Turkish Pronunciation:
A Quick Guide

As far as foreign languages go, Turkish isn't that hard for native English speakers to pronounce. Before I describe individual letters, it's important to remember is that in the vast majority of Turkish words, every letter is pronounced separately (except in the case of a few dipthongs, described below). For example, the Istanbul neighborhood Tophane (literally "Cannon House") is pronounced as top-ha-nay rather than too-fane. As you'll see below, most letters are pronounced in ways that are familiar to English speakers, but there are a few exceptions worth noting.

a is like the ah sound in "father." Example: merhaba ("hello"), pronounced mehr-hah-bah.

e is like the eh sound in "bed." Example: ekmek ("bread"), pronounced ehk-mehk.

i is like the ee sound in "week," though a little softer like the ih in "wit." Example: iyiyim ("I'm fine"), pronounced EE-yee-yeem.

1 is like the flat uh sound at the beginning of "about" or "again." Unfortunately the letter 1 doesn't exist in most Internet fonts, (I'm cheating by using a small version of the number 1) so usually you'll see it represented as the letter i. (In other words, there's not much you can do if you don't know the Turkish word to begin with.) Example: pahal1 ("expensive"), pronounced pah-hah-luh.

o is like the oh sound in "bonus" or "wrote." Example: yok ("there isn't," "no"), pronounced yohk.

ö is like the German oe in "Goethe." It's hard to get it exactly right, but you can fake it by making an urr sound like if you wanted to pronounce the word "pretty" as "purdy" (like "Ain't she just real purdy?" in bad American English). You'll see this letter a lot in Turkey (like the Cappadokian town of Göreme, pronounced GURR-eh-meh), so get used to it.

u is like the oo in boo! Example: tuvalet ("toilet"), pronounced TOO-wah-leht.

ü is another tough one. A close equivalent is the French eu sound in "peu" or "sacre bleu!" Some people fake it by pronouncing it more like a yoo sound, so Türk would sound like Tyoork - even though Teurk is a lot closer. What's really tough is when it's used over and over in the same word, such as Müdürlügü (an administrative building), pronounced meu-deur-leuh-euh.

Dipthongs (two-letter vowels)

ay is like the hard i sound in "high" or "cry." Example: maymun ("monkey"), pronounced my-MOON.

ey is like the hard a sound in "bake" or "cake." Example: Bey ("Mister"), pronounced like the English word bay.

oy just like the oy in "boy" or "Oy vey!" Example: koyun ("sheep"), pronounced koy-oon.

öy isn't like anything in English. It's basically an oy with a light r sound in the middle. A lot of neighborhoods in Istanbul have this sound in the names (like Karaköy or Ortaköy) but no one there would actually expect you to say it right the first, tenth or 100th time.

uy like the ui in the French word "oui." Example: kuytu ("hidden"), pronounced kui-too.


Most consonants are very similar to English, so you never have to worry about how to pronounce an m, a t or a d, for example. Some letters, though, need to be learned.

c is like the j in "jam" or "Johnson." This is a real tough one to remember, even though it's easy to say. No Western language regularly uses the letter c as a j sound, so even if you've been in Turkey for a while you'll find yourself messing this up. Example: caddes ("street"), pronounced jahd-dess.

ç is like the ch in "Charlie" or "chip." Example: çay ("tea"), pronounced chai.

g is pronounced like the g in "good," but never soft like j sound in the word "general." Example: otogar ("bus station"), pronounced oh-toh-gahr.

The silent g. There's a second use of g in Turkish, and it's used as a silent pause or an extension of the vowel preceding it. In proper Turkish it's written as a g with a curved line above it, like this:

Turkish silent G

but on the Internet it's usually just written as a g so you just need to learn which words use it. Example: Ogul ("son"), pronounced ohhh-ool, or the town of Dogubeyazit, pronounced Dohh-ooh-BAY-ah-ziht.

j is like the zh in the French word Je or the English word measure. Example: jendarma ("paramilitary soldier"), pronounced zhehn-DAHR-mah.

r is like in English but with a slight roll. At the end of Turkish words it often sounds like it has a soft sh sound, like the city of Izmir, pronounced EEZ-meersh. s always sounds like the s in "Sam." Example: salata ("salad"), pronounced sah-lah-tah.

s is like the sh in "shell" or "ship." In proper Turkish this letter appears like an s with a cedilla under it, like this:

Turkish letter SH

but it's difficult to do this online without installing the right fonts. Because of this, the easiest way to represent the letter is to underline it. Example: pasa ("general"), pronounced pasha.

v is supposed to sound like the v in "Vicky" or "villain," but Turks often pronounce it like the w in "William." The best rule of thumb is if the v is preceded by a vowel, pronounce it like a w. Otherwise, pronounce it more like an English v. Examples: tuvalet ("toilet"), pronounced TOO-wah-let and var mi? ("Is there?"), pronounced vahr mih?