Though the title of this article implies that we will only be “introducing” you to Chinese pronunciation, you can rest assured that our introduction will be extensive enough to set you well on your way. The most basic rule you need to learn is that each individual Chinese character makes up one syllable in a word. Just as in the English language, these words can consist of only one syllable, in which case they would be written using only one character. Another fact to know is that each of these syllables is comprised of both an initial and a final sound. There is a finite number of these sounds, and learning to pronounce them all will mean that you have essentially mastered the pronunciation of this language.
In Chinese pronunciation, there is a system of letters that is used to help people learn to properly pronounce Chinese words. Most of the sounds represented by these letters are pronounced the same way in Chinese as they are in English. However, many of them are different. One such example pertains to the letter “Z.” In Chinese, this sound is made while your tongue is pressed up against the back of your teeth. That way, it comes out as more of a “dz” sound. The letter “C” represents a sound that is very similar, with the exception that air is allowed to escape from the mouth while the sound is being made.
Of course, there are also lots of other sounds to learn in Chinese pronunciation, and one of them is the “ZH” sound. This sound is produced by raising the tip of your tongue against the back of your gum ridge. It sounds similar to the “J” sound in English, but it’s thicker. The “CH” sound is similar to its English counterpart, with the exception that your tongue will occupy the same position as when pronouncing “ZH,” again resulting in a much thicker sound. The same is true of the “SH” sound. To create the “X” sound in Chinese, you just raise your tongue up and let the air slip out.
Of course, there are lots of other rules governing Chinese pronunciation as well. This may all seem more than a little confusing at first, but don’t worry. In time, and with practice, you’ll get it for sure. Remember, practice makes perfect, so listen to native speakers and repeat the sounds they are making every chance you get.