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Introduction to Pinyin

To help you have a brief understanding of Chinese Pinyin, this video presents you a general introduction.

In this course, we will learn Chinese phonetics and start to speak Chinese together. First, let’s get to know what Pinyin is.

Many people know how to say hello in Chinese——Nǐ hǎo. But few people can pronounce them when seeing characters and hǎo. We use Latin letters to indicate the pronunciation of Chinese characters. That is Pinyin.

Take Pinyin as an example, it presents the pronunciation of mother in Chinese. m is the initial, written at the front of a syllable, ā is the final, just behind the initial. The short line (-) above is the tone, marked above the final. When they’re combined, the pronunciation of Chinese can be accurately marked.

There are 21 initials (and two special initials) and 38 finals in total in Chinese Pinyin. Some initials and some finals cannot be combined together. According to certain rules, all these initials and finals can actually form a total of about 400 syllables.

In Chinese, there are four tones. These tones indicate the direction and pitch of your voice as you say a syllable. So the syllables can present more sounds. Still take as an example. If we leave the initial m and the final a unchanged, and just change the tone, then we can produce má, mǎ and mà.

  • The first tone is the highest. It’s like when a doctor examines your throat, you open your mouth and say “ā”.
  • The second tone is the rising tone. It’s like when you don’t understand somebody says, you say “What?” in a rising tone.
  • The third tone, falls first and then rises.
  • The fourth tone, is a falling tone. It’s like when somebody hits you suddenly, you shout “à”.
  • When there is no mark on the final, we call it a neutral tone, we read it quickly and lightly.

The three components of initials finals and tones, combine together to represent the pronunciation of the Chinese language.

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Learn Chinese: Introduction to Chinese Pronunciation and Tone

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