Turkish Language and Pronunciation Rules (for Tourists)

Atatürk introduces the newly created Turkish alphabet.

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information

Turkish is a phonetic language. This basically means that it is spoken the way it is written, and vica versa. To accomplish that, in 1928 Atatürk introduced a phonetic variant of the Latin alphabet. The letters Q, W and X were removed and 7 new, rather exotic looking characters were introduced: ç, ğ, ş, ö, ü and ı (undotted i). As a result, the Turkish alphabet consists of 29 letters — eight vowels and twenty-one consonants.

This is actually good news for tourists who want to learn and speak a few everyday Turkish words during their stay in Istanbul. And I encourage you to give it a try, because Turks really appreciate it when visitors make an effort to speak a few Turkish words or even short phrases.

General Turkish Pronunciation Rules

So how do you pronounce all the letters correctly? Well, just follow the rules below and listen to the small audio bits I’ve created to make it easier for you to understand and practice.

  1. each letter is pronounced – e.g. waiter Ahmet is pronounced ‘ah-met’ and not ‘amet’.
  2. vowels don’t combine to form diphthongs – e.g. eye, boy, and cow in English
  3. consonants don’t combine to form other sounds – e.g. th, gh or sh in English

Pronunciation Of the Special Turkish Characters

c — is pronounced as the /j/ in journey — e.g. ceviz (nuts)

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ç — is pronounced as the /ch/ in child — e.g. çorap (sock)

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g — is pronounced as the /g/ in goal — e.g. giriş (entrance)

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ğ — this letter is not pronounced but lengthens the preceding vowel — e.g. sağol (thank you)

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i — is pronounced as a short /i/, as in sit and tip — e.g. iyi (good)

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ı — is pronounced as the /e/ in open — e.g. kapalı (closed)

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ö — is pronounced as the /u/ in burn — e.g. döner (Turkish dish)

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u — is pronounced as the /u/ in push — e.g. tuvalet (toilet)

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ü — is pronounced as the /e/ in few — e.g. lütfen (please)

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ş — is pronounced as the /sh/ in show — e.g. yavaş (slow)

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What's Next

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles March 26, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Thank you . Your efforts are appreciated.

Reply

Amir April 6, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Dear Erlend,

This really amazing. I got more knowledge about Turkey from reading this magazine than any other website.
Which CD’s or language program do you receommend for learning basic Turkish. Where can we find them in Istanbul.

Reply

Erlend Geerts April 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Hi Amir,

That’s a really difficult question to answer. The best way is obviously to take course while staying in the country for a longer period of time. If that’s not an option, I suggest going to Dilmer in Beyoğlu. They have nice self-study coursebooks.

Kind regards,
Erlend

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