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.

Initials

There are totally 23 initials in Chinese Pinyin.

bpmf
dtnl
gkh
jqx
zcs
zhchshr
yw

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"

Finals

In addition to the above 23 initials, there are 35 finals.

iuü
aiaua
ouo
eieüe
aiuai
eiuei(ui)
aoiao
ouiou(iu)
anianuanüan
enien(in)uen(un)üen
angianguang
engieng(ing)ueng
ongiong

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".

Tones

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”.

TonePinyinDescription
1stāflat tone
2ndárising tone
3rdǎfalling-rising tone
4thàfalling tone
Neutralano tone

Pinyin Course

Please refer to Pinyin Course - Learn Pinyin in 21 days to learn more about Pinyin.

 

If you are interested in learning Chinese, please take a look at the Free Chinese Lessons that are practical and fun.

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