A Pronunciation Guide To The Turkish Alphabet

The Turkish alphabet may have 29 letters, but it shouldn’t take too long to learn.
The Turkish alphabet represented by a streetcar in Turkey with some visible writing on it.

When learning a new language, it’s best to start with the basic building blocks: the alphabet. The Turkish alphabet looks a lot like the English one — they’re both based on the Latin alphabet — but they’re not exactly the same. And even the letters that look identical aren’t necessarily pronounced how you might expect. A little attention to the alphabet early on will save you lots of trouble when you’re further in your Turkish learning journey.

To help you break it down, we’ve made this quick guide to the Turkish alphabet. We’ll walk you through the letters themselves, and then break down some of the pronunciation quirks that might trip you up.

The Turkish Alphabet

The Turkish alphabet has 29 letters. There are 23 that you will already know from the English alphabet (Q, W and X aren’t part of Turkish), so there’s only six new letters to learn. If you’re more of a musical learner, you can hear a Turkish alphabet song based on the English one here.

a b c ç d e f g ğ h ı i j k l m n o ö p r s ş t u ü v y z

Turkish has both a dotted and undotted i. The uppercase dotted i adds a dot to differentiate it from the uppercase undotted i, so it looks like İ.

In addition to the letters, there is an extra diacritic (or accent mark) you might see. The circumflex sometimes appears over the vowels Â, Î and Û.

Turkish Letter Pronunciation

C And Ç

  • The Turkish C is not pronounced at all like the English C. Instead, it’s pronounced like the “j” in “jungle.”
    • taksici — taxi driver
    • tercüman — translator
    • sac — metal
  • The Turkish Ç, on the other hand, is pronounced like the “ch” in “chair.”
    • çok — very
    • maç — match
    • parça — part

G And Ğ

  • The Turkish G is pretty straightforward. It is pronounced like the “g” in “garden.”
    • sevgi — love
    • gazete — newspaper
    • belirgin — clear
  • The Turkish Ğ, on the other hand, is unlike any letter in English. Sometimes, it lengthens the pronunciation of the preceding vowel. Other times, it sounds like the “gh” in “night.” Also, it never appears at the beginning of a word.
    • büyüğüm — I am big
    • yoğurt — yogurt
    • dağ — mountain

İ And I

  • The Turkish İ with a dot usually sounds like the first “i” in “interesting.” When it appears in the first syllable of a word, however, it sounds a little more like the “ee” in “deep.”
    • bir — one
    • yeşil — green
    • iki — two
  • The Turkish I without a dot is pronounced a bit further back in the mouth, and sounds somewhat like the “e” in “the.”
    • adım — my name
    • ıhlamur — linden
    • balık — fish

J And Y

  • The Turkish J sounds like the “g” in “mirage.”
    • jimnastik — gymnastics
    • jde — good news
    • masaj — massage
  • The Turkish Y generally sounds like the “y” in “yellow.”
    • yol — way
    • uyuyor — he is sleeping
  • The Turkish Y can also combine with preceding vowels to make a new sound. AY sounds like the “i” in “island,” and OY sounds like the “oy” in “boy.”
    • kaykay — skateboard
    • koyu — dark

Ö And Ü

  • The Turkish Ö is pronounced somewhat like the “u” in “turn,” but you should try to round your lips a little more than you’re used to.
    • Özlem — female name
    • sörf — surfing
    • şoför — chauffeur
  • The Turkish Ü has no exact English equivalent. It’s pronounced somewhat like the “ee” in “deep,” but with rounded lips.
    • müzik — music
    • iyi günler — good afternoon
    • büyüğüm — I am big

S, Ş And Z

  • The Turkish S is always pronounced like the “s” in “smile.”
    • su — water
    • simit — sesame ring
    • istemek — to want
  • The Turkish Ş, with a cedilla under it, is pronounced like the “sh” in “shoot.”
    • teşekkürler — thanks
    • beş — five
    • akşam — evening
  • The Turkish Z sounds like the “z” in “zip.”
    • zaman — time
    • teyze — aunt
    • deniz — sea
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