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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…
How do I pronounce the pinyin initials c, q, x, z, zh?
Most pinyin initials or consonants have very similar pronunciations to their English counterparts. But there are a few sounds that may not sound the way you’d expect. Now let’s look at some of the difficult consonants to pronounce in Chinese Pinyin.
C sounds like “tsi,” as in 菜 cài (“vegetable” or “dish”), 醋 cù (“vinegar”), and 猜错 cāi cuò (“to guess something wrong”).
Z sounds like “dzi”, as in 汉字 Hànzì (“Chinese characters”),儿子 érzi (“son”),自己 zìjǐ (“oneself”).
Q sounds like “chee,” but with a flat tongue and a flat mouth. For example, 气 qì (“energy”), 钱 qián (“money”), 亲戚 qīnqi (“relatives”).
Another initial sound that may be different from English or your mother tongue is x. It sounds like “shee,” but once again, your tongue is flat here. 西 xī (“west”), 小 xiǎo (“small”), 谢谢 xièxie (“thank you”) and 学校 xuéxiào (“school”).
Now let’s look at a double initial: zh. You may see it in some very common Chinese family names, like 张 Zhāng,周 Zhōu,郑 Zhèng, and in this word 中国 Zhōngguó, “China.” Zh sounds like the first sound in “jerky,” with the tip of the tongue raised against the hard palate. Try 战争 zhànzhēng (“war”), 珍珠 zhēnzhū (“pearl”), 这种 zhèzhǒng (“this kind”).
As some of you may be wondering, aren’t consonants or pinyin initials supposed to be quiet, without the vibration of vocal cords? Why do my Chinese teachers and friends say bo, ci, de, fo, ge, instead of b, c, d, f, g?
Well, it’s because when Chinese people learn Pinyin at school, they are taught to pronounce them with a vowel to make the sounds clearer and easier to say. So Chinese may pronounce all the initials as: b(o), c(i), d(e), f(o), g(e), h(e), j(i), k(e), l(e), m(o), n(e), p(o), q(i), r(i), s(i), t(e), x(i), z(i), ch(i), sh(i), zh(i).
Zhè xiē cí nǐ dōuhuì niànle ma? Wǒmen zhège xìliè zěnmeyàng? Yǒuqù ma? Nǐ xǐhuān ma?
(“Can you pronounce all these words now? How is our series? Is it interesting? Do you like it?”)


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
再见吧!zàijiàn ba! See ya!


Please to leave a comment.
😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
Pinned Comment
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What Chinese learning question do you have?

Redwanul Haque Proseal
Thursday at 04:03 AM
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This lesson is very important for me.It's a bit difficult. haha😄😄

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Monday at 09:52 PM
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Hello Ahote Webb,

Thank you for your comment. You may take a look at this video lesson which introduces the pronunciation of "r" and other consonants. We also recommend studying the other lessons in this Pronunciation guide series as the first step.


Hope it helps, let us know if you have any questions.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Ahote Webb
Friday at 06:20 AM
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hello, I have trouble pronouncing "r" correctly in words, would you possibly have any tips to help out?

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 04:55 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
Tuesday at 11:22 PM
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thank you for th lesson transcript

xièxie (“thank you”)


Wednesday at 03:10 PM
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Hello Daniel,

Thank you for your insight! Indeed they are not identical, but sound close enough, which is useful for beginners learning the sound of ZH.

Thank you for learning with us.

Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Sunday at 10:44 AM
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The articulation of ZH is not like that of the "j" in "jerky". Though the teacher gives a close approximation maybe good enough for beginners, don't take it literally. The two sounds compared are very different.

ZH is a retroflex unaspirated voiceless affricate, whereas "j" in English is a post alveolar voiced affricate. Two very different sounds.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 07:16 AM
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Hi Eric

I'm glad you enjoyed the lesson.

Thanks for learning with us.


Team chineseclass101.com

Monday at 11:42 AM
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Great video as always Yinru :)