Turkish Pronunciation Guide

Most letters in Turkish have pronunciations familiar to English-speakers, but there are a few notable exceptions.

The three iron rules of Turkish pronunciation:

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.)

Pronunciation Guide

A, a short ‘a’ as in ‘art’ or ‘star’

â faint ‘yee’ sound following preceding consonant, as in Kâhta (kee-YAHH-tah)

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 to ‘w’

W, w same as Turkish ‘v’; found only in foreign words

X, x as in English; found only in foreign words; Turkish words use ‘ks’ instead

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 two-letter combinations in Turkish, where they don’t exist.

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 monogram!)

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 an ‘h’!

(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 friend Ahmet‘s name is pronounced a-hhh-MEHT not ‘aa-met’; the word rehber, ‘guide’, is not ‘re-ber’ but ‘reh-hh-BEHR’.


Turkish Language Guide

100 Most Useful Turkish Words

Turkish Grammar

Turkish Vowel Harmony

Turkish Numbers

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