know. I’ll be quiet now, I’m boring you”.

I try to reassure him that I’m not bored

“Some people they say I talk to much. The thing is I don’t like it when people don’t talk. Some people they talk like a machine gun, you know prrp prrp prrp. I think this is when they don’t talk at home. I talk all the time at home, all my family does. It’s nice to talk, you know. I don’t bore people. If I see your face has changed I will go quiet. But you look interested”. I like people butting in. At home we’re like “I know more than you”, “no, you shut up and listen” it’s fun!”

“I’ve been doing this no for 11 years. Your old prime minister – the one with the eyebrows. I picked him up one day by the river by Vauxhall. We were chatting and he said, I’ve been a politician all my life and I’ve never heard an accent as good as yours. I don’t put it on. I’ve been here 28 years of my life, I can speak cockney if I want”.

“I had a wonderful teacher when I came here. She taught me English, her English was perfect. She had been to Turkey, to Istanbul and she loved Turkey very much. She taught me to speak English. You should see my son, he’s 9 years old and he started primary school in Kingston and when we go back to my mum and her friends they say “here comes the posh child!”.

“I don’t say things like d’ya-no-wha-I-mean. It’s disgusting. I’m serious, I’m not posh or anything but I don’t like to talk like that”.

“I got a slap once from a very beautiful Irish girl in Mexico. This was in 97. We were kissing and cuddling, she was a lawyer. We were kissing and everything and she had a very strong Irish accent and I ended up speaking like her and she slapped me and said “you’re taking the piss out of my accent”. I was like, please don’t go, I really want to make love. She said “you’re disgusting aren’t ya” with that beautiful Irish accent. so I try not to make any accents, because you can upset people”.

“London English is brilliant because it’s multinational. Sometimes when I go back to Turkey, they’re all speaking English like northerners. It’s because the people are serving the tourists that come from the north. I can’t believe it, these Turkish waiters are speaking in a yorkshire accent! What the hell is going on. These imbiciles are now telling me I’m not speaking English properly. Can you believe it? I’m like, I’m from London, you come over to London and speak your English with a Geordie accent and we’ll see who speaks it properly. These bouncers and these barmen are speaking in a yorkshire accent and a birmingham accent. I’m like, you learn your English from me – I’ll teach you to speak it properly!”

“I’ve lived here 36 years. I’m not English, I cannot call myself English, because I wasn’t born into this race. But I can proudly say I’m part of this society, I’m British. If people don’t accept it – they can kiss my arse. I’m here for good, if they don’t like it they know where they can go. I will not allow anyone to say anything about England or Turkey. I admire both countries. These two countries both have a huge, huge place in my heart. Because I was born in Turkey I am pure Turkish, I can’t say I’m English though my sons are. My son supports England and I hate him for that.”


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