- 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|