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Learn Chinese Pinyin-Vowels

Apr. 2, 2015
Chinese Pinyin is a Roman-letter based system that China now uses to mark the pronunciation of Chinese characters. That is to say, Chinese Pinyin is a way to represent Chinese characters and express the sounds in Chinese language using the alphabet. There are other systems to express Mandarin, but Chinese Pinyin is the most accepted and widely used. Once you learn Chinese Pinyin you will know how to pronounce any word in Mandarin using a Chinese dictionary. Chinese Pinyin is also the most common way to input Chinese characters into computers. With four tones and Chinese Pinyin, any Chinese characters can be pronounced precisely. In many cases, Chinese Pinyin is quite intuitive to English speakers with only a few exceptions. However, it can be a twist to render Chinese Pinyin in four tones for people who just start. There are lots of Chinese Pinyin resources online.

Chinese Pinyin consists of initial consonants (b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, ɡ, k, h, j, q, x, z, c, s, r, zh, ch, sh) and finals or compound vowels (ɑ, o, e, i, u). Each Chinese character is one syllable constructed by a compound vowel and one initial consonant, the latter of which will be discussed in consonant.

Vowel Table:
a o e i u ϋ
ai ei ui
ao ou iu
ie ue er
an en in un ϋn
ang eng ing ong
As you can see, most vowels are simply a combination of the 6 major vowels in the first row, which is obviously the most important part, and some special consonants. How can you remember all this? We are putting all these into English words with virtually the same sound for you to learn and remember in an easier way.
*Note: letters in the following explanation in “…” are pronounced as in English, and those in ‘… ‘ are pronounced in Pinyin. Also, all samples are delivered in 4 tones.

a – as the vowel in “star” without the “r” sound

o – as the vowel in “law”

e – as the vowel in “stir”

i – as the vowel in “bit”

u – as the vowel in “food”

ϋ – as “y” in “yellow” followed by the ‘u’ above

ai – as the vowel in “bike”

ei – as the vowel in “lake”

ui – combination of ‘u’ and ‘i’, the same as word “we” in English

ao – as the vowel in “loud”

ou – as the vowel in “flow”

iu – combination of ‘i’ and ‘u’, the same as word “yew” in English

ie – combination of ‘i’ and ‘e’, as the vowel in “sierra”

ue – combination of ‘u’ and ‘e’, as the vowel in “buena”

er – combination of ‘e’ and ‘r’, as the vowel in “early”

an – as the vowel in “anchor”

en – as the word “earn” without the “r” sound

in – as in the word “inn”

un – as in the word “one”:

ϋn – as “y” in “yellow” followed by the English word “one”

ang – as the word “long”

eng – as the vowel in “lung”

ing – as the vowel in “England”

ong – as ‘u’ followed by the ‘ng’ as above

From: zapChinese- Chinese Pinyin-vowels

More information about learning to speak Chinese

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