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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What is pinyin?
拼音 pīnyīn is the standard, most commonly used phonetic system for transliterating Chinese, meaning spelling out Chinese using Roman letters. When you look up a word in a Chinese dictionary, there is always pinyin assigned to each Chinese character. It's a way to read and pronounce Chinese words through English letters. For example, hàn, spelled h-à (accent)-n, is the pinyin for the symbol 汉,as in 汉族人 Hànzú rén, “the Han people,” an ethnic group of east Asia. Even though most Chinese people can read pinyin, it’s not a substitute for the 汉字 Hànzì, or the “Chinese characters.” This is because 拼音 pīnyīn is the sound system in Chinese, whereas 汉字 Hànzì is the writing system.
Here’s an example for the sentence “I can read Chinese characters” in 拼音 pīnyīn and in 汉字 Hànzì.
我认识汉字。Wǒ rènshí hànzì. (“I can read Chinese characaters.”)
Sometimes people wonder if they can only learn pinyin and ignore the actual Chinese characters. The short answer is no. Chinese books and newspapers are written with Chinese characters without the use of pinyin, unless they’re written for children who are still learning to read. So, for Chinese beginners, you definitely want to learn Pinyin rules first.
Pinyin is usually made of three parts: an initial consonant, a final consisting of one or a combination of vowels, and a tone. There’s a pinyin chart for beginners to learn and memorize the consonants and vowels. We’ll get into the pronunciations of some of the most difficult pinyin sounds in the later episodes.


How was it? Pretty interesting right?
Do you have any more questions? Please leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
我们下期再见吧!(Wǒmen xiàqī zàijiàn ba!) See you in the next episode!


Please to leave a comment.
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ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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What Chinese learning question do you have?

P.S. Click here to check our Pinyin Chart with audio pronunciation!

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 05:57 AM
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你好 robert groulx,

谢谢 for posting and studying with us. If you have any questions, please let us know.😄

Kind regards,

雷文特 (Levente)

Team ChineseClass101.com

robert groulx
Monday at 05:49 AM
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thanks for the lesson transcript

Wǒ rènshí hànzì. (“I can read Chinese characaters.”)


ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 10:41 PM
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Hello 白龙,

Thank you for your comment. I think that the tone marks are necessary. 😉

Let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Tuesday at 09:58 AM
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My friend and I are debating whether pinyin can still be called pīnyīn without the tone marks. One of us believes that without the tone marks, pīnyīn should be called "pīnyīn without tone marks". The other believes that tone marks are not necessary and pinyin without tone marks should still be called pinyin.

stephen b.
Saturday at 07:42 AM
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Can you suggest a series of "Graded Chinese Readers" to take me from a low-level Chinese character reader to a higher level?

Thank you!


ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 12:57 AM
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Hello, Jung-Ju Sir,

I'm afraid the way to memorize pinyin of characters is practicing over and over until you can remember them. And after you remember the basic pinyin, you will find lots of the characters which have the same radicals share the same or familiar pinyin.


Team ChineseClass101.com

Jung-Ju Sir
Wednesday at 07:58 AM
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Hello, I have one question. Please let me know the way for the non-Chinese people to memorize the pinyin of each 'Han characters'. I often forget the pinyin and get confused and make a wrong pronunciation. Thank you.