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Chinese Pronunciation

My Pillow Dictionary - Helping you learn Chinese every day

Chinese Pronunciation

The language most commonly spoken in Mainland China is Mandarin, otherwise known as Putonghua or Hanyu 0r more commonly in the west simply as Chinese. It is this type of language which this site and our daily emails help you to learn.

Here we focus on explaining how the Chinese pronunciation system works. This will done through “pinyin” which is the method used to write Chinese in the Roman alphabet.  Aside from helping you speak, this is also the method used to type Chinese characters on a keyboard.


Tones - There are four tones

First Tone: a high, steady tone ( – )

Second Tone: a rising tone ( / )

Third Tone: a tone falling then rising ( v )

Fourth Tone: a quick falling tone ( \ )

The symbols in brackets are written above the pinyin to guide the reader as to which tone and word it is.

Essentially there is a fifth tone – neutral – where the character expressed in a flat manner.


Initials (sometime known as Consonants)

Here is a list of all the Initials. Where the pinyin and the pronunciation columns match they have the same pronounciation in English and Chinese. If they do not match, there is an example provided based upon an English word which can give you the sound.

Pinyin    Pronunciation

b              b
p              p
m             m
f               f
d              d
t               t
n              n
l               l
g              as in go
k              k
h              as in hot
j               as in jeep
q              like “ch” in children
x              like “sh” in she
z              like “ds” in words
c              like “ts” in cats
s              s
zh            like “j” in jar
ch            like “ch” in children
sh            like “sh” in she
r              r


Finals/Vowels – on the next page

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