Learning Chinese - Pīnyīn

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IntroductionPīnyīnPīnyīn initials

Chapter Archive

So let's start at the beginning. The first thing to tackle is the pronunciation. Since you already know English, the easiest way to start learning via the romanisation of Chinese characters. Which brings us to pīnyīn.

Background

Pīnyīn, created in the 1950s, was not the first romanisation system of Chinese characters but it is the official one. Unfortunately, it is not a completely accurate romanisation but we hope to get round that.

For foreigners, Pīnyīn is extensively used to express the pronunciation and tone (which will be covered in the next section). However, in proper Chinese usage, pīnyīn should not be used. Remember, it is only an aid to learn Chinese. The exception to this is when typing out Chinese on a keyboard, as (most) keyboards don't have every single Chinese character. However, in this case, you should be figuring out the pīnyīn from the character, not the other way around.

Before pīnyīn, native Chinese learners did not use pīnyīn, learning just via time and experience. After the creation of pīnyīn, it is now used by native Chinese learners.

Pronunciation

As mentioned above, the pronunciation of pīnyīn doesn't quite match up with their English counterparts and while there are a limited number of sounds for Chinese characters, there are a lot, 407 to be exact, excluding tones. At the moment, let's ignore tones, or at least try to say these in a neutral tone.

All the pronunciations can split into two parts. Let's use zhong as an example:

  • The initial is the first part of the pīnyīn that consists of zero, one or two consonants. In this case, the initial is zh.
  • The final is the second part, which starts with a least one vowel and might end in consonants, that we will split into subparts below. This part is not optional. In this case, the final is ong.

Pīnyīn table

Don't panic but below is the pīnyīn table. Each initial has its own row and each final has their own column. Do not bother learning these off by heart. As mentioned above, it's the Chinese characters that you need to remember.

Pīnyīn table Initials Pīnyīn table
b p m f d t n l g k h j q x zh ch sh r z c s
Group a Finals -i zhi chi shi ri zi ci si -i Group a Finals
a a ba pa ma fa da ta na la ga ka ha zha cha sha za ca sa a
o o bo po mo fo lo o
e e me de te ne le ge ke he zhe che she re ze ce se e
ê ê ê
ai ai bai pai mai dai tai nai lai gai kai hai zhai chai shai zai cai sai ai
ei ei bei pei mei fei dei tei nei lei gei kei hei zhei shei zei sei ei
ao ao bao pao mao dao tao nao lao gao kao hao zhao chao shao rao zao cao sao ao
ou ou pou mou fou dou tou nou lou gou kou hou zhou chou shou rou zou cou sou ou
an an ban pan man fan dan tan nan lan gan kan han zhan chan shan ran zan can san an
en en ben pen men fen den nen gen ken hen zhen chen shen ren zen cen sen en
ang ang bang pang mang fang dang tang nang lang gang kang hang zhang chang shang rang zang cang sang ang
eng eng beng peng meng feng deng teng neng leng geng keng heng zheng cheng sheng reng zeng ceng seng eng
er er er
Group i Finals i yi bi pi mi di ti ni li ji qi xi i Group i Finals
ia ya dia nia lia jia qia xia ia
io yo io
ie ye bie pie mie die tie nie lie jie qie xie ie
iai yai iai
iao yao biao piao miao fiao diao tiao niao liao jiao qiao xiao iao
iu you miu diu niu liu jiu qiu xiu iu
ian yan bian pian mian dian tian nian lian jian qian xian ian
in yin bin pin min nin lin jin qin xin in
iang yang biang diang niang liang jiang qiang xiang iang
ing ying bing ping ming ding ting ning ling jing qing xing ing
Group u Finals u wu bu pu mu fu du tu nu lu gu ku hu zhu chu shu ru zu cu su u Group u Finals
ua wa gua kua hua zhua chua shua rua ua
uo wo duo tuo nuo luo guo kuo huo zhuo chuo shuo ruo zuo cuo suo uo
uai wai guai kuai huai zhuai chuai shuai uai
ui wei dui tui gui kui hui zhui chui shui rui zui cui sui ui
uan wan duan tuan nuan luan guan kuan huan zhuan chuan shuan ruan zuan cuan suan uan
un wen dun tun nun lun gun kun hun zhun chun shun run zun cun sun un
uang wang guang kuang huang zhuang chuang shuang uang
ong weng dong tong nong long gong kong hong zhong chong shong rong zong cong song ong
Group ü Finals ü yu ju qu xu ü Group ü Finals
üe yue nüe lüe jue que xue üe
üan yuan juan quan xuan üan
ün yun lün jun qun xun ün
iong yong jiong qiong xiong iong
Pīnyīn table b p m f d t n l g k h j q x zh ch sh r z c s Pīnyīn table
Initials
Every pīnyīn links to an example character with that pīnyīn.
Colour Legend:
"regular" initial or final

Final is in Group a or is a direct combination of:

  • i+Group a final
  • u+Group a final
  • ü+Group a final
Final of i, u, ü groups is a modified combination of:
  • i+Group a final
  • u+Group a final
  • ü+Group a final
syllable is direct combination of initial and final (or follows rules for no-initial syllables outlined at the top of the page) syllable is modified combination of initial and final

So let's tackle this table. We'll start with the initials on the next page.

IntroductionPīnyīnPīnyīn initials

Chapter Archive

Learning Chinese
Row 1 Item 1
Row 2 Item 2


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