The phonics system for Mandarin Chinese characters is called Pinyin. Pinyin alphabet is used to pronounce Chinese.
A syllable in Chinese is composed of an initial, which is a consonant that begins the syllable, and a final (vowel), which covers the rest of the syllable.
There are totally 23 initials in Chinese Pinyin.
b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, h, ch, sh, r, y and w are pronounced similarly as in English.
j like "genius".
z like "beds"
zh like "job" with a curling tongue
x like "sheep" but without a curling tongue
q like "cheap" but without a curling tongue
c like "cats"
In addition to the above 23 initials, there are 35 finals.
ie like "yes"
e like "her"
ai like "by"
ei like "bay"
ou like "go"
an like "can"
-ng (final) a nasalized sound like the "ng" in "bang" without pronouncing the "g"
uei, uen and iou, are written as ui, un and iu respectively when preceded by an initial.
Pinyin Pronunciation Guide
To learn more about Pinyin Pronunciation, please refer to "Pinyin Pronunciation Guide".
Chinese is a tonal language. Mandarin Chinese has four pitched tones and a "toneless" tone. Different tones make different meaning.
The following table describes tones marking the sound “a”.
Please refer to Pinyin Course - Learn Pinyin in 21 days to learn more about Pinyin.