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Lesson Transcript

Welcome to Introduction to Chinese.
My name is Alisha and I'm joined by...
Hi everyone! I'm Rui
In this lesson, you'll learn the basics of Chinese pronunciation. We'll give you a brief introduction to the Chinese romanization system, demonstrate a few difficult sounds, and then talk about tones in Chinese pronunciation.
Introduction of Pinyin
Pinyin is a system that represents Mandarin Chinese by using the Roman alphabet. It's now the most common way to romanize Mandarin Chinese. It's the foundation for Chinese pronunciation. Learning Pinyin will benefit you in many ways. It shows you the proper way to pronounce a word. It also allows you to pronounce a word you've never seen. And if you'd like to type in Chinese on your phone or computer, Pinyin input is the easiest and most popular way.
A complete syllable in Pinyin is usually made of Initials, which are consonants, and finals, which are vowels. And lastly a tone mark. Sometimes though, a vowel by itself can make a syllable too.
我 (Wǒ) “I”
哦 (ó)
There are 20 consonant letters in Mandarin or Pinyin. Almost all same consonant letters as English, except for the letter "V."
b, p, m, f,
d, t, n, l,
g, k, h
and so on.
And there are combinations of consonants that are initial sounds as well. But don't worry, there are only three of these...
zh, ch, sh
And then we have vowels. There are 6 single vowels in Mandarin Chinese.
a, o, e, i, u, ü
By combining these single vowels with each other, or by combining them with "n," "ng," "r," we can make many compound vowels. Such as...
ia, ou, ei, ue, er,
an, ün, eng, ian, uan, iong
ai, an, ang, ao,
ei, en, eng, er,
i, ia, ian, iang, iao, ie, in, ing, iong, iu,
ong, ou,
ua, uai, uan, uang, ue, ui, un, üe
It may look like a lot to remember. The trick is to memorize the ones that sound different from English or your native language. This will be emphasized in the next part of the lesson, so stick around.
Unique sounds in Pinyin
Some sounds in Chinese don't sound like their roman letters. We'll show you how they're pronounced in Chinese.
First let's look at some single vowel sounds.
"e" sounds like the "u" in the English "bud," only longer. Remember not to curl your tongue when there's no "r" around.
车 (chē) "car", 喝 (hē) "to drink".
The only exception is when it comes after "y." Then, it sounds more like "e," as in "red."
也 (yě) "also", 叶 (yè) "leaf".
The "i" sound is like "ee" in the English "see."
一 (yī) "one", 西 (xī) "west".
When it comes after a c, ch, r, s, sh, or zh sound, it's more like a short "i" sound, as in "lip."
知识 (zhīshi) "knowledge", 四十 (sìshí) "forty"
The "ü" sound is like the French "u" as in "tu." Your lips should be round and pouting.
绿 (lǜ) "green color", 女 (nǚ) "female".
"U" and "ü" are different sounds. But when "u" comes after j, q, x, y, it makes the same sound as "ü."
橘子 (júzi) "tangerine", 去 (qù) "to go", 玉米 (yùmǐ) "corn".
Now let's look at some compound vowel sounds. For all the compound sounds, you just need to make the first single vowel sound, and then slide into the next single vowel. For example...
the "üe" sound. Try to make the "ü" sound, then slide to "e."
月 (yuè) "moon", 学(xué) "to study".
To make the "uan" sound, combine "u" with "an."
酸 (suān) "sour",圆圈 (yuánquān) "circle".
"ian" sounds like the word "Yen," the Japanese currency.
咸 (xián) "salty", 钱 (qián) "money".
Consonants are pretty easy in Chinese. Just pay attention to the next couple of sounds..
"j" is like "jeep" in English, but press your flat tongue tightly against the back of your upper teeth.
姐姐 (jiějie) "older sister", 家人 (jiārén) "family".
"q" is like "ch" in "cheap," but, again, with a flatter tongue and a stronger puff of breath.
请 (qǐng) "please", 气球 (qìqiú) "balloon".
"x" is like "sh" in "sheep." Again, you lay your tongue flatter and extend the two sides of your mouth wider.
小 (xiǎo) "small", 新鲜 (xīnxiān) "fresh".
The Four Tones in Chinese
Now you know all the sounds in Pinyin, a total of over 400 sounds! What an accomplishment! Congratulations! Now let's move on to another important but also challenging part in Chinese pronunciation - tones.
Every syllable in Chinese pronunciation is stressed, with one of the four different tones.
The first tone is steady with a high pitch.
The second tone starts with a middle pitch, then rises quickly.
The third tone goes down from a low pitch, then rises to the middle of the pitch range.
The fourth tone falls sharply and quickly from a high pitch.
Besides the four stressed tones, there's a neutral tone. This is very light, weak and short. Pay attention to the second syllables of the next examples.
爸爸 (bàba) "dad", 椅子 (yǐzi) "chair", 好吗? (hǎo ma?) "Is it ok?"
Let's recap what we've learned by breaking down a word in pinyin.
The pronunciation for the famous city "Shanghai" 上海 is...
The first syllable here is made of an initial...
and a final...
and a fourth falling tone.
The second syllable is made of an initial...
and a final...
and a third falling then rising tone.
Well done! Let's wrap up this lesson by recapping what we've learned.
In this lesson, we introduced you to pinyin - the romanization method to help get you started learning Chinese. We also covered some of the unique and difficult sounds of Chinese and introduced you to the four tones in Chinese.
We've covered only the basics of Chinese pronunciation. If you're interested in learning more, check out the entire course we created named "The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Pronunciation". In that course, we cover and break down every single sound in the Chinese language, showing you mouth and tongue positioning, and giving you tips to help you perfect your Chinese Pronunciation.
In the next lesson, we'll introduce you to the basics of Chinese Grammar, where you'll learn about Chinese word order and how to build basic phrases in Chinese.
See you in next lesson! Bye!
Bye Bye!