Chinese Mandarin Pronunciation

Using Pinyin

 

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(o with an accent rising to the right)? 

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B. J. Burford and E. J. Burford 2007-2014

 

Updated 25 January 2014

 

 

See also the associated language document,

Chinese Mandarin Introductory Course Using Pinyin at

www.jaspell.co.uk/pinyin_introductory/pinyin introductory01.pdf.

 

The audio files (.wav) used in this pronunciation course can be downloaded from www.jaspell.co.uk/downloadsounds.htm, if needed for use offline.


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Click on a hyperlink character to hear its sound.

 


 

STUDY 1

Pronunciation of individual and groups of characters

 

PRONUNCIATION 1.1 (Individual Sounds and Their Writing in Pinyin)

 

Pinyin script provides an approximate method for representing the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese using Roman characters with accents. Some letters are pronounced as in English, but others have very different sounds (as highlighted in the following chart). Pronunciation also varies in different regions of China, but the following guidance is generally acceptable.


 

INDIVIDUAL SOUNDS

Letters

Pronounciation

Position

 a 

a as in father, atone

 

 b 

b as in bag

 

 c 

ts as in bats

 

 ch 

tsh as in hatshop

 

 d 

d as in dog

 

 e 

e as in her

generally

 e 

e as in yes, yeah

after y

 f 

f as in fun

 

 g 

g hard as in get

(not soft as ingel)

 h 

ch gutturally as in loch

 

 i 

i as in sir, circle, chirp

after c, ch, r, s, sh, z, zh

 i 

ee as in been;

i as in bistro

after b, d, j, l, m, n, p, q, t, x, y

 j 

j as in jam

 

 k 

k as in kitchen

 

 l 

l as in love

 

 m 

m as in mug

 

 n 

n as in nibble

 

 o 

o as in or

 

 p 

p as in pun

 

 q 

chh as in matchhead

 

 r 

r rolled as in curl

 

 s 

s as in sat

 

 sh 

sh as in rashly

 

 t 

t as in top

 

 u 

u as in boot

(See group below)

 w 

w as in water

 

 wu 

oo as in pool

not wu

 x 

s as in see;

hs as in aah, see!

 

 y 

y as in yam

 

 yi 

ee as in been

yi is i, not yi

 z 

ds as in suds

 

 zh 

dge as in hedgeless

 

 

 

See also the table below about groups of vowels and syllables.

 

PRACTICE 1.1 (Pronunciation of Characters in Simple Syllables)

 

Read: ba, ca, cha, da, e, ye, er, fa, ga, ha, yi, bi, ci, ju, ka, la, ma, na, bo, pa, qu, re, sa, sha, ta, wu, bu, wa, xi, ya, yi, za, zha

 

Repeat

 

PRONUNCIATION 1.2 (Pronunciation of Special Vowel Groups)

 

See the following table titled: Some Special Vowel Groups and Syllables.

Some groups are marked with an asterisk, *. The following comments apply to these.

If the vowel group starting in i occurs on its own, it needs to be written beginning with y instead of i. So, ian would be written as yan.

Similarly, a group on its own starting in u is written using a w instead of the u. So, uan is written as wan.

Some sound groups are easier recognizable for an English speaker: aisle; ban; bang; naos (sounding like now); eight; tiara; ring.


 

SOME SPECIAL VOWEL GROUPS AND SYLLABLES


Group

 

 

Sounds like

en

 

 

urn or undo

eng

 

 

Bung

 i  (in ci, chi, ri, si, shi, zi, zhi)

 

 

shirt (without r), zircon, adze

 i  (in bi, di, fi, ji, li, mi, ni, qi, ti, xi, yi)

 

 

been, deed, jeep, tee, see, eel

ia / ya

*

 

yarn, try a bit

ian / yan

*

 

yen, try any

iang / yang

*

 

Young

iao / yao

*

 

Yowl

ie / ye

*

 

the air; ee-ye

iong / yong

*

 

Jung (German)

iu / you

*

 

Yoyo

 o 

 

 

fore, door

ong (after d, t, n, l, z, c, s, zh, ch, r, g, k, h)

 

 

jung (German); long

ou

 

 

Dough

u / wu

*

 

shoe, gnu, do

 u  (in l, n ) / yu

*

 

chew your food

 u  (in ju, qu, xu) / yu

*

 

chew your food

ua / wa

*

 

Wax

uai / wai

*

 

Wide

uan / wan

*

 

Won

uan (after j, q, x) / yuan

*

 

-yen; new end; innuendo

uang / wang

*

 

Wangle

ue (in le, ne) / yue

*

 

-ye, new energy

ue (in jue, que, xue) / yue

*

 

-ye, new energy

(uei) / ui / wei

*

 

Weigh

un (after d, t, n, l, z, c, s, zh, ch, sh, r, g, k, h) / wen

 

 

won, dun

(ueng) / weng

*

 

Swung

un (in jun, qun, xun) / yun

*

 

unique; German

uo / wo

 

 

Wall

 


PRACTICE 1.2 (Pronunciation of Special Vowel Groups and Syllables)

 

With the help of the table (of special vowel groups and syllables) given above please read these syllables:

 

Read:

en, ben, beng, ci, bi, ya, jia, lia, yian, dian, dianr, yang, liang, yao, biao, jiao, ye, bie, jie, xie, yong, jiong, xiong, you, miu, jiu, o

 

Repeat

 

Read:

bo, dong, rong, zhong, wu, bu, yu, n, l, ju, qu, wa, zhua, hua, wai, guai, wan, duan, juan, quan, xuan, wang, huang, chuang, yue

 

Repeat

 

Read:

le, ne, jue, xue, wei, dui, zui, wen, dun, hun, yun, jun, xun, wo, duo, shuo, huo, huor .

 

Repeat

 


PRONUNCIATION 1.3 (Pronunciation of i Depending on Its Context)

 

The vowel i may occur after some, but not all consonants. If the sound of the letter i occurs on its own, the sound is represented by yi.

 

The letter i can be pronounced in two different ways, depending on which sort of consonant it occurs with. It is easier to remember which is right, if you register where in your mouth the first group is pronounced.

 

Note: c, ch, r, s, sh, z, and zh are a family of sounds. They are all pronounced in the roof of the mouth towards the front of the palate with the help of different amounts of pressure from the tongue. With r the tongue barely touches the palate, whereas with zh the tongue is folded back there somewhat painfully.

 

WAYS TO PRONOUNCE I

 

 

 

 

 ci 

*

what sir did

bi

Been

 chi 

*

what churns around

di

Deed

 ri 

*

never irksome

ji

Jeep

 si 

*

sir

li

Leek

 shi 

*

shirt

mi

Meek

 zi 

*

zircon

ni

Need

 zhi 

*

adjourn

pi

Peek

 

 

 

qi

Cheek

 

 

 

ti

Tee

 

 

 

xi

aah, see!

 

 

 

yi

eel

Repeat

 

 

Repeat

 

 

* If this i occurs with characters in the group in left hand column, but it occurs without a tonal mark especially at the tail end of a word it tends to be restrained. (Compare the end of English words like sire, shire, adze, badge, etc., in which the final vowel e is almost lost.) For example, this applies to shi, but not to sh, sh, sh, or sh.


 

PRACTICE 1.3 (Varying Pronunciation of i)

 

With the help of the table given above please read these syllables:

 

 

Read: bi, ci, chi, di, ji, li, mi, ni, pi, qi, ri, si, shi, ti, xi, yi, zi, zhi.

 

Repeat


 

PRONUNCIATION 1.4 (Vowel Tones and Their Tone Marks in Pinyin)

 

Mandarin is pronounced with tones. These are indicated in Pinyin script by tone marks.

 

Mandarin

Tone

Pinyin

Tone mark

Description of Tone

Example

First tone

 ā

highest and level pitch

(mother)

Second tone

 

starts high and rises

mfan (trouble)

Third tone

 ǎ

falls first and then rises

(horse)

Fourth tone

 

starts high and then falls

m (scold)

(Toneless)

a
(No mark)

unstressed or neutral

ma (eh, surely!)

 

 

 

Repeat

 

NOTE 1

When a third tone (ˇ ) precedes another third tone, pronounce it as a second tone (ˊ). Hence hěn hǎo is pronounced hn hǎo. Similarly, hǎo is pronounced more like n hǎo.

 

NOTE 2

Some words like b change before a fourth tone syllable (ˋ), such as m, or before a toneless syllable, such as ma: b changes to b in this context.

 


PRACTICE 1.4 (Pronunciation of Vowel Tones)

 

Read the following verses (from Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Lng y fāngmin,

shnglng de guǒsh

yǒu

ixīn,

xǐl,

hpng,

On the other hand,

the fruitage of the spirit

is / have

love,

joy,

peace,

 

 

 

 

 

 

jiānrěn,

rnc,

lingshn,

xnxīn,

wēnh,

zzh.

long-suffering,

kindness,

goodness,

faith,

mildness,

self-control.

 

Lng y fāngmin , shnglng de guǒsh yǒu ixīn, xǐl, hpng, jiānrěn, rnc, lingshn, xnxīn, wēnh, zzh.

 

PRACTICE 1.5 (Pronunciation of Vowel Tones)

 

Read:

 

Qǐng d zhge hǎo xiāoxi.

Please read this good news.

Wǒ xīwng gěi nǐ zhge tbi qǐngtiě.

I'd like to give you this special invitation.

Xīwng hěn kui jindo nǐ!

See you soon! (Like very quickly get to see you.)

Zh nǐ zǎo r kāngf!

Get well soon!

 


DIALOGUE 1.1 (Pronunciation of Vowel Tones)

 

Read this dialogue as two persons, A and B:

 

 A 

Zǎoshng hǎo

Good morning

 B 

Zǎoshng hǎo.

Good morning

 A 

Hěn gāoxng jindo n

Nice to see you.

 B 

Wǒ yě hěn gāoxng jindo nǐ.

Nice to see you too.

 A 

Wǒ jio X. Nǐ jio shnme mngzi?

I'm called X. What name are you called?

 B 

Wǒ jio X.

I'm called X.

 A 

Wǒmen xīwng xiǎngyǒu hpng de shēngmng, kěsh yǒu duō knnan.

We'd like to enjoy a life of peace, but we have much difficulty.

 B 

Du!

Correct!

 A 

Wǒ xīwng gěi nǐ zhfn qǐngtiě.

I'd like to give you this invitation.

 B 

Wishnme?

For what?

 A 

Měi Xīngqīyī yǒu pǔtnghu yng de tǎoln.

Each Monday there's a discussion using Mandarin.

 B 

Tǎoln de hut sh shnme?

What is the topic?

 A 

Wǒmen xux Shngd de yyn. Tā shuō le Tā hu zěnyng bāngzh yrn.

We study God's prophecy. He said how He will help righteous ones.

 B 

Zi nǎr?

Where?

 A 

Wǒ nng li rng nǐ dāch.

I can come and give you a lift by car.

 B 

Xixie. Kěsh wǒ nng zǒul.

Thanks. However, I can go on foot.

 


DIALOGUE 1.2 (Pronunciation of Vowel Tones)

 

Read this dialogue as two persons, A and B:

 

 A 

Nǐ xiǎng d zhge hǎo xiāoxi ma?

Would you like to read this good news?

 B 

Hǎode

OK

 A 

Nǐ du zhge hut gǎn xngq ma?

Are you interested in this topic?

 B 

Wǒ yǒu xngq liǎojiě. Kěsh gu yīhuǐr.

I'm interested in understanding. But later.

 A 

Zh sh wǒde dinhu homǎ.

Zh sh wǒde yīmir dzhǐ.

This is my telephone number.

This is my email address.

 B 

Xixie.

Thanks.

 A 

Nǐ nng gos wǒ nde dinhu homǎ h dzhǐ ma?

Could you tell me your telephone number and address?

 B 

Hǎode. Gěi nǐ.

OK. Here you are.

 A 

Mngtiān Yngwn yng de tǎoln hu sh:

Shngd du nǐ hěn zhngsh ma?

Tomorrow the topic in English will be:

Does God count you as important?

 


 

STUDY 2

Greetings and appreciation; read

 

VOCABULARY 2.1 (Greetings, Request and Thanks)

 

Huānyng! *

Welcome!

Nǐ hǎo!

Hello! Hi! Howdy! How do you do!

pǔtōnghu

Mandarin

 

 

Qǐng

Please!

d

[to] read

Xixie!

Thanks!

Xixie nn!

Thank you! (polite form)

 

* See guidance on Mandarin pronunciation and Pinyin script.

Check especially h in Pronunciation 1.1.

Check especially q, and x in Pronunciation 1.1.

Check tones and tonal marks in Pronunciation 1.4.

Remember, when a third tone (ˇ) precedes another third tone, pronounce it as a second tone (ˊ). So, nǐ hǎo is pronounced more like n hǎo.

ˉˊˇˋ

 

PRACTICE 2.1 (Greetings and Appreciation)

 

Nǐ hǎo!

Hi!

qǐng

Please

Qǐng d

Please read.

Xixie

Thanks!

pǔtōnghu

Mandarin

Huānyng

Welcome!

 


 

STUDY 3

Presenting a message; style awareness

 

VOCABULARY 3.1 (Messages)

 

zh; zhi

this (some person or thing here)

zhge

this (particular)

n

that (some person or thing there)

nge

that (particular)

hǎo

well, good fine

xiāoxi

news

xnxī

information, message

qǐngtiě

invitation

 

(Remember, h in hǎo is pronounced raspingly, like ch in Scottish loch)

(Pronounce zh in zh like dge in hedgeless. Curl back the tongue.)

 

GRAMMAR 3.1 (Style Awareness)

 

You may be able to discern subtle differences in how a word feels according to context. Observe in the following example that zh would feel too vague and general, so its good to add -ge to make the object in the sentence more specific.

 

The examples provided at the start of this course try to make meaningful sentences, but with only a few words learned at this stage, it is almost unavoidable that some of them lack some of the finer style you can achieve with a wider choice of words.

 

Qǐng d zh[ge].

Please read this [item].

 


INCREMENTAL CONSTRUCTION 3.1 (Messages)

 

Learn the following method or constructing a sentence incrementally.

 

Nǐ hǎo!

Hi!

Qǐng d

Please read.

xiāoxi

news

hǎo xiāoxi

good news

zhge xiāoxi

this news

zhge hǎo xiāoxi

this good news

d zhge hǎo xiāoxi

Read this good news

Qǐng d zhge hǎo xiāoxi!

Please read this good news!

 

INCREMENTAL CONSTRUCTION 3.2 (Messages)

 

Nǐ hǎo!

Hi!

Qǐng d

Please read.

qǐngtiě

invitation

hǎo qǐngtiě

good invitation

zhge qǐngtiě

this invitation

zhge hǎo qǐngtiě

this nice invitation

d zhge hǎo qǐngtiě

read this nice invitation

Qǐng d zhge hǎo qǐngtiě!

Please read this nice invitation!

Xixie!

Thanks!

Xixie nn!

Thank you! (polite form)

 


REVIEW 3.1

 

Greetings! / Hello! /

How are you?

nǐ hǎo! [- h is pronounced like ch in loch]

 

 

Please!

qǐng! [- q is lpronounced ike ch in chicken]

Read!

d!

Please read !

qǐng d !

 

 

information

xnxī

this [a word used in place of a person or thing]

zh [- zh is pronounced like dge in fudge]

this particular

zhge - g is like g in get

this information

zhge xnxī

Please read this message.

Qǐng d zhge xnxī.

 

 

Please read this invitation.

Qǐng d zhge qǐngtiě.

 

 

Thanks!

Xixie!

Thank you! (polite form)

Xixie nn!