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Turkish Alphabet Part I: A to L

Updated on September 12, 2018

In a previous article explaining why Turkish is easy to learn, I stated as the first reason the facility of the Turkish alphabet. Indeed, Turkish alphabet is very convenient because every letter has only one specific pronunciation. Below, we look through the first 14 characters in Turkish alphabet and see some useful examples that will let you undertand how to read them correctly. Taking the time to read this article should give your efforts a quick boost if you are trying to learn Turkish.

Turks use 29 Latin-based characters for writing their words.
Turks use 29 Latin-based characters for writing their words.

Letter A

This is the most common character you will come across in any Turkish writing sample. It is good that we are starting out with the most important sound in Turkish, which is also one of the easiest to pronounce. Turkish A sound is similar to the sound of English short U as in sun, run, gun or bus. English O also gives the same sound in some cases such as son and month. Here are a few Turkish words that include the letter A:

ay (moon) is pronounced the same as the English "I".

kat (storey) is read like the English "cut".

araba (car)

Letter B

This one is too easy because it sounds exactly the same as the English B. Here are some Turkish B words:

bas is pronounced like the English word "bus". It means "step" in the imperative form like you're actually telling someone to step on something. It also means to push a button.

baba means father.

Rab is a very rarely used word that means God. It sounds the same as the English word "rub".

Letter C

Forget about pronouncing C like in "cat" or "race". The sound of the Turkish C is the same as the English G as is giant, cage or genetics. It is also the sound of the English J as is jade, John or June. So, you get this specific sound wherever you C in a Turkish word. Here are the examples:

cam (glass) is read "jum", although there is no such English word.

bacak (leg)

hac (pilgrimage) is cognate with the English hajj, although it sounds more like "hujj" in Turkish.

Letter Ç

Now, this is the first weird Turkish letter to shock you when you were expecting D. Don't worry because it's simple to pronounce. Ç basically gives the sound of the English compound CH as in charge, reach or beach. Again, the compound CTH gives the sound of Turkish Ç as seen in catch, hatch or snatch. Now, let use see some Turkish Ç words:

çay (tea)

uçak (airplane)

kaç (how many)

Letter D

Turkish D is pronounced in exactly the same way as the English D. Some common Turkish D words are below:

dal (honey)

ada (island)

ad (name)

Letter E

In Turkish, E gives only one specific sound and that is the sound of English E when it is the first letter of words such as energy, effort, editor or enigma. The same E sound is also in words such as red, bed, rector, technology or direct. Here are some Turkish words that have E in it:

et (meat) is read like English "net" without the N.

ben (I, me)

ne (what)

Letter F

This one is no different from its English counterpart. Here are some words:

fal (fortune telling)

ufuk (horizon)

saf (pure, naive)

Letter G

Turkish G has only one type of sound and that is the sound English G in words such as great, goal, agriculture, again and guru. Wherever you see a G in a Turkish word, you need to pronounce this specific sound. Some Turkish words spelled with G are:

gel (come)

karga (crow)

Kopenhag (Copenhagen)

Letter Ğ

This is quite an intriguing letter even for Turks. It is called "yumuşak G" (literally soft G) and as a rule, it can never exist as the first letter of a word or a syllable. The sound is roughly equal to the English coumpund GH as in dough and though. It is not an alien sound for English speakers but still weird because it is rare in English. French are really into this Ğ sound because they pronounce all the R letters in this way, in addition to many final sounds in French words. In any case, even if you do not feel comfortable with Ğ right now, do not worry because you are going to figure it out in the end. Here are some common words with Ğ:

ağaç (tree)

bağ (connection)

Letter H

Turkish H sounds like the English H in haste, help, hawk or horizon. This letter is widely used in Turkish words and here are some examples:

hamam (public bath)

kahraman (hero)

sabah (morning)

Letter I

This is yet another Turkish letter that an English speaker might find strange. When in uppercase, it looks like the English I but when in lowercase it takes no dot over it and is written basically as ı. The sound is also strange for English speakers but definitely not incomprehensible. Well, it sounds like the English O in person and professor and the English E in hunter and the. Don't expect to say this letter perfectly at first try but do not despair either. Eventually, you will do it. It is frequently used in Turkish so it is an important character. Here are some Turkish I words:

ılık (lukewarm)

kıl (body hair)

sarı (yellow)

Letter İ

Being the dotted friend of I, this letter has a dot both in uppercase and lowercase. It is pronounced like the I in words such as sick, city, trick and British. As you see, pronunciation is no big deal. It can be confusing to have I and İ in an alphabet but trust me, Turks are equally confused when they find out that English has only one I. Now, take a look at these İ words:

il (province)

bir (one)

iki (two)

Letter J

We're back to a safer zone. Turkish J is an easy letter. It is used very rarely and is limited to a specific sound that is also very rare in English. The only examples I can think of are the GE compunds in the words beige and rouge. Here are some words that have J:

Japon (Japanese)

ajan (spy)

ruj (lipstick)

Letter K

K is very common in Turkish and it is also extremely simple to pronounce. Just say it like you pronounce any K in English. These are the examples:

kan (blood)

akıl (mind, reason)

bırak (leave)

Letter L

L is another super-easy, super-useful letter for reading and writing in Turkish. It is absolutely same as the English L. Try to read these examples:

lira (name of Turkish currency)

ileri (forward)

bal (honey)

Now that you know the first half of the Turkish alphabet, you should be able to read many Turkish words. To make your reading perfect, also see the next article that reviews the remaining 15 Turkish letters and make sure you come back from time to time for a review until you are fully confident with the Turkish alphabet.

© 2018 Linguist


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