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Pinyin : Useful Guide with Video

Pinyin, defined as the Chinese phonetic alphabet, is the official romanization of standard Chinese words(Characters) in mainland China. From ancient to modern, Chinese is the language without a direct alphabet for its characters(so-called Hanzi), that’s why Hanyu Pinyin is one of the vital tools to effectively transcribe it with each syllable corresponding distinct meaning, including the Latin Alphabet(initials and finals) and a tone marker (one of four). The Chinese-language combining-sounds alphabet is the verifying “spell pronunciation” for teaching Chinese written words and helps people learn the Mandarin pronunciation.

How pinyin derived

See-backward to the 1950s of China, the Government, developed a new literacy romanization system as a significant Auxiliary tool of explaining Chinese characters, helping eradicate illiteracy and allowing people to learn words independently, and many scholars started to adopt a form of spelling in a writing system and tried to end the confusion between different Chinese dialect in China Mainland.


Eventually, in 1958 after long study, linguist and sinologist Zhou Youguang, named as the father of Pinyin, made a breakthrough and published Hanyu Pinyin (汉语拼音) to the world. It officially united and standardized the pronunciation of Chinese characters. His pinyin system translated Chinese into new romanization spelling and made this standard pronunciation fully understood in the nation.


This development made Pinyin officially “spelled sound” and immediately proposed to aid in learning Putonghua in school and society. It’s the reform of Chinese writing and the phonetic system of transcription. And in digital times, it physically allows people to fast-type Chinese characters on touch-screen keyboard devices. Pinyin, as the foundation of Chinese Characters, helps reinforce people memorizing and saying words out easily.

Pinyin features

Why should I memorize pinyin?

Each Chinese Character and Pinyin are closely related together; Pinyin helps speak Chinese quickie in oral conversation and will stand for specific Character meaning. In condition, different Hanzi may share one same Pinyin with the same tone and spelling, but with a total difference in meaning, for example, 只(zhī )means “quantity,” and 知(zhī )means “know it,” or 肢(zhī ) means “leg.” Go further, instead of over-emphasizing a distinction of Hanzi for writing memory like 在哪里,吃了吗,回家 while ignoring to read them, wisely, it’d better treat Pinyin as a pronunciation reference, or as a memory, aid to achieve the goal of speaking Chinese fluently.


Is it difficult but mysterious, challenging, and interesting? The advisable method is to memorize Pinyin and Characters, being related or interpreted by your native language for better understanding at the same time, then you will master it with more practice.

CharacterPinyinMeaning
在哪里zài nǎ lǐWhere are you?
吃了吗chī le maDid you have meals?
回家huí jiāGo home

As beginner and intermediate students who start to get familiar with Chinese Characters as a certain foundation, then into the next step, it will become easier to learn Chinese when you start to focus on remembering, spelling and writing Pinyin Phonics in correspond with Characters. As an adept and advanced learner, you will naturally memorize Pinyin and swift heed to Chinese Character’ understanding.

How to learn pinyin as a newbie?

Each Chinese Pinyin owns an integral syllable, consisting of initial, final, and tone. In essence, the Initial and final have individual pronunciation, being put together and paired with a tonal mark onto finals. People can spell out the whole syllable, best provided to read the Chinese Character by correct Pinyin.

Notice: Initial and final are both individual segmental phonetic portions of the language, rather than letter by letter spelling in English.

PINYIN SOUND IN ENGLISH
aare
bbeef
ssoup
mmother
ddog
egirl
ffood
ggo
hhim
oboy
shshelf
ngsong
kkeep
qcheap
rroof
ttwo
wwhat
zhjob
xs / sh

Third, because of the limited numbers of a combination of initials and finals, there is a regular pattern. Such as 我(wǒ ), “w” sounds like “[w]” and “o” sounds like [o] in English, then two alphabets are let put together and pronounce along. Based on understanding pinyin structure and theory, this skill is perfect for beginners to imitate pronunciation by using their native language.


Here are ten examples below for practice.

Initials Final Full Pinyin
t án tán
shshuǐ
nnuō
māomāo
zhēnzhēn
dāngdāng
biānbiān
lǐ
juānjuān
chūchū

Pinyin Tone


Chinese is a tonal system language that is represented by one to four marks, including level tone, rising tone, falling rising tone, and falling tone. When it happens to the same initial and final, tone marks are helpful to distinguish the meaning of vocabularies. For example, Shānxī 山西e and Shǎnxī 陕西


Besides, different vocabularies meaning may bring whole sentence expression into the unexpected way during our daily conversation, for instance,


xiào huā means compliment of beauty


xiào huà means a joke


The conversation where you introduce someone to your friend may lead to:


tā shì xiào huā


It means she looks the most gorgeous on campus — this sentence makes your friend pleased to hear that.


tā shì xiào huà

It means she is a joke — this one makes your conversation awkward.


Imagine when you get into one Chinese pizza restaurant and would like to order one pizza adding extra cheese 芝士(zhī shì ),. Still, you confidently say (zhǐ shì) loud for request, the chief may throw a confusing facial expression because you actually are saying “指示” (instructions). The restaurant will never leak out the cooking recipe of pizza to outsiders.


And for an interesting record, check out more funny conversations of common misspell in expression and make your belly entertained in a lot of funny stories…


And the more complicated condition is that even if the same initials, finals, and tone, the Chinese characters and meaning are both different. This is the magical and appealing part to people.

Hanzi Pinyin Meaning
morality
get
floor
rank
young bother

How to Pronounce Each Pinyin Initial and Finals


Nothing could be more exciting than Chinese learners to have the most comprehensive and brand new Chinese Pinyin Chart, as the completed combination and pronunciation are provided. Easy to print out as your handy portable reference when you text on the phone or start a Chinese conversation whenever you please. And there may be encountering more issues to pronounce Pinyin in the chart; here is more guide in this video of each initial, finals in details of how to spell them.