Chinese (Mandarin) Lesson 1: Pinyin


欢迎来到 Languo Learning!

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.

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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 d

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,
² “Chinese Pronunciation – Ü with Easy Consonants.” ChinesePod Official Blog,


One Comment Add yours

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