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The Chinese Phonetic Alphabet
There have been many different systems of transcription used for learning to pronounce Chinese. Today the official transcription accepted on an international basis is the Pinyin alphabet, developed in China at the end of the 1950's.

Initials

A syllable in Chinese is composed of an initial, which is a consonant that begins the syllable, and a final, wich covers the rest of the syllable.

bpmf
dtnl
gkh
jqx
zcs
zhchshr

  • m, f, n, l, h and sh are pronounced as in English.
  • d like "d" in "bed" (unaspirated)
    j like "g" in "genius" (unaspirated)
    z like "ds" in "beds"
    zh like "j" in "job"
    b like "p" in "spin" (unaspirated)
    g a soft unaspirated "k" sound
    x like "sh" in "sheep" but with the corners of the lips drawn back
    r somewhat like "r" in "rain"
  • Particular attention should be paid to the pronunciation of the so-called "aspirated" consonants. It is necessary to breath heavily after the consonant is pronounced.
    p like "p" in "pope"
    t like "t" in "tap"
    k like "k" in "kangaroo"
    q harder than "ch" in "cheap"
    c like "ts" in "cats"
    ch (tongue curled back, aspirated)
  • Distinction between certain initials:
    b / p   d / t   g / k   j / q   z / c   zh / ch

Finals

In modern Chinese, there are 38 finals besides the above-represented 21 initials.

iuü
aiaua
ouoüe
eie
er
aiuai
eiuei (ui)
aoiao
ouiou (iu)
anianuanüan
eninuen (un)üen
angianguang
engiengueng
ongiong
  • ie like "ye" in "yes"
  • e like "e" in "her"
  • er like "er" in "sister" (american pronounciation)
  • ai like "y" in "by" (light)
  • ei like "ay" in "bay"
  • ou like "o" in "go"
  • an like "an" in "can" (without stressing the "n")
  • -ng (final) a nasalized soung like the "ng" in "bang" without pronouncing the "g"
  • uei, uen and iou when preceded by an initial, are written as ui, un and iu respectivly.

Tones

Mandarin Chinese has four pitched tones and a "toneless" tone.

ToneMarkDescription
1stHigh and level
2ndStarts medium in tone, then rises to the top
3rdStarts low, dips to the bottom, then rises toward the top
4thStarts at the top, then falls sharp and strong to the bottom
NeutraldaFlat, with no emphasis


Tones Changes

A 3rd tone, when immediatlely followed by another 3rd tone, should pe pronounced in the 2nd tone.

Nǐ hǎo = Ní hǎo

Conversation

-
hǎo
!
- Zài
jiàn
!
(pro)You
hǎo(adj)good, well
你好!nǐhǎo!Hello, How are you?

zài(adv)again
jiàn(v)see
再见!zàijiàn!Goodbye!

Calligraphy exercises

4 first chinese characters : 你,好,再 et 见. Learn the stroke order.
Click on the picture to get more information about the character.

Character 你
Character 好
Character 再
Character 见

Memorize, practice and test your vocabulary from lesson 1
Online chinese exercises
Review and memorize online chinese lessons vocabulary. Characters, pinyin and english definition.

Next Lesson

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Pinyin pronunciation, rules of phonetic spelling, retroflex final.
Vocabulary : I'm sorry, Thank you, See you tomorrow.


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