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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!