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Welcome to Languo Learning!
Today, we are going to start our first Chinese Mandarin Lesson.
To start your Chinese learning journey, I’m going to introduce you to Pinyin.
Key Concept 1: Pinyin is the Romanization of the Chinese characters based on their pronunciation. In Mandarin Chinese, the phrase “Pin Yin” literally translates into “spell sound.” In other words, spelling out Chinese phrases with letters from the English alphabet. ¹
There are four tones in Mandarin. Different characters might be made out of the same vowels and consonants but pronounced with different tones. Therefore, it is important to pronounce those tones correctly.
1. first tone ( ā )
flat, high pitch – imagine singing a pitch, instead of speaking it
2. second tone ( á )
low to middle, rising – a questioning tone (Whát?)
3. third tone ( ǎ )
middle to low to high, dipping – if at the end of a sentence or before a pause, it is then followed by a rising pitch
4. fourth tone ( à )
high to low, falling – Pronounced like a command (Stop!)
5. There is also a fifth tone, the neutral tone, which is used rarely, mostly for phrase particles.
as in father
as in the hen
as in king
as in saw
as in soon; but as ü in ju, qu, yu and xu
ü is hard to pronounce because its pronunciation does not exist in English.
To make the basic ü sound, make a continuous “ee” sound. As you make the sound, round your lips into the position they would need to be in to make an “oo” sound. By making the “ee” sound in your mouth with your lips in the “oo” position, you are pronouncing Mandarin’s ü sound. ²
Chinese stops distinguish aspirated and unaspirated, not voiceless and voiced as in English. So p, t, and k should be pronounced with a puff of air.
as in ball
as in rats
as in chore
as in do
as in fun
as in gang
as in her
as in jeer
as in king
as in lease
as in mow
as in none
as in sing
as in pan
as in cheap
as in bear
as in sang
as in shoot
as in tan
as in want
as in sheep
as in yet, but silent in yi, yu
as in zebra
as in jungle
That’s it for this lesson! In our next lesson, we will learn about combining the vowels and consonants to pronounce words.
In the meantime, look over the pronunciations for both the vowels and consonants and try to pronounce them!
¹ Hua, Sara Lynn. “What Is Pinyin?” Chinese Learning Tips, blog.tutorming.com/mandarin-chinese-learning-tips/what-is-pinyin.
² “Chinese Pronunciation – Ü with Easy Consonants.” ChinesePod Official Blog, chinesepod.com/tools/pronunciation/section/15.