Mini Turkish Lesson


make yourself heard in Turkish !


Richard Chambers / Chicago University

Since 1928, Turkish has been written in a slightly modified Latin alphabet which is very nearly phonetic.

The Turkish alphabet has 8 vowels (A E I İ O Ö U Ü ) and 21 consonants. The letters Q,W and X do not exist in Turkish. Most letters are pronounced pretty much as you would expect, but some are not. Once the phonetic value of all letters is known, then it is rather easy to pronounce any word one sees or to spell any word one hears.The following letters require explanation:

Aa = “a” as in “card” or “dark”, never as “a” in”cat” or “back” ( kan = blood )

Cc = “J” as in “judge” ( can= life, soul, pronounced like “John” )

Çç = “ch” as in “church”( çay= tea, pronounced “chay”, rhymes with “buy” )

Ee = “e” as in “bed” ( ekmek =bread )

Gg = “g” as in “get” ( gelin =bride )

g ( yumuşak ge [soft g] Never appears as the first letter in a word; essentially silent; sometimes lengthens preceding vowel; sometimes pronounced like “y” in “yet”
(dag =mountain, pronounced daa , rhymes with the “baa” of “baa baa black sheep”;
diger =other, pronounced diyer )

lı( undotted “i” ) “u” as in “radium” or “i” as in “cousin” (ışık =ligth, ırmak = river )

İi( dotted “i” ) =”i” as in “sit” ( bir = one, pronounced like “beer” )

Jj = “j” as in “azure” (garaj = garage, pronounced as in French & English )

Oo = “o” as in “fold”(okul =school )

Öö German “ö” as in “König” or French “eu” as in “peur”( göl = lake, rhymes with furl)

Ss=”s” as in “sing”, never pronounced like a “z” as the “s” in “his”(ses = voice)

Şş=”sh”as in “ship” (şey = thing, pronounced “shey” , rhymes with “hay”)

Uu “oo” as in “boot” (buz = ice, pronounced like “booze”)

Üü German “ü” as in “für” or French “u” as in “tu” (gül = rose)

Zz=”z” as in “zoo” (beyaz = white)

Turkish belongs to the Turkic branch of the Altaic language family.The earliest Turkic inscriptions date from the 7th century C.E. and Islamic texts written in Turkic appear in the 11th century. Turkish, the language of modern Turkey, is spoken by about 60 million people. Other important Turkic languages are Azeri (15 million speakers) and Uzbek (14 million speakers). Turkish formerly used the same alphabet as Arabic, but has been written in the Latin alphabet since 1928 as mentioned above; since 1940, Azeri and Uzbek have been written in Cyrillic but efforts are now under way to replace it with Latin.

As an Altaic language, Turkish has virtually nothing in common with English or other Indo-European languages except for some loan words, usually from French or English.

Turkish grammar is complex, but also quite regular. Its two most characteristic features are : (1) vowel harmony (vowels within a word follow certain harmonic patterns) and (2) agglutination (addition suffixes to words.) Through this process, astoundingly long word phrases can be encountered. For example, the following means, “Maybe you are one of those whom we were not able to Turkify.”


Another interesting feature is that there is no gender in Turkish.The same word , “o”, for example, means “he”, “she” and “it”.

Turks generally call each other by their given names.For example, a man whose name is Ahmet Kuran would be called Ahmet bey( bey = Mr.), and his wife whose name is Ayşe Kuran would be called Ayşe hanım ( hanım =Ms.). Good friends drop the “bey” and “hanım”. But a letter would be addressed to Bay ve Bayan Ahmet Kuran (Mr. and Mrs…).

Some useful Turkish words and expressions are :

MerhabaHello[response is the same word]GünaydınGood day
HoşgeldinizWelcomeHoş buldukreply of the person arriving
Nasılsınız?How are you?İyiyimI am well
Teşekkür ederimThank youBir şey degilNot at all / You’re welcome
Adınız / İsminiz nedir ?What is your name ?Adım / İsmim ___.My name is _____.
Memnun oldumI’m pleased to meet you.Ben de memnun oldum.I, too , am pleased to meet you
İyi GünlerGood day. / Have a nice dayİyi AkşamlarGood evening
İyi GecelerGood nightAllahaısmarladık-bye.[said by person leaving]
Güle güleGood-bye.[said to person leaving]BuyurunAfter you. / Come in. / Be seated / Help yourself; etc.
Elinize saglıkHealth to your hands.[said to person who prepared food]Afiyet olsunBon appétit
AffedersinizExcuse meLütfenPlease
İnşallahIf God willsEfendim?What did you say? / I beg your pardon?
DikkatPay attention!/ Watch out!Kaça?/ Ne kadar?How much is it? / What does it cost?
Bu pahalıThis is expensiveO pahalı degilThat is not expensive
Bu çok ucuzThis is very inexpensive / cheapİstiyorumI want [it, this, that]
İstemiyorumI don’t want [it, this, that]  

Numbers :

Bir(1) , iki(2), üç(3), dört(4), beş(5), altı(6), yedi(7), sekiz(8), dokuz(9), on(10), onbir(11), oniki(12) , yirmi(20), yirmibeş(25), otuz(30), otuzüç(33), kırk(40), kırkaltı(46), elli(50) , ellibeş(55), altmış(60), altmışiki(62), yetmiş(70), yetmişsekiz(78), seksen(80), seksenbir(81), doksan(90), doksanyedi(97), yüz(100), yüzdokuz(109), yüzellibir(151), ikiyüzonbeş(215), üçyüzotuz(330), bin(1000), bin dokuz yüz doksan altı(1996), milyon(milion), milyar(billion).

Other Useful Vocabulary :

Portakal suyuOrange-juiceBardakglass
Et suyumeat-brothTabakplate
Şekersugar, candy, sweetBüyükbig, large
KahvecoffeeKüçüksmall, little
Sadeno sugarErkekman, male
Az şekerlia little sugarKadınwoman
Çok şekerlia lot of sugarKızgirl
Ayranyogurt drinkOglanboy
BiberpepperKız kardeşsister
TuzsaltErkek kardeşbrother
EkmekbreadOhe , she, it, that
PeynircheeseArkadaşfriend, colleague
MezeappetizersAmerika Birleşik DevletleriUnited StatesOf America
Türkiye CumhuriyetiRepublic of TurkeyTavukchicken
Salatasalad, lettuceMeyvafruit
Dondurmaice cream, sorbetÇatalfork



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