- Pinyin, or more formally Hanyu Pinyin (汉语拼音), is an alphabet (romanization) system developed in China back in the 50’s.
- Hanyu means the Chinese Language, and Pinyin means “phonetics”.
- Pinyin is quite close to the English pronunciation system where a Chinese syllable can be composed of an initial(声母)(consonant) and final(韵母)(vowel).
- Pinyin is generally used in dictionaries and Chinese language textbooks. In addition, the mastery of the Pinyin system makes Chinese word-processing (IME) much easier.
- In short, mastering the Pinyin is the foundation for successful learning of the Chinese language.
- Let’s start with initial
- An Initial is a consonant (excluding y and w)
- Always at the beginning of a syllable, it cannot exists by itself
- In total there are 21 Initials in Chinese:
- 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
|b p m f|
|d t n l|
|g k h|
|j q x|
|z c s|
|zh ch sh r|
16 thoughts on “Pinyin Tutorial I – Initials”
Thank you! I’ve been looking all over on sites that supposedly “help” you learn Chinese, but none so far have been as good as this. I use Google Translate, and I’m having a bit of a problem with the pronunciation (I’m reading it phonetically) because the speaker sounds the words differently than how I’m saying it. Good Job!
Hi Josef Dabalos,
To pronounce Chinese correctly, first you have to learn the tones in Pinyin.
I have created a Pinyin ebook, and you can download it from here:
Is there a worksheet for the initials? I have been searching for something like that but haven’t got any luck.
There is no worksheet for initials. However, I have a Pinyin chart that you can find it here:
nin hao Min Min laoshi. Nin hao ma?
I’ve been working with pinyinchart while i came accross these pinyin syllable: yo, yuo, fiao and tei. I’m being do search for their meaning without succed. Would please help me with their meaning .
Hi toto djadjame,
For the pinyin syllables: yuo, fiao and tei, I am sorry to say that there is not such syllables in Chinese.
You can check out my online ime:
by typing the syllable : yo, yuo, fiao and tei.
thanks for your reply
I’ve those pinyin from this tool
In that page you have fiao4 in the second page for pinyin start with F. You also have yo1 and yo and yuo in the page of pinyin start with Y
also in this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin_table, these pinyins are mentioned
I’ve got also this meaning “覅 (fiào) means ‘unwanted’ or ‘unnecessary’.” in this page
I have tried Google IME
For yo, we have
However, except 哟，唷, these few words are seldom used in our daily conversation
usually i’ll just lurk here and learn but min min i have a question for you. i heard the r sound is pronounced differently in different parts of chin, is that true? and have you already covered it in another page aside from this one? love your website by the way it is very helpful and aided me with learning chinese tremendously.
Hi Curious Learner,
Have you downloaded my pinyin e-Book?
I have covered most of the Hanyu Pinyin in the book. It is free to download.
No i have not yet downloaded the ebook, but i eventually will download it especially to see how it covers pronounciation of certain letters like r.if it’s covered there i will look into it when i have a enough time to download it.
I want to learn chinese but am not able to download your book.
ok got it via facebook
seems to work fine
Thanks for downloading the ebook. If you have any question about Pinyin, please feel free to ask. I hope the Pinyin ebook is helpful in learning Chinese.
how can i download this pinyin
Here is the link to download the ebook: