Learn Chinese NYC – The Chinese Pronunciation System (Pin Yin) – Initials

2010 March 12

Congratulations on choosing to learn Chinese Pinyin! Whether you’re an advanced or a complete beginner, developing your pinyin skills is essential for any Chinese language learner. Once someone has perfected the pinyin system of sounds, they can basically read and communicate with any Chinese person. The only criteria is that the Chinese person needs to remember their pinyin!

Debunking the Myths about Pinyin A lot of foreigners looking to learn Chinese see the pinyin system as developed for “them.” The Chinese language with its 10,000 characters is just too daunting a task, so there was a romanized system setup for Chinese to make learning it an easier process. While having pinyin definitely makes it easier for English speakers to learn Chinese, actually pinyin is not only just for foreigners. Chinese people learn it too! In early childhood education, pinyin (along with Mandarin instruction) is mandatory in schools throughout China.

What is pinyin? Pinyin is a system of romanized letters where the whole Chinese language can be written. In English, we have both consonants and vowels. In Chinese Pinyin, they are called “Initials and Finals.” With each Chinese consonant (it will be called initial going forward) there is a unique way of pronouncing the sound.
In today’s article, we will go through all the initials for Chinese pinyin. It’s important to learn the Chinese pinyin, maybe even memorize it. I say maybe because some language learners learn Chinese pronunciation by memorizing vocabulary. Although this is also a possible approach to learning Chinese pronunciation, it’s important to at least become familiar with pinyin and go through it. (Whether you memorize Pinyin by heart is up to you)

Pinyin Table

There are 23 initials in Chinese. Each initial when pronounced is associated with a slight vowel sound in Chinese. The below table is a listing of the pinyin, and each vowel sound it’s associated with.
Pinyin Table Online

– o : For the first row of initials, there’s a slight “o” sound. It sounds more like in English an “uuh” sound.

– e: For the second row of initials, there’s an “e” sound. The E sounds similar to the above “uhh” sound.

– i: For the third row of initials, the “i” sound is actually a long “e” sound in English.

– a: For the fourth row of initials, the “a” sound actually sounds like a “waaah!” in English.

Final Recommendation for Learning: So keep in mind for learning pinyin, there are 23 consonants that you must learn, and the table for learning pinyin is above. We’ve included a link in this article to wikipedia, where you can hear each initial pronounced separately: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin#Pronunciation_of_initials

Also, don’t forget if you’re interested in learning the Chinese language consider taking private lessons or group classes. Our Chinese classes can be found at: Chinese Classes NYC and other language resources at ourĀ Learn Chinese Online page.

One Response leave one →
  1. May 6, 2010

    I think that learning Pinyin has been a life saver when it comes to everything learning Chinese. It becomes much easier to speak Chinese with the proper pronunciation by learning the 4 tones displayed with Pinyin.

    Learning how to read Chinese characters becomes much easier if you understand Pinyin. In English, it is very easy to look up a word in the Dictionary because you can just use letters to find the exact location of the word quickly within a minute or two.

    Chinese characters obviously don’t work in that manner and you can’t look up a Chinese character by using letters. If a student already knows the Pinyin of a Chinese character, then they can look up the word almost immediately.

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