Since many names of places and dishes in this blog are Turkish (obviously), I thought some readers might want to know a little about Turkish pronunciation. The good news is that Turkish pronunciation is very simple because all words are said the way they are written – no hidden tricks, no exceptions, no guesswork required.What’s more, since Turkish uses a modified Latin alphabet, the sounds of most letters will be familiar to speakers of any European language.This certainly helped me progress from pointing-grunting to forming actual sentences remarkably quickly!
So here is a rough ‘n’ ready guide to the Turkish sounds that may cause confusion:
C is always pronounced as “J” – as in “jam”, “joke” or “jive”. So strictly speaking, if Coca-Cola were a Turkish brand, it would be known as “Joja-Jola”!
Ç is always pronounced as the “ch” in “church”, “cheese” or “China”.
ğ (“yumuşak” or “soft” g) is actually the only silent letter in the Turkish alphabet. It doesn’t have any sound of its own, its only real function is to make the vowel that comes before it slightly longer. For our purposes we can pretty much ignore it.
J is not a very common letter in modern Turkish but when it does turn up, it is pronounced like the French “J”, or if you prefer, the hard “zh” sound you hear in words like “pleasure” or “television”.
Ş is always pronounced as the “sh” in “shine”, “shoe” or “push”.
V is not quite as strong as the “v” in “van”, “vehicle” or “very”. In fact, the Turkish V is almost closer to a “w”.
A is quite similar to the vowel sound in “rug” or “done”. When you add “y” to “a” in Turkish, the sound becomes something similar to “eye”. So how does my friend Ayça pronounce her name?
E is pronounced short, like the vowel sound in “bed” or “them”. When you add “y” to “e” in Turkish, the sound becomes something similar to the vowel sound in “paint”, “say” or “day”. And when you see “er” in a Turkish word, you should pronounce it like “air”.
ı (dotless i) is an unstressed vowel which sounds something approximate to the final syllable in “mother”, or the middle syllable in “cinema”.
When umlauts are added to o and u, the vowel sound changes. For example, whereas o is pronounced roughly the same as the vowel sound in “pop” or “sock”, ö is similar to the vowel sound in “turn” or indeed the first vowel sound in “Goethe”.
Equally, while u is similar to the sound in “blue” or “shoe”, ü is sort of like the vowel sound in words such as “feud” or “lewd”.
And if you think you’ve got the hang of that lot, you’re ready to order these famous Turkish dishes: mücver, kebap, and işbembe, all washed down with some rakı…