A month in Iraqi Kurdistan is not long enough to learn Kurdish. But it is long enough to build up a toolkit of words and phrases which allow you to teach kids how to skateboard in their language (albeit with very dodgy grammar and pronunciation). Below you’ll find the words I used day in, day out while teaching skateboarding in Slemani.
You’re gonna need to get the kids to follow you to where you want to teach and generally be able to call them over. For this, use “wera wera” which means “come, come”.
It’s been proven that kids have different learning styles and respond differently to different ways of teaching. However, when teaching with a language barrier you’re often limited to ‘learn by doing’ and ‘watch me and then you have a go’. Once you’ve got them in front of you can say “sair ka” which means watch. This is a good precursor to the rest of the words you use so that you can demonstrate and avoid looking up to find they’ve all run off to do something else.
First things first, foot position. “Catcha” (the last A is a very short sound), means foot or feet so it’s essential for explaining where to place your foot when learning to push, as well as foot position when riding, dropping in, tic tac and pretty much anything you want to teach.
PUSH! I spent the majority of my time in Slemani walking around Suli Skatepark saying “parlenai, parlenai”. It actually became a joke with the local skaters and they’d skate past me saying “parlenai, parlenai”.
This is another word I’d shout across the skatepark. Hasta, meaning “stand”, was my main weapon in the constant battle I fought against kids riding around on their bums. It’s also a great one for teaching foot position because you can say “parlenai, hasta, parlenai, hasta, parlenai” and so on whilst showing them the difference in foot position between pushing and standing.
Meaning “legs/feet apart”, catcha bik’row is invaluable when first teaching people to skateboard, as well as improving the stance of those who’ve already learnt to push.
Everybody needs encouragement when they’re learning something new, especially if it’s something as scary as learning to move on 4 little wheels instead of 2 legs. ‘Zhor‘ means very and ‘basha‘ means good, so whack the two together and you’ve got a positively reinforced child.
This is the next level up from a simple ‘Zhor Basha‘ and can be used as “well done!” When someone your teaching does something new or conquers a fear.
You’ll need this one when you’ve got 5 kids in 5 different directions shouting your name, or when you want to make sure the way is clear before someone drops in. ‘Wasta‘, meaning wait, was possibly my most used phrase.
Go! Go! Go! Another one for when you’re playing traffic cop with kids pushing, dropping in and going down banks in all directions.
Practice makes perfect, so knowing how to say “again” is vital.
Torzek means a little, as in when someone asks if I speak Kurdish I say “Torzek Kurdi”. However, you can use it to tell kids to go slow when learning to push. Kids like to jump in and go a million miles an hour, which doesn’t help them balance when they’re first learning. That’s when you can whip out “torzek parlenai” to get them to chill out on the pushing and give themselves a chance to get stood on the board.
At some point, the fun has to come to an end so knowing how to say “finished” is important. This is a hard one to write because the sound is somewhere between a T and a D but the above gives you good steer until you get the hang of it.
When your taking boards from kids and saying “tdowow” to the sound of cries and complaints, you can pacify your squad of new skaters by saying “bear nee”, meaning tomorrow. Of course, this is only if you are running a session tomorrow, otherwise, it’s just cruel.
Chap and Rrrast
When teaching kids how to steer the board being able to say left (chap) and right (rrrast) helps them understand what the hell you’re trying to show them. I’ve put some extra Rs on ‘rast’ to signify that it’s a rolled R.
So there you have it, everything you need to know to be able to teach skateboarding in Slemani, Iraqi Kurdistan. My Kurdish is not in any way fluent or even that good but I do have enough to teach kids to skateboard and now you do too.
Want more tips on teaching kids skateboarding? Check out Tips on Teaching Skateboarding