Chinese pronunciation is an important part of learning Chinese. Pronouncing Chinese correctly will help you speak, listen and communicate smoothly in daily life. However, it can be tricky if you’ve just started learning Mandarin Chinese, as you’ll need to put a lot of effort into training your ear to hear the different tones.
Mastering Chinese pronunciation may seem challenging. However, you can achieve it with just 15 minutes of practice every day. Wondering how? Read on to discover!
The Chinese pronunciation system, called Pinyin, has been adopted to represent Chinese characters. Pinyin is very widely used in Chinese people’s daily life. For example, most people use Pinyin to type characters on their phones or computers.
We have published several articles on Chinese pronunciation before that you may like to check:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Chinese Pronunciation.
- A Guide To The Four Basic Mandarin Tones.
- How To Speak Chinese Like A Native.
The Chinese pronunciation cheat sheet for beginners
In Chinese, a syllable (Pinyin) is composed of a consonant, a vowel, and a tone. A Chinese syllable usually contains a consonant (which is called Initial) and a vowel(s) (which are called Final(s)). These components build the foundation for Chinese pronunciation.
We’ve created a cheat sheet for Chinese consonant and vowel pronunciation to make it easier for you. Keep these sheets nearby and practice these as much as you can!
- How to pronounce consonants in Mandarin Chinese
|b||similar to “b” in the English “boat”|
|p||similar to “p” in the English “pen”|
|m||similar to “m” in the English “mat”|
|f||similar to “f” in the English “fire”|
|d||similar to “d” in the English “down”|
|t||similar to “t” in the English “top”|
|n||similar to “n” in the English “name”|
|l||similar to “l” in the English “lake”|
|g||similar to “g” in the English “go”|
|k||similar to “k” in the English “kiss”|
|h||similar to “h” in the English “hope”|
|j||similar to “j” in the English “jeep” but with your tongue placed below lower teeth|
|q||similar to “ch” in the English “cheap” but with your tongue placed below lower teeth|
|x||similar to “sh” in the English “sheep” but with your tongue placed below lower teeth|
|z||same as “ds” in the English “birds”|
|c||similar to “ts” in the English “cats”|
|s||similar to “s” in the English “sing”|
|zh||similar to “j” in the English “jam”|
|ch||similar to “ch” in the English “cheap”|
|sh||similar to “sh” in the English “ship”|
|r||similar to “r” in the English “run”|
|y||similar to “y” in the English “yard”|
|w||similar to “w” in the English “wood”|
- How to pronounce vowels in Mandarin Chinese
|a||similar to “ah” in the English “Ah-hah!”|
|o||similar to “o” in the English “bore”|
|e||similar to “er” in the English “her”, without your tongue curling up.|
|i||similar to “ee” in the English “see”|
|u||similar to “oo” in the English “room”|
|ü||This is a special vowel because there is no alternative in English. It’s similar to the sound “u”, but with your lips pouting up a little.|
|ai||similar to the English “eye”|
|ei||similar to “ey” in the English “hey”|
|ui||combine “u” and “i”|
|ao||similar to “ou” in the English “loud”|
|ou||similar to “ou” in the English “dough”|
|iu||combine “i” and “u”|
|ie||combine “i” and “e”|
|er||similar to “ear” in the English “early”, with your tongue curled back|
|an||similar to “an” in the English “fan”|
|en||similar to “en” in the English “end”|
|in||similar to “in” in the English “pin”|
|un||combine “u” and “n”|
|ang||similar to “ang” in the English “slang”|
|eng||similar to “ung” in the English “hung”|
|ing||similar to “ing” in the English “king”|
|ong||similar to “ong” in the English “song”|
|yu||purse your lips and position the tongue high and forwards|
|(y)i||similar to “ee” in the English “bee”|
|(w)u||similar to “oo” in the English “room”|
|(w)o||similar to “or” in the English “bore”|
|(y)e||similar to the English “Yay!”|
Apps/Platforms that can evaluate your Chinese pronunciation
With the evolution of the smartphone era, there’re plenty of Chinese learning apps or platforms that can help you improve your Chinese pronunciation. These apps are very handy and helpful as they allow you to learn directly from your smartphones, laptop, or tablets without having to carry heavy books wherever you go. All you need to do is create an account, install the app onto your device (if needed), and you’re good to go!
Here are the best three apps (or platforms) that can help you improve your pronunciation:
- Chinese Pronunciation Corrector (available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.)
You can input any Chinese text, and the app will pronounce it for you. It also offers a function to record your voice saying that text, and then the app will give you a score of 0 to 100 based on how good your pronunciation was.
This app doesn’t give you the Pinyin of the Chinese characters, but it can pronounce any series of Chinese characters you input. The app has a vocabulary list to choose from if you don’t want to enter lots of Chinese words or sentences to practice speaking with.
- Chinese Pronunciation Trainer (available on Google Play Store)
This app works somewhat similarly to Chinese Pronunciation Corrector, but there are a few differences. First, it starts with an English sentence. Then, you think of what the Chinese translation could be. Afterward, the app shows you the appropriate translation into Chinese. You can then choose to see the Chinese characters of the translation as well as the translation’s transliteration into Pinyin.
Later, you can also record yourself speaking the Chinese translation, and the app will evaluate how accurate your pronunciation was. This app won’t give you a numeral score for your pronunciation. Instead, it will give you comments based on how well you spoke, such as “Great,” “Ideal!” for good pronunciation, or “I’m sorry” for poor pronunciation, and several other words for proper pronunciation.
However, this app only allows you to listen to and pronounce from its list of sentences. It will not allow you to paste a generic sentence like the Chinese Pronunciation Corrector.
Pandanese is a web-based application for Mandarin Chinese learners. Unlike the two apps above, Pandanese doesn’t require any installation or system to use. You can simply log in to your Pandanese account and learn from anywhere, at any time, with any device!
When you click on a Chinese vocabulary flashcard, you’ll see its meaning, pronunciation, components, the mnemonic to remember the meaning. Pandanese also shows a list of words that contain the character you’re clicking, which helps you learn a lot of words at the same time.
Pandanese‘s one-of-a-kind curriculum is categorized into three main learning purposes: school, business, and travel. Users can choose the learning purpose best suited for their needs and master the language in no time!
The bottom line
At the end of the day, acquiring accurate Chinese pronunciation is a long-term battle. Don’t be disappointed if you cannot master the authentic pronunciation in one shot. Practice every day, even for just 15 minutes before bedtime. Take note of all your mistakes and misunderstanding of some specific concepts. Review your notes from time to time. Find and learn with a Chinese language partner. Everything will add up to your progress, and one day, you’ll finally reach your goal and be able to pronounce like a native Chinese speaker.
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