Learn chinese 1

More Mandarin sounds in the pin yin spelling system.
A one-page summary.

  1. The “umlaut” sound. To say it, put your lips like “oo,” but say “ee.” This sound can be written with two dots above, like this: Ü. If the “u” follows a j, x, y, or q, it is always the umlaut sound, so the two dots are not written.  However, a u following L or N could be “oo” or “Ü,” so the two dots must be written if needed.
  2. Changing A after an I or Ü. The letter “A” is usually pronounced to rhyme with the A of father, but after I or Ü it rhymes with the E of men. For example, “mian” is pronounced  “mee –enn.” “Jian” is pronounced G. N. “Juan is pronounced “JÜ – enn.”
  3. The use of Y and W. If the letter y is written before an i or u, it is silent. Yi is pronounced “ee.” Yuan is pronounced “Ü –enn.” In other cases, the y is replacing an “i” sound. For example, the sound “iang,” would be pronounced “ee-ang,” and written as “yang.” If the letter w is written before a u, it is silent. Wu is pronounced “oo.” But in other cases the w is taking the place of a u. The sound ua would be pronounced “oo-ah,” and spelled wa. “wei” is pronounced “oo-ay.”
  4. There is a sound that is somewhat like the s in the word measure. You will hear this sound in a range of ways, with more or less of the “s” sound present. Pin yin uses the word “r” to represent this sound, but do not purse your lips as in an English r. NOTE: If the “r” is at the end of a word, it is a different sound. You cannot go wrong by pronouncing “er” as R.
  5. The letter “I” is usually pronounced “ee,” so the pin yin spelling system is pronounced “peen – een.”
    But after certain sounds, the “I” is a silent letter. These sounds are zh, ch, sh, r, z, c, and s.
    “ji” is pronounced “jee,” but “zhi” is pronounced “zh,” which to our ears sounds a little like “zhr.”
  6. The English sound “Leo” is spelled in Pin Yin as “liu.” That is because it is a contraction for “li” followed by “ou,” with the “o” left out. Another example: PinYin “qiu” sounds like English “chee-oh.
  7. The sound “gway” written in pin yin would logically be written as gu followed by “ei” (pronounced “ay.”) But it is contracted by leaving out the e, and so it is spelled “gui.” Another example: “dui” is pronounced “dway.” (However, the English sound “way” (that is, “oo-ay”) is written as “wei” in Pin Yin.)
  8. The Pin Yin spelling “gun” sounds like English “goo” followed by “un” (goo-unn). Remember that PinYin “e” sounds like English “uh”, So “gun” is a contraction of “gu plus en,” with the e left out. (But guan is not an abbreviation. It is pronounced to rhyme with the first part of “wander.”)
  9. In the Pin Yin spelling “jun,” the “u” is a “Ü,” and the “n” is short for “een.” So it is a contraction for “JÜ in,” with the “I” left out. (But juan is not a contraction. It is pronounced JÜ followed by “enn,” using the same rule for “an” as in Jian which is pronounced Jee-enn, that is, like the capital letters G.N.)


For practice in mastering these sounds, continue with the next lesson on this site.   This page © Jim Found, 1/15/2011.

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