Most letters in Turkish
have pronunciations familiar
to English-speakers, but there are
a few notable exceptions.
The three iron rules of
1. Every letter is pronounced!
2. Each letter has only one sound!
3. Two or more letters are never
combined to make a new or different
sound (ie, a digraph: two or
more letters combined to represent
one sound). (See Rules 1 and 2, above.)
A, a short 'a' as in 'art'
â faint 'yee' sound following
preceding consonant, as in Kâhta
E, e 'eh' in 'send' or 'tell'
İ, i [dotted
i] as 'ee' in 'see'
I, ı [undotted i] 'uh'
or the vowel sound in 'fuss' and 'plus'
O, o same as in English 'phone'
Ö, ö same as in German,
or like British 'ur', as in 'fur'
U, u 'oo', as in 'moo' or 'blue'
Ü, ü same as in German,
or French 'u' in 'tu'
C, c pronounced like English
`j' as in `jet' and Jimmy
Ç, ç [c-cedilla]
'ch' as in 'church' and 'chatter'
G, g always hard as in 'go',
never soft as in 'gentle'
Ğ, ğ - a 'g' with
a little curved line over it: not pronounced;
lengthens preceding vowel slightly;
you can safely ignore it—just
don't pronounce it! (This is the only
exception to Rule 1)
H, h never silent, always unvoiced,
as in `half' and 'high'; remember:
there are NO silent 'h's in Turkish!
J, j like French `j', English
`zh', or the 'z' in 'azure'
S, s always unvoiced as the
s's in 'stress', not 'zzz' as in 'tease'
Ş, ş - [s-cedilla] 'sh'
as in 'show' and 'should'
V, v a soft 'v' sound, half-way
W, w same as Turkish 'v'; found
only in foreign words
X, x as in English; found only
in foreign words; Turkish words use
The Places Where You'll Mess Up
We English-speakers are so used to
the weirdness of English—'silent'
letters, 'understood' sounds, digraphs
such as 'ch' and 'sh,' and even 'silent
digraphs' such as 'gh' (as in 'through')—that
we make the mistake of looking for
in Turkish, where they don't
For example, the name Mithat is
pronounced meet-HOT, not like
the English word `methought'. That
'th' in the middle is NOT a digraph!
Likewise, the Turkish word meshut is
pronounced mess-HOOT, not 'meh-SHOOT'.
Also odd is the Turkish 'c', which
is pronounced just like English 'j'. Cem in
Turkish is pronounced just like English gem (as
in gemstone). Can in Turkish
is pronounced just like English John.
The odd soft-g (ğ) is not pronounced
at all, though it lengthens the preceding
vowel slightly. So tura is
pronounced 'toora,' but tuğra is
'tooora'. (Though tura and tuğra sound
almost the same, they are words for
very different things: the first is
a drumstick, the second is the sultan's
Don't worry, though. You'll probably
be fine if you simply ignore the
soft-g. Act as though it weren't
there. Whatever you do, DON'T
pronounce it as though it were a 'real' 'g'.
Also note that 'h' is pronounced as
an unvoiced aspiration (like
the first sound in 'have' or 'heart',
the sound a Cockney drops). You'll
have to get used to pronouncing it whenever
you see it, whether it's at the
beginning of a word, in the middle,
or at the end. Always pronounce
(In English, medial and terminal 'h'
(ie, an 'h' in the middle or at the
end of a word) are rarely pronounced;
they're usually 'silent'. But in Turkish
'h' is ALWAYS pronounced. Your Turkish
name is pronounced a-hhh-MEHT not 'aa-met';
the word rehber, 'guide', is not 're-ber'