Recall that "Pinyin is the special system, created for people to learn Mandarin pronunciation" (1). More specifically, Pinyin connects written text with spoken text.
Look at the example above. "nĭ" is the pinyin for the character 你. However, you will also notice a bunch of other things in the diagram. The "n" is in blue, the "i" is in red and the accented tittle is in yellow. The blue "n" represents the first part of the pinyin spelling or the "initial" part of the pinyin. The red "i" represents the remaining or "final" part of the pinyin spelling. Finally, the yellow tittle is how you control the pitch of the pinyin. It is also known as the "tone" of a character. There are five pitch patterns or "tones" in Chinese. We will introduce them after getting more familiar with pinyin first.
Let's look at more examples. For now, just pay attention to the initial and final patterns. Here we once again see the first example but this time it is neatly deconstructed: "n + i + 3rd tone = nĭ". Similarly, "Hào" is broken down with "h + ao + 4th tone". Spend a couple seconds trying to understand the last example.
Moving on, let's look at the example below. On the left are Chinese Characters and the right are Pinyin words. Take a minute to look at both of them without worrying about trying to understand it. You may recognize and know how to say the first line from the last lesson. That is fine as well.
Although they look completely different, you might notice a pattern: they are both three lines long and similar in length. If you guessed correctly, the pinyin on the right is the pronunciation for the characters on the left. This example is important because it highlights that every chinese character can be deconstructed into pinyin.
你好！ 我开始学中文。 再见！
Fantastic! This is a huge discovery. While many people think Chinese looks more complex than other languages, pinyin reduces the complexity significantly. Similar to romance languages, you can now identify the pronunciation and reproduce it. Chinese has now become a lot easier.
Great. Now let's see what that short paragraph actually means. If you recall from the previous lesson, you probably known
Great. Now let's jump into actually finding out how to pronounce the word.
There are two parts to the pinyin: "initial" and "final". If we recall the earlier image, the "initial"s are the first part of the pinyin and evidently, the "finals" is the second part of the pinyin. "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" (2)
If you look at the chart above, the initials is split up by rows or color. This is the standard way of teaching initials. However, you can also break the initials down by columns. The first two colors (starting from the left side) can be grouped by aspirated and unaspirated sounds.
Aspirated definition: (of a sound) pronounced with an exhalation of breath.
Unaspirated definition: (of a sound) not aspirated.
This grouping will allow you to learn the initials slightly faster. `
Let's look at the first column below: b, d, g, j, z, zh, & y. They are all unaspirated sounds.
'B' is an unaspirated 'p'. (3)
'D' is an unaspirated 't', like the English 'd' but with a bit more pressure. (3)
'G' is an unaspirated 'k', like the English 'g' but with a bit more pressure. (3)
'J' is like an unaspirated like zh, but not as 'full', about halfway between zh and z. (3)
'Z' is like the ds in 'reds' but with more pressure (unaspirated counterpart of c above) (3)
'Zh' is like the in the English 'jungle', but with more pressure (unaspirated counterpart of ch above) (3)
We will get to 'Y' later (it is an unofficial initial)
Let's watch a video that shows the pronunciation of this column:
It should sound like the following: 'Bo', 'de', 'ge', 'ji', 'zi', & 'zhi'
Conversely, if we look at the second column: p, t, k, q, c, ch, w. They all are aspirated sounds in Chinese.
'P' sounds identical to the p in English
'T', similarly, sounds like the t in English
'K' is the same as k in English
'Q' sounds like 'ch', but not as 'full', about halfway between ch and c, always followed by a y sound
'C' sounds like 'ts' in cats
'Ch' sounds like the beginning of the word 'chin'
Let's look at the below to find out how to pronounce each sound starting with the first column first and then the second column. Let's watch the video below to see how the second column should sound like:
It should sound like the following 'po', 'te', 'ke', 'qi', 'ci', 'chi', 'w'
Great! Now let's address certain, common difficulties with this first set of initials (i.e., first two rows)