40% Off MSRP. Free Shipping : 30-Day Money Back Guarantee. Get Started Now

How to learn Chinese

How to learn Chinese
on March 23, 2017

f you want to know how to learn Chinese, you need to begin with a solid strategy. I say this all the time, but learning a language is a lot like working out. You need a plan of attack to make sure you’re working efficiently and effectively.

In most cases, my advice is to begin with the alphabet of the language you’re looking to learn. In the case of Chinese, however, there is no alphabet, and it can be quite daunting to jump in with Chinese characters.

Fortunately, if you really want to know how to learn Chinese, there’s a short-cut—Pinyin.

Hanyu Pinyin, or simply Pinyin, is the official phonetic system used to convert Mandarin Chinese sounds into the Latin alphabet. The system was created in the 1950s and is a standard tool for teaching Chinese to non-native speakers.

While Pinyin is helpful for anyone who wants to know how to learn Chinese, it is not perfect.

Mandarin has sounds that have no equivalent in English and learning Pinyin is important if you want to know how to pronounce Mandarin properly.

In this system, one Pinyin is roughly the same as one syllable, and every Pinyin is comprised of three parts: initial, final and tone. For example, in the word “wǒ”, “w” is the initial, “o” is the final, and the mark above the “o” is the tone. You can think of initials as the equivalent of consonants in English and the finals as the vowels.

Here are the 21 initials (consonants) in Chinese:

b p m f g k h j d   t n l s zh ch sh r q x z c

The finals (vowels) are listed here:

a  ai ao  an  ang

o  ou  ong

e  er  ei  en  eng

i  ia  iao  ie  iu  iam  in  iang  ing  iong

u  ua  uo  uai  ui  uan  un uang ueng

ü  üe  üan  ün

Following is the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation based on Pinyin. 

Pinyin

Approximate Sound

Example

b

like the 'b' in 'bay' but softened to closely approach the 'p' sound

p

like the 'p' in 'pay' but with more aspiration

m

like the 'm' in 'morning'

f

same as the 'f' in 'fan'

d

like the 'd' in ‘day' but softened to approach the sound of 't'

t

like the 't' in 'tough' but with more aspiration

n

like the 'n' in 'none'

l

like the 'l' in 'love'

g

like the 'g' in 'grill but softened to approach the sound of 'k'

gān

k

like the 'k' in 'kit' or ‘keen’ but with more aspiration

kāi

h

like the 'h' in 'hay' but with a heavier sound

j

close to the sound of 'j' in 'jeep' — the tongue touches the lower teeth

q

like the 'ch' in 'chair' — the tip of the tounge touches the lower teeth

x

close to the sound of 'sh' in 'sheep' — the tip of the tongue touches the lower teeth

xīn

zh

like the 'j' in 'jump' with the tongue curled upwards

zhā

ch

like the 'ch' in 'cheap' with the tongue curled upwards

chā

sh

similar to the 'sh' in 'marsh' with the tongue curled upwards

shá

r

close to the 'r' in 'rough' with the tongue curled upwards

rāo

z

like the ending 'dz' sound in 'kids'

c

like the 'ts' in 'cats'

s

like the 's' in 'sun'

i

like the 'ee' in 'see' (with an exception — see below)

i

after r, sh, zh, ch — like the 'ir' in 'shirt' but the 'r' has a lighter sound

chī

i

after z, c, s, — like the ‘I’ in 'sit'

u

like the 'oo' in 'broom'

iu/yu

similar to the 'yo' in 'yoyo'

yŏu

a

like the 'a' in 'father'

o

like the 'o' in 'more'

e

similar to the 'uh' in 'duh'

er

like the 'e' in 'teacher'

ér

ie/ye

like the 'ye' in 'yellow'

léi

ai

like the 'eye'

pài

ei

like the 'ay' in 'pay' or the 'ei' in 'weigh'

tēi

ia/ya

combines 'ee' + 'a' — you must pronounce this very quickly to blend the two vowels

lià

ao

similar to the 'ow' in 'cow' but longer

báo

ou

like the 'ou' in 'dough'

mōu

an

like the 'an' in the 'fan'

kàn

en

like the 'en' in the 'taken'

dĕn

un

combines 'oo' + 'en' and sound like 'uen'

gūn

in

like 'een' in 'teen'

nín

ua/wa

combines 'oo' + 'a'

guā

ui/wei

combines 'oo' + 'ay'

dūi

uo/wo

combines 'oo' + 'o'

duō

ang

combines the sound of 'a' in 'father' and the 'ng' in 'sing'

lāng

eng

combines the sound of 'uh' in 'duh' and the 'ng' in 'sing'

zēng

ong

combines the sound of 'o' in 'more' and the 'ng' in 'sing'

gōng

ing

combines the sound of 'ee' + 'ng'

līng

iao/yao

combines the sound of 'ee' + 'ow' in 'cow'

diáo

ian/yan

combines the sound of 'ee' + 'an'

dián

iong/yong

combines the sound of 'ee' + 'ong'

giōng

iang/yang

combines the sound of 'ee' + 'ang'

niáng

uai/wai

combines the sound of 'oo' + 'eye'

kuái

uan/wan

combines the sound of 'oo' + ‘an’

guān

uang/wang

combines the sound of 'oo' + 'ang'

guāng

ueng/weng

combines the sound of 'oo' + 'eng'

 

ü

say 'cheeeeese' while rounding out your lips, no similar English sound

üe/yue

combines ü + 'e' in 'yet'

nüe

üan/yuan

combines ü + 'an' in 'fan'

jüan

ün/yun

combines ü + 'en' in 'taken'

 

 

Of course, this is just a bit of a crash course on how to learn Chinese using the Pinyin system, but I hope you found it helpful.

 

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Breaking Down Steps For Eff...

April 27, 2017

Memorization isn’t mysterious. A person who can memorize a poem doesn’t necessarily have a better memory than you – that...

Read more →


Promote Fluency in Your Nex...

April 24, 2017

In the last blog, you learned about the first four principles of becoming fluent in a language. Even though a...

Read more →


Promote Fluency in Your Nex...

April 24, 2017

Learning another language is a long process, and it is different for everyone. There is no such thing as a...

Read more →


The Six Excuses That Deter ...

April 24, 2017

We are an extraordinarily creative species, as is obvious by how we can find any excuse to keep us from...

Read more →


8 Simple Tricks to Learning...

April 24, 2017

The Straightforward Approach It is easy to believe that there are tricks and cheats that will help you learn a...

Read more →