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Lesson Transcript

Ece: Merhaba! Ece speaking.
Gina: Hi everyone, I’m Gina, and welcome back to TurkishClass101.com! This is All About, Lesson 4 - Turkish Pronunciation Made Easy.
Ece: In this lesson, we'll show you how easy Turkish pronunciation is. You’ll see that it won’t be difficult at all, once you master the alphabet.

Lesson focus

Gina: Fortunately, just by learning the letters in the alphabet, you’ll be able to read and pronounce everything in Turkish.
Ece: This is one of the strongest and most convenient aspects of Turkish. It’s is a phonetic language, which means that how you write it, is how you read it!
Gina: And there are no di- or trigraphs, no letters that are disregarded, no long vowels, no complicated pronunciations, no usage of teeth or throat. Despite this, Turkish still has a rich collection of sounds, that make it a melodic language. Okay, let’s get started with the vowels.
Ece: Alright… Listeners, do you remember the Turkish vowels? (A, E, I, İ, O, Ö, U, Ü).
Gina: In this lesson, we’ll describe their corresponding sounds in English. But how?
Ece: That’s easy. For each letter, I’ll first make the sound and give a sample English word containing it. Of course, our listeners can find further examples in the lesson notes.
Gina: Okay, here we go.
Ece: The first one is (A). The vowel in the word “talk” is equivalent to the pronunciation of our A.
Gina: Okay, next up is...
Ece: (E). It is pronounced like the first vowel of the word “Expert”.
Gina: And the third one is…
Ece: (I). The sound is like the last vowel of the words “London” and “Silent”. Remember, this is the I without a dot.
Gina: The fourth Turkish vowel is…
Ece: (İ). It’s the sound of the first and last vowels in the word “Italy”. And this is the I with a dot on it. For (I) and (İ), the dot doesn’t change whether it’s in upper or lower cases, but with the sound of the letter. Pay close attention to this, listeners.
Gina: Yes, please do! And now for the fifth vowel.
Ece: It is (O). The sound is like the vowels found in the words “York” and “Slow”.
Gina: Here comes an interesting one, the sixth -
Ece: (Ö). The (O) with double dots on it. It is pronounced like the vowel in “Bird”, or the second vowel of “Hamburger”.
Gina: Next up is…
Ece: (U), which sounds like the vowels in “Put” and “Book”.
Gina: And lastly...
Ece: (Ü), U with the double dots. There’s no English word that carries this sound, but in the lesson notes you can find an approximation. It’s close to the first vowel in the name of a city in Germany, Münich. Or the Swiss city of, Zürich.
Gina: Okay, we’ve covered all the vowels in the Turkish alphabet. Now let’s talk about the consonants not found in the English alphabet.
Ece: They are (Ç, Ğ, and Ş).
Gina: Let’s have some examples.
Ece: Sure. The sounds of (Ç) and (Ş) are already found in English. (Ç), C with a hook under it, is like the start of “Cherry”, and (Ş), S with a hook under, is like the start of “Shelly”.
Gina: And now a consonant, unique to Turkish, a G with a horizontal line on the top of it.
Ece: That’s (Ğ) or “soft (G)”. This may seem a little difficult in the beginning because there’s no equivalent of it in English, but don’t worry. Here’s a simple explanation. You can imagine it as a silent letter that gives a longer pronunciation to the preceding vowel, when found at the end of a word. This letter probably appeared because of the rule of “In Turkish words, two vowels can not come next to each other,” as well as a softened version for the sounds of (K), (G) and (V). It is kind of a bridge that combines a syllable ending with a vowel with another one beginning with a vowel, when they appear in the middle of a word. Yet (Ğ) can never appear as the first letter of a word, because of those special functions.
Gina: Can we have an example?
Ece: Yoğurt!
Gina: Yogurt?
Ece: Yes, ‘yoğurt’! Yogurt, which means “coagulated”, is a dairy product that was discovered and developed by the Turks around six thousand years ago. So the English name of it originates from Turkish, but with the line on top of the letter G missing. That’s why it’s hard to say “yogurt”, but simple to say ‘yoğurt’.
Gina: So that’s the correct pronunciation of yogurt. Like you’ve just described, it’s easier for someone who’s not a native Turkish speaker to read this word by ignoring the existence of the G, and combining the Turkish O directly with the Turkish U.
Ece: Yes, that’s right. So listeners, any time you see a (Ğ) in a Turkish word, at least for the beginning, assume it’s a vowel-combiner in that case. Or with words that have it at the end, like ‘dağ’ which means “mountain”, it can be imagined as a long (A) at the end, like ‘daaa’.
Gina: Among the letters that are written the same as in English, there are some that aren’t pronounced the same, right Ece?
Ece: Yes, for example (C). That’s the sound of the letter J, or occasionally in English G, but written as C. Like in “Joy” or “Genes”.
Gina: What’s another similar case?
Ece: (G). It is the first letter of “Garden”. The English G is sometimes pronounced “juh”, like in “Gemini”, and sometimes like in “Garden”. But in Turkish, it’s always the (G) from “Garden”.
Gina: There’s also H. We use it sometimes as an auxiliary letter to pronounce the sounds of “ch”, “sh”, “gh”, or sometimes as “kh” in order to provide its sole sound.
Ece: But in Turkish it’s (H) and corresponds to the English H at the start of “Happy”.
Gina: You said Turkish C is equivalent of English “J”. How about the Turkish J?
Ece: It is pronounced (J), like the ending of “Bon voyage”. Note though, that (J) is not a sound found naturally in Turkish. All the words with a (J) are of French or Persian origin.
Gina: And what about Turkish R? Is it similar to the French one too? Or more forceful like the Italian R, or like in British English?
Ece: None of them. Turkish (R) is neither strong nor silent; it is soft. For example, “Radar”. Not to mention, its location in the word doesn’t change how to read it either.
Gina: Finally let’s hear about Turkish Y.
Ece: Yes, we use it as a consonant only, like the first letter in “You”.
Gina: Alright listeners, now once more let’s go over all the letters in alphabetical order.
Ece: Okay. (A, B, C, Ç, D, E, F, G, Ğ, H, I, İ, J, K, L, M, N, O, Ö, P, R, S, Ş, T, U, Ü, V, Y, Z).
Gina: Now, the consonants we haven’t specifically mentioned above have the same sounds as those of English.
Ece: And remember, all the letters are always pronounced how I’ve just listed them.
Gina: Now we’ve covered almost all the information about writing and reading!
Ece: No surprises – what you write is what you read!
Gina: …And what you hear is what you write! Simple! Now let’s talk a little about tones in Turkish.
Ece: Turkish doesn’t need tones in order to emphasize words, question sentences or correct pronunciation. Putting a suffix at the end of the word that’s the subject of the question or request, is enough to turn it into the question form. On hearing Turkish, people often say that it sounds ‘musical!’
Gina: Really? How so?
Ece: They say that “It doesn’t sound like speaking; it sounds like singing.” I guess all our harmony-creating grammatical rules and adjacent word alignment contribute to that melodic sound.
Gina: Intonation exists in Turkish too, but it doesn’t affect the comprehension of the meaning, unless it’s an exclamation or a sentence-ending particle. Of course, correct intonation is essential for the melodic flow of speech, and that’s crucial for native speakers. But even with zero intonation, perfect communication is possible. That’s because Turkish is not a tonal language, and incorrect intonation almost never causes misunderstandings. So it won’t disturb the locals when non-native speakers have a heavy accent.
Ece: No, nobody would criticize that. But I can’t guarantee that Turkish spoken by a non-native speaker would sound as musical, though.
Gina: Ok, well, that was rather a long lesson, everyone, so we’ll leave it there.
Ece: Make sure you check the lesson notes, especially for information about the sounds that aren’t found in English.


Gina: Thank you for listening, everyone.Till the next time, bye!
Ece: Hoşça kalın!