Watching Jeremy Bowen struggle heroically through his report from Taksim Square for Newsnight on Tuesday, it was easy to forgive him for adding the extra ‘w’ into Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s name. The teargas might have had something to do with it.
But even without the teargas, Turkish diacritics aren’t the most natural thing for a native English speaker to grasp. The breve over the ‘g’ (as in Erdoğan) signifies that it (the ‘g’) is silent, for instance – not that it should become a ‘w’ (sorry Jeremy). Sometimes greater stress is placed on the preceding sound, but it doesn’t have a sound of its own.
One of my first introductions to Turkish was on the streets of Ankara, seeking directions to Atatürk’s Mausoleum. Holding the badly-drawn tourist map in front of me, I repeatedly leapt out of our vehicle to enquire “Nerede Gençlik Caddesi?”
I’m ashamed to…
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