Sunday, December 16, 2012

Herkes Öğrenibilir!

Everyone Can Learn:

Making the Title of This Article Not Scary

Unrelated Photo: Me at Kocatepe Mosque,
the largest in Ankara

As my Turkish is improving I’m feeling more inclined to throw in a few Turkish words here and there in my posts, and it dawned on me the other day that you may have been sitting at your computer on December 5th sadly thinking “Well it’s great that I can call my brother erkek kardeş or my husband’s sister görümce, if only I knew how to pronounce these words!”

Behold, Miranda’s Crash Course in Turkish Pronunciation
First, A Brief History Lesson:
For thousands of years the Turkish language was written in the Arabic script. In 1928, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk announced that the Turkish language would be changed to the Latin alphabet, as a means of making the new Republic of Turkey more Western oriented, and less tied to the Middle East. He appointed a Language Commission to create a script to accommodate the Turkish language, and they invented spellings to fit the actual sounds of Turkish words. Lucky for you and me, this means that once you know the way letters individually sound (each letter only represents one sound, none of this certain vs. curtain ridiculousness that goes on in English), you can easily sight read pretty much any Turkish word- though that doesn’t mean they aren’t tongue twisters!

~Fun fact: Wikipedia says that the Language Commission proposed allowing five years for the country to transition, but Atatürk thought this to be too long, he changed it to three months and then personally traveled throughout the country explaining the new system to the public.~

Below I’ve compiled a few Turkish learning books and websites that I had on hand to explain how each letter sounds in the best way that I can, but it’s not easy to teach sounds that we don’t have in English (I’ve italicized those that are different/unexpected), especially if I’m only typing them. I myself still struggle with the difference between o and ö or u and ü, and the pronunciation of ğ, as the vowels are the hardest part. While it is possible to extensively describe the way each vowel is said in terms of how to place your tongue and shape your lips, I find those explainations hard to follow if someone isn't there to show you and I consider these examples a pretty solid start. If you’re especially invested you can also always go to websites such as this one and press the speaker to hear the pronunciation.

a as in father, but shorter; as in car

b as in boy, bowl, bet

c as in jump, jade, gender

ç as in church, chin, chance

d as in debt, duty, dog

e as in best, less, fed

f as in felony, feeling, fling

g as in game, go, good

ğ unspoken but makes the preceding vowel longer; I’ve seen it described as a sort of soft y sound before, there is no comparable English word, sometimes you can get away with ignoring it...

h as in head, hello, half

ı as in the second vowel in halted, nation or portable

i as in bit, it or the first vowel in city

j as in the s in measure, leisure, treasure

k as in king, kiss, come

l as in look, lamb, listen

m as in man, money, mom

n as in neighbor, nice, nervous

o as in the o in falsetto, as in the French eau as in beau (to me it sounds the same as the normal o in bow, no or go, but I'm not sure why I’ve never seen it described that way)

ö as in the French deux or peu, I once saw it described as the u in urge

p as in pen, price, privilege

r as in rock, rent, rust

s as in sit, send, sun

ş as in shoe, shed, shine

t as in tea, tennis, tell

u as in pull or good

ü as in the French tu, or as in the German Müller, I once saw it described as the u in nude

v as in vent, verify, vanish

y as in yes, yellow, you

z as in zen, zebra, zest

For Further Reading:

Turkish Alphabet on Wikipedia

Atatürk’s Reforms on Wikipedia

Online Turkish Introductory Courses

1 comment:

  1. Perfect pronunciation instructions!
    These two is the hardest -in my opinion- to explain to an English speaker.
    ü as the u in nude
    ö as the u in urge
    You done good! :)