Why does every teacher would like to teach students pinyin in their first Chinese lesson? In general, pronunciation can't be derived from seeking at Chinese characters, even though sometimes characters with typical parts have comparable pronunciation. As opposed to other current written languages, Chinese characters will not be phonetic, and surely not alphabetic, but pictographic or ideographic (displaying combinations of images or symbols to convey meaning) like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Therefore there has required to be a strategy of representing in composing the pronunciation of every character when teaching the language. Many systems are actually used, but pinyin may be the current standard means of writing Chinese pronunciation.

Alternative Pronunciation Systems

Just before pinyin was being used there were other systems for writing the pronunciation of Chinese words utilizing the English alphabet. Essentially the most popular may be the Wade-Giles system, settled in 1892. Even so, since the standardization of the Chinese language in the latter half of final century, many of the pronunciations that these old systems represent are no longer valid in China (although there are many Wade-Giles names still in frequent use in Taiwan). For instance, Peking utilized to be a method to pronounce China’s capital, but now in China it is truly pronounced Beijing. Likewise Canton employed to become a method to pronounce Guangdong, a province inside the southeast of China. Whilst superseded in China, a few of these old pronunciations are still in common use all over the world.

An English Speakers Chinese Pronunciation system

The tables below is a pronunciation system that is (roughly) true to common Chinese pronunciation (with no tones), but uses the letters in the English alphabet in an intuitive way, instead of assigning new sounds towards the alphabet. This system uses the alphabet to represent Chinese sounds in a way that English speakers are acquainted with. The program takes no time at all to utilize, and might be employed as being a rapid tutorial to pronunciation for anyone who are unfamiliar with Chinese. It's occasionally employed to demonstrate pronunciation about the China Highlights China Guide pages.

Due to this technique Beijing can be written Bayjing and Guangdong could be written Gwungdong. Though the pronunciation is quickly recognizable, in cases just like the Chinese word yue, written youair for ease of pronunciation recognition, the system isn't as efficient as pinyin in the variety of letters employed. There also exists the conundrum of the best way to represent the ow in cow, without it becoming mistaken for the ow in very low. Pinyin is actually a lot more productive method. It only takes a few hours to learn, and it is worth it.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

The International Phonetic Alphabet could also be utilized to represent Chinese pronunciation (see the pinyin pronunciation tables below), but it requires a prepared knowledge of the symbols. However far more efficient and foolproof than trying to mimic Chinese sounds with an intuitive blend of English letters, it is not as simple to write, either by hand or typing. As a result pinyin is a much better system.


Pinyin signifies to join with each other, or spell out, sounds. Pinyin was created for Chinese speakers and those studying standard Chinese pronunciation, and is an effective means of representing Chinese sounds with the Roman alphabet. It serves the same purpose as the international phonetic symbols utilized in dictionaries to present how English phrases are pronounced.

Pinyin was designed through the People’s Republic of China era (from 1949). It was very first accredited by the Chinese government in 1958, and also the Global Organization for Standardization adopted it as a globe standard in 1982.

It's clear that pinyin wasn’t developed for, and is often misunderstood by, the English-speaking world. This is in evidence no matter when English speakers try to pronounce pinyin words with out any prior study. About half the time letters in pinyin represent various sounds from what they would in a normal English word, and a lot of the time the vowels have peculiar sounds.

Pinyin is actually a very useful tool to understand to get all around China. The Chinese view their characters as the genuine Chinese written language, but pinyin may be seen on many maps, road indicators, as well as other notices. Pinyin is much easier to learn, use and remember than characters, specifically if tones are ignored. Pinyin notation might be thoroughly learnt in a handful of hours (however the tongue may possibly not be totally trained in that time that will take days or weeks of practice), but knowledge of Chinese characters (3,000 characters for basic literacy) will take years of hard study.


All Chinese words have a tone of some sort. The Chinese language has four pronounced tones, which in pinyin are marked with a small symbol above the vowel to which they relate, and a quick, less pronounced tone, named the “light tone”, which is given no tonal marker (see table below).

Tone number Tone name Tone symbol Alternative tone name
Tone 1 high tone ā soprano tone
Tone 2 rising tone á enquiring tone
Tone 3 falling rising tone ă sarcastic tone
Tone 4 falling tone à emphatic tone
No tone number light tone a (no symbol) quiet tone

 The tones could also be offered substitute names due to what they sound like in English. It might look from these names that one cannot convey meaning by one’s tone of voice in Chinese, because it is tied to common pronunciation. Even so, this isn't the case.

Often spoken Chinese is so rapidly that it is difficult to pick out individual tones. Overemphasizing or mispronouncing tones as a novice can sound hideous. Like tones (even though essential to genuine pinyin) helps make writing or typing Chinese a much more tedious approach. So, Chinese words, when adopted into other languages, are relieved of their tones. For these causes, in this pronunciation manual, and the majority of this website, we ignore tones when writing “pinyin”.

Chinese Syllables

The regular unit of the Chinese language is the syllable. Every Chinese character is spoken as one syllable. Chinese words are made up of one, two or more characters and hence one, two or even more syllables. Each syllable is either a‘final’ or an ‘initial’ followed by a ‘final’. You can find only 413 syllables in common use, which represent thousands of Chinese characters. See Pinyin Syllables for an instant reference between the pinyin and intuitive English pronunciation for each syllable.

• a, ai, an, ang, ao
• ba, bai, ban, bang, bao, bei, ben, beng, bi, bian, biao, bie, bin, bing, bo, bu
• ca, cai, can, cang, cao, ce, cei, cen, ceng, cha, chai, chan, chang, chao, che, chen, cheng, chi, chong, chou, chu, chua, chuai, chuan, chuang, chui, chun, chuo, ci, cong, cou, cu, cuan, cui, cun, cuo
• da, dai, dan, dang, dao, de, dei, den, deng, di, dian, diao, die, ding, diu, dong, dou, du, duan, dui, dun, duo
• e, ê, ei, en, er
• fa, fan, fang, fei, fen, feng, fo, fou, fu
• ga, gai, gan, gang, gao, ge, gei, gen, geng, gong, gou, gu, gua, guai, guan, guang, gui, gun, guo
• ha, hai, han, hang, hao, he, hei, hen, heng, hm, hng, hong, hou, hu, hua, huai, huan, huang, hui, hun, huo
• ji, jia, jian, jiang, jiao, jie, jin, jing, jiong, jiu, ju, juan, jue, jun
• ka, kai, kan, kang, kao, ke, kei, ken, keng, kong, kou, ku, kua, kuai, kuan, kuang, kui, kun, kuo
• la, lai, lan, lang, lao, le, lei, leng, li, lia, lian, liang, liao, lie, lin, ling, liu, long, lou, lu, luo, luan, lun, lü, lüe
• m, ma, mai, man, mang, mao, mei, men, meng, mi, mian, miao, mie, min, ming, miu, mo, mou, mu
• n, na, nai, nan, nang, nao, ne, nei, nen, neng, ng, ni, nian, niang, niao, nie, nin, ning, niu, nong, nou, nu, nuo, nuan, nü, nüe
• o, ou
• pa, pai, pan, pang, pao, pei, pen, peng, pi, pian, piao, pie, pin, ping, po, pou, pu
• qi, qia, qian, qiang, qiao, qie, qin, qing, qiong, qiu, qu, quan, que, qun
• ran, rang, rao, re, ren, reng, ri, rong, rou, ru, rua, ruan, rui, run, ruo
• sa, sai, san, sang, sao, se, sei, sen, seng, sha, shai, shan, shang, shao, she, shei, shen, sheng, shi, shou, shu, shua, shuai, shuan, shuang, shui, shun, shuo, si, song, sou, su, suan, sui, sun, suo
• ta, tai, tan, tang, tao, te, teng, ti, tian, tiao, tie, ting, tong, tou, tu, tuan, tui, tun, tuo
• wa, wai, wan, wang, wei, wen, weng, wo, wu
• xi, xia, xian, xiang, xiao, xie, xin, xing, xiong, xiu, xu, xuan, xue, xun
• ya, yan, yang, yao, ye, yi, yin, ying, yong, you, yu, yuan, yue, yun
• za, zai, zan, zang, zao, ze, zei, zen, zeng, zha, zhai, zhan, zhang, zhao, zhe, zhei, zhen, zheng, zhi, zhong, zhou, zhu, zhua, zhuai, zhuan, zhuang, zhui, zhun, zhuo, zi, zong, zou, zu, zuan, zui, zun, zuo

When you grasp pinyin-the most widely used pronunciation system of Chinese language, you can composing the pronunciation of every character from now on. Then,  congratuation to you, you have already opened a door of learning Chinese characters.