English has been a part of my life since I was a kid.
Back then it was only a minor part.
Brand names, globalization, TV series, films, books, toys, news...
I remember my first translation attempt. It was one of those Love Is gums. You know, the ones with two weird looking couple who are in love. The strip inside the gum package already had a translation but I checked the dictionaries in order to understand which word is which.
Then wrote them down in a notebook.
My parents and my brother had several English books and dictionaries. However my parents never managed to learn it when they were young. I suppose mostly because the lack of chances for speaking it.
I was lucky to enter a nation-wide exam and have a good score, and then get into a state-based (there are some very good public schools in Istanbul - which can be better than the private ones) school with emphasis on English learning. I was only 10 years old when this happened.
I said I was lucky because later this type of exam was restricted to the students who would start high school. Of course then the quality of the schools changed. I never wanted to go to a private school anyway. I tried one for two weeks. It was fun however I wanted modesty.
Honestly, as a new school, my middle and high school (in total 7 years with an English focused year) had problems. There was no real stability. The teachers were coming and going. Some were very patient and good. Some were strict. Some did not know much or share much. Some were high school teachers dealing with 10-11-year-olds. But I had the resources. I liked learning a new language and expressing myself.
I adored the books. And for the beginning, I was repeating what I learnt in class and looking for more. More books. More instructions. At the end, I remember that my teachers were very happy with what I was doing because they knew that I was putting more effort. I was taking tests above my level and learning more.
Pronunciation was a problem because the teachers also do no know and the tapes were not of good quality. The internet was not widespread. PCs were not advanced. Though I played video games.
English was my favourite subject. And one that I never got a low grade.
We sometimes had native speakers as teachers but the system could only afford them to come for a few hours a week and not always. This was our only chance to practice. And I did so.
It is such a pity that whenever our teachers saw tourists on school trip, they told us to go and talk with the tourists but I thought this was stupid, embarrassing and usually annoying for the tourists.
At one point I considered becoming an English teacher. Only for a short time. Later the emphasis on English dropped. Physics, chemistry, maths and biology were no longer taught in English, and we had other priorities. I never stopped liking English but also I could have learnt more.
In Turkey most foreign films are shown with subtitles in movie theatres. This was one way to hear English. And then some channels that show series with subtitles opened. I listened to music, watched films and TV series in their original languages (all foreign ones). I had some pen pals since I was 10-11. Kept in touch with them. Always liked the British, Scottish and Irish accents, cultures and spellings.
Then with the help of internet I learnt more. Had a few online friends with whom I could speak English. I wrote some small pieces in English. My knowledge of English helped me search a lot on the internet. And I was happy to access more information. I was a smart internet and computer user.
Later I studied my bachelor's and two master's degrees taught in English. The subjects varied. I lived and studied in Darmstadt, worked in Frankfurt, travelled around Europe, studied and worked in Barcelona - and in all of them I mostly used my English. I translated at international trade fairs, worked at an international company with British managers. After I went back to Istanbul, I worked at hostels until I found a job. I had international friends both in Istanbul and the ones I met in Europe visiting me in Istanbul. In my other jobs I rarely used English - a few times for some presentations to foreign customers but the main target was the market in Turkey. I never stopped reading English though. Also writing.
And now, I believe that I have some command of the language. Maybe not enough for understanding local slang, writing dialogues with a local flavour and I sometimes have problems with prepositions and phrasal verbs as I never like to memorise. I like to work out the magic. But I believe that I can express myself in English. After all I wrote most of my papers in English. I wrote my thesis in English. I did presentations and talks in English. I gave courses in English. I had native speaking professors. I got high scores in TOEFL and a nation-wide English exam. I write articles in English as well as fiction. And all the mistakes I do, all the things that I do not know about are not real obstacles in my writing. I sometimes think and dream in English. I get creative. Lots of I's, I know. This one's totally about me.
I believe that I can become an international English writer. I do not need the recognition. My own self can remain incognito. But my stories and characters should be alive.