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Pinyin Pronunciation

Pinyin converts characters into a standard international Latin alphabet, which makes it much easier for people from other language systems worldwide to know the sound of Hanzi and learn its pronunciation. As a beginner, how can we effectively remember the pronunciation of each new character?By getting familiar with the complete pinyin chart, instantly recognizing the initials and finals, frequently focusing on practicing pinyin.

Chinese Pinyin Alphabet

The pronunciation of several thousand Mandarin characters consists of about 1200 commonly used Pinyin syllables, only 23 initials, 24 finals and four tones. By mastering the spelling rules very skillfully, it is possible to read almost all characters.

Here is the complete pinyin alphabet:

wukong pinyin consonants(initials)
wukong pinyin vowels(finals)

Each Consonant and Vowel Pronunciation

Putonghua, the official language of China, is widely used in all countries and eliminates misunderstandings between different dialects. A beginner can quickly learn some daily greetings, such as ni hao (hi, hello) , Zai Jian (goodbye, see you soon). However, it is not relaxing to make it a tool for character recognition and mastering Pinyin pronunciation.

For a non-native speaker, learning the scientific method takes about 3 to 5 hours for optimal comprehension.

Detailed consonant pronunciation guides for the novice:

Letter GroupsKey PointsPractical Tips
b,p,m,fEmphasize the power of the airflow in the middle 1/3 lips. Be aware of the mouth’s shape.The letters “b” and “p” have the same sound as in English. For “m” and “f” with the first tone, it sounds like the British English words “more” and “four”.
d, t, n, lRoll the tip of the tongue slightly against the upper gums to prevent airflow. The airflow should come from the mouth, except for the “n” coming from the nose.They have the same sound as the first letter of an English word, such as “d” in “dog”, “t” in “take”, “n” in “nose” and “l” in “lucky”.
g, k, hUse the pharynx to pronounce. Let the airflow graze the small tongue.Start with the “g” in “dog”, the “k” in “like”, and the “h” in “have”
j, q, xPlace the tip of the tongue gently against the upper teeth. Feel the airflow from the spaces between the teeth.For Chinese letters “j” like “j” in “jump”, “q” like “ch” in “teach”, “x” like “sh” in “sheet”.
zh, ch, sh, rRoll up the tongue like for the letter “c”, bite down lightly on the teeth, let the airflow run through the teeth’s spaces.“Zh” is almost like “jer” in word “jerk”, “ch” is like “ch” in “church”. “Sh” is like “sh” in “sheet”, “r” is like “r” in “red”.
z, c, sMake sure the tip of the tongue is not bent against the upper teeth and bite down gently.The Chinese letter “z” is like “z” in “zero”, “c” like “tr” in “try”, “s” like “th” in “mouth”.
y, wThe tip of the tongue touches the palate.Pronounce the “y” like the “y” in “you”, the “w” as the “oo” in “wood”.

Unlike the variability of English vowels, the stability of Chinese vowels makes them easier to memorize.

Complete table of Chinese vowels to practice:

Letter GroupsUseful Tips
Simple Finals:a, o, e, i, u, üAt the prospect of receiving the dream admission to college, the exciting sound gushes out in “ahh”, “a” is like phonetic symbol /a:/.Form a small circle with your mouth, tongue back towardds . The vowel “o ” sounds like the one in “dog”.A pause sound during a conversation or a hiccup after eating a satisfying meal. “e” sounds like the pronunciation of the indefinite article “a”.Bite down on the teeth gently; the air should come out through the spaces between the teeth. “i” sounds like “ea” in “eat”.The whistle of the train makes “woo”. “u” is comparable to the letters “oo” in the English word ” wood “.Stop instruction while riding a horse. There is no letter “ü” in the English alphabet, pronounced entirely different than “u” with two dots.
Compound Finals:ai, ei, ui, ao, ou, iu, ie, üe, erFormed from two simple finals, the sound slides from the first letter to second.”ai “is identical to the IPA diphthongs /ai/, “ei” is identical to /ei/, “ao” is identical to /au/, “ou” is identical to /əu/, “er” is like /ə:/.”iu” sounds like the word “you”, “ui” sounds like the word “way”
“-n” Nasal finals:an, en, in, un, ünThe tongue points gently against the upper teeth.”an” is like IPA /æ/, “in” is like the English word “in”. “en” is like the phonogram /en/, “un” is like /wen/ and “ün” is like the same hanzi sound “云” for “cloud”.
“-ng” Nasal finals:ang, eng, ing, ongPinch the nose slightly to hear the echo in the mouth and nose, tilt the tongue back, the airflow going from pharynx to nose.”ang” is like the phonogram /ʌŋ/, “eng” is like /eŋ/, “ing” is like /iŋ/ and “ong” is like “/ɒŋ/”.

Rules of Pinyin Spelling

Usually, pinyin spelling rules are based on matching an initial and one or two finals, but the tones are on the last vowels, from left to right, in the order of the letters “a, o, e, i, u, ü”, except for “iu” which is on “u”.

Once we know how to pronounce each syllable, it becomes much easier to do the following practice. Three main methods of syllable matching:

Pinyin Matching MethodsLearning Guides
One Initial + One FinalRead the finals with dashes after the initial. Each consonant can match any vowel ,but “j”, “q” and “x” match “ü” without two dots.e.g.: b-a→ba, h-ong → hong, j–u → ju
One Initial + Two FinalsIn continuous to connect three parts, put the emphasis and heavy tones on the last final.e.g.: l-i-ao→liao, zh-u-an→zhuan, k-u-ong →kuong
Overall Recognition SyllablesThese syllables are like characters that can be read directly.yi, wu, yu, ye, yue, yuan, yin, yun, ying

Attentively, some hanzi can be marked by separate syllables, such as “a” marks the hanzi “啊”(ahh), “an” marks “安” (safe)and “er” marks “耳” (ear), in addition to “o”, “e” and “ang”.

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