When it comes to academic matters, the middle of the road is right where you’ll find me. However languages and math, not my thing. I barely passed algebra and only lasted one semester in Spanish. Fortunately, in 1986 there was no foreign language requirement madness. (Because obviously only English speakers existed back then.) Aside from being saddled with the moniker Margarita as my “soy en Español” (Perfect name in hindsight but a bit nerdy when you’re 14.) I learned more from Dora the Explorer than I did in that class.

Fast forward 20 years to 2006 and I’m married to a Turk and moving to Turkey. There was no choice, I had to learn Turkish. No one in the Turk’s family spoke English and very few people I met did either. Unfortunately, Turkish isn’t one of those languages you just pick up from hearing it all the time. The Turk enrolled me in some classes and after a few rough months, I was having fluent conversations with my 18 month old niece. It was not going well, until I found the magic key.

One Friday evening the Turk and I arrived home to find his mother distraught. Yilmaz had been arrested on charges trumped up by Filiz’s brother to keep them apart and Yilmaz, with his sexy Magnum PI mustache, was just too pretty for a Turkish prison. How would he make it? What was Filiz to do? What if she really was pregnant with his love child?

I racked my brain. Was Yilmaz a cousin or an uncle? Was he the guy that came for tea with the moderate ‘stache who smoked the Marlboros or the guy who came for tea with the mega-stache who smoked Camels (Don’t judge. When you’re new in a land where everyone (sometimes women too) are dark and hairy with huge ‘staches and names you can’t pronounce, you must categorize.) Turns out there is no cousin Yilmaz, rather, this was my first introduction to Turkish television dramas.

Turkish dramas are telenovelas with a Middle Eastern flare and the Turks eat them up. The drama, the cliffhangers, the bad acting, what’s not to love? The Turk and I were soon sucked in and for the next three months we spent our Friday nights in the sitting room sipping tea, eating nuts and watching love wax and wane between Yilmaz and Filiz. While things didn’t end well for Yilmaz, (He got a movie roll and thus had to be shived in prison. Oh, sorry- spoiler alert. ) my Turkish was increasing exponentially. I learned more Turkish from that show than all my classes plus it was certainly more exiting than listening to Teacher Mustafa.

Six months ago I learned that I’d have to do it all again. Nugget was 2 years old and had no verbal language. Couple that with being Hard of Hearing thanks to that missing ear and a diagnosis of BOR syndrome which comes with speech delays and motor processing issues and there was no choice, we needed to learn American Sign Language.

Not gonna lie, I’m old and the thought of adding a third language to my rusty mind was a bit intimidating but Early Intervention services gifted us an amazing deaf mentor/Fairy Deaf Godmother to ease the process. She’s shows up at our door once a week, waves her magic wand and suddenly Nugget is signing. (No really, that’s how it worked for him. Me? not quite.) She started with the most important words in our family: foods and Nugget took to ASL immediately. Instead of pointing and grunting in frustration, he could just sign, “Give me a cookie damn it!”

Though it’s been a lifesaver for Nugget, it’s still a new language and it’s not easy. Big Brother soaked it up like a sponge. The Turk, not so much. “Oh my God. I am still learning English, now this?” And me? Well a few months in I found myself stuck in the downward dip of a learning curve. Nothing new was sticking and I couldn’t get the rhythm for anything. As any adult would do, I determined it best to just take a break. Then, one night as I flipped channels awaiting my quality, kids-are-in-bed television to begin, (My 600 Pound Life- don’t judge. If you want to air your madness on television, hells yes I’m going to watch. Long Live TLC.) I happened upon a little show called Switched at Birth.

For those of you who aren’t hip to the trends of ABC Family, Switched at Birth is a teen drama about two girls who are….um…switched at birth…duh. But one girl, Daphne, is deaf. As I watched Daphne sign with her best friend Emmet at the deaf school and have hostile fights in ASL with her mother, I realized, I’d found my deaf Yilmaz and Filiz. Thank you universe.

By the end of my first episode I’d picked up new signs. By the time I’d binge watched my first 10 episodes, I’d learned about grammar, sentence structure and accents. It was amazing. The Turk got sucked in too. By the end of season two, I went from signing like a slow toddler to signing like a slow adolescent, hormonal hostility included. IT WAS AMAZING! Of course the teen angst and constant cliff-hangers only worked to make learning fun!

Best of all, my learning method has been sanctioned by our Fairy Deaf Godmother and due to the soap opera like nature of the show, I’ve been able to suck in quite a few other family and friends so we can expand Nugget’s communication circle even further. I think what’s important to note here is that should someone ever have the wisdom to combine quantum physics with trashy television, I’d be a freakin’ genius. All I need is smut and I can learn anything.

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