Most Common Pronunciation Errors That Turkish Speakers Make When Speaking English

 In Learn English

Though many Turkish speakers study English beginning in primary school, the language teaching methods often rely on rote memorization; students are focused on drilling grammar rules at the expense of learning proper pronunciation.

The most common pronunciation errors Turkish speakers of English make involve diphthongs and adding extra vowel sounds, “th” sounds, “ng” sounds, and “r” sounds. Understanding fundamental differences in this area of grammar and speech between the two languages will go a long way to learning proper pronunciation in English.


Diphthongs & Adding Extra Vowel Sounds

“A diphthong, also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable.” (Wikipedia)

Think words like, “deal”, “sprain”, or “employ”. There are no diphthongs in the Turkish language but there are foreign words that have been assimilated.  Whenever 2 vowels do occur in a word in Turkish, each vowel is pronounced as a separate sound.

Turkish has 8 pure vowel sounds, while English has 12 pure vowels, 8 diphthongs, and 5 triphthongs!  It’s easy to see why English vowel sounds can be a real hurdle for a native Turkish speaker’s pronunciation of English.  There’s always the temptation to pronounce each vowel separately—“pain” for example, pronounced as “pah-een”.

Additionally, the Turkish language features “vowel harmony”, meaning all the vowels within a word are the same general type.  The sounds are produced with the same vocal positions—for example, the front of your mouth, with a humped tongue whose tip touches your lower teeth as in the “ee” sound.

English words, by comparison, can contain many different vowel sounds at once.  Think, “behind”, “geyser”, “sluice”, or “monosyllabic”.


“Th” Sounds

The pronunciation of the English “th” sound is one of the hardest sounds for many ESL students.

There are 2 forms of “th” sound in English, the voiced dental fricative as in “this”, and the voiceless dental fricative as in “moth”.  Say both words and you’ll see that you vocalize them in subtly different ways.

These “th” sounds are not used in the Turkish language, so learning to articulate them can be difficult.  Often Turkish ESL students will pronounce the “th” sound as a “t” or “d” sound.


“Ng” Sounds

Just as with the “th” sound, there is no equivalent sound in Turkish to the English “ng” sound—students may swap in an “nk” sound or over stress the “g” sound.  The word, “sing” becomes “sink” or “singah”.


“R” Sounds

Many Turkish ESL students have a tendency to roll the “r” sound when speaking English in a way similar to the “r” sound in Spanish.

Turkish students’ problems with proper pronunciation of English is affected by several phonological features that can lead to common errors when speaking.  Many Turkish ESL students have excellent grammar and written English skills but their pronunciation is rife with mistakes.  These English pronunciation errors can be overcome by speaking English aloud while focusing on the ways that the unfamiliar sounds of the language are actually made.  You may have to get in your head a bit to get the words to come out of your mouth.

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