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Lesson Transcript

Hi everyone.
Welcome to The Ultimate Chinese Pronunciation Guide.
In this lesson, you'll learn all Chinese vowels and their variant vowel sounds.
a, e, i, o, u
With these sounds, you can pronounce any vowel that could possibly appear in Chinese!
Some vowels may be hard for you to distinguish, especially for English speakers, so make sure you listen carefully!
Remember that memorizing and reproducing the sound is the goal. Don't get too frustrated if you forget when to use the variant sounds, that'll come naturally later.
Are you ready?
Then let's get started!
The first vowel is...
a
他 tā "he/him"
大 dà "big"
茶 chá "tea"
This is almost identical to the A sound in the word 'father', except the tongue is in more of a neutral position.
When you say the word 'father', do you feel a small pressure at the back of your mouth? The idea is to relieve that pressure, keeping everything in the same position, just move your tongue forward a bit.
You can kind of get a feel for this if you overexaggerate the 'ah' in father by opening your mouth as wide as possible. When you move your tongue forward, you will relieve that pressure and it should sound a little whinier as a result.
Study how Yinru pronounces this sound.
ä, ä (slowly)
ä, ä (slowly)
When paired with the following, the A changes...
少 shǎo "little"
糖 táng "candy"
It becomes identical to the A sound in the word 'father'.
ɑ, ɑ (slowly)
ɑ, ɑ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the A changes...
咸 xián "salty"
短 duǎn "short"
It becomes identical to the E sound in the word 'red'.
ɛ, ɛ (slowly)
ɛ, ɛ (slowly)
The next vowel is...
e
人 rén
热 rè "hot"
渴 kě "thirsty"
It's identical to the E sound at the end of the word 'problem'.
ǝ, ǝ (slowly)
ǝ, ǝ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the E changes...
累 lèi "tired"
It becomes similar to the A sound in the word 'play', however, try not to carry over the Y sound too much. Try to relax your jaw, and say it as if your allowing the vowel to spill out from your mouth. Listen to how Yinru pronounces this vowel.
e, e (slowly)
e, e (slowly)
When paired with the following, the E changes...
切 qiē "to cut"
When paired like this, it becomes the E sound in 'red' from before.
月 yuè "moon"
This is identical to the previous sound but with rounded lips.
Try saying the E in 'red' while rounding your lips.
(pause)
Now listen to how Yinru says it.
œ, œ (slowly)
œ, œ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the E changes...
扔 rēng "to throw"
It's similiar to the O sound in the word 'boring' but with unrounded lips.
You'll find that when you start unrounding your lips, it'll start to change to more of a U sound. Try it!
(pause)
Now listen to how Yinru pronounces it.
ɤ, ɤ (slowly)
ɤ, ɤ (slowly)
The next vowel is...
i
北京 běijīng
When paired with the following, the I changes...
衣服 yīfu "clothes"
秘密 mìmi "secret"
It's identical to the double E sound in the word 'see'.
i, i (slowly)
i, i (slowly)
When paired with the following, the I changes...
日 rì (day)
知识 zhīshi "knowledge"
紫色 zǐsè "purple"
This is similar to the previous sound. It's kind of like the double E sound in the word 'see', except your tongue is a little bit further back in the mouth, in a more centralized position.
One trick to pronouncing this vowel, is to say the word 'ye', as in 'O ye of little faith'. The Y sound should raise your tongue to the correct position in the mouth. Try it!
(pause)
Now listen to how Yinru pronounces this vowel.
ɨ, ɨ (slowly)
ɨ, ɨ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the I changes...
爱 ài "love"
飞 fēi "to fly"
It's identical to the short I sound in the word 'bit'.
The next vowel is...
o
我 wǒ
菠菜 bōcài "spinach"
魔术 móshù "magic"
It's identical to the OU sound in the word 'ought'.
ɔ, ɔ (slowly)
ɔ, ɔ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the O changes...
红 Hóng
空 kōng "empty"
中国 Zhōngguó "China"
It's identical to the double O sound in the word 'hook'.
ʊ, ʊ (slowly)
ʊ, ʊ (slowly)
When paired with the following, the O changes...
手 shǒu "hand"
欧洲 Oūzhōu "Europe"
肉 ròu "meat"
The O becomes a little bit like the O sound in the word 'owe'. However, try not to carry over the W sound *too* much.
o, o (slowly)
o, o (slowly)
And the last vowel is...
u
哭 kū
书 shū "book"
父亲 fùqin "father"
It's similar to the double O sound in the word 'boot'. However, you want to slightly pout your lips more and exaggerate the rounding.
Listen to how Yinru pronounces this vowel.
u, u (slowly)
u, u (slowly)
When paired with the following, the U changes...
绿 lǜ (green)
玉 yù "jade"
去 qù "to go to"
This is like the double E sound in 'see' but with rounded lips.
Try saying the double E in 'see' while rounding your lips.
(pause)
Now listen to how Yinru pronounces this vowel.
y, y (slowly)
y, y (slowly)
Well done! You've just learned all vowels and their variant sounds in Chinese.
With these sounds, you can properly pronounce any vowel that could possibly appear in the Chinese language! Isn't that great?
Well that's all for vowels.
In the next lesson, you'll start learning consonant sounds.
Which vowel sound was the most difficult for you to learn? Please comment and share your thoughts.
See you in the next Ultimate Chinese Pronunciation Guide lesson!

48 Comments

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😄 😞 😳 😁 😒 😎 😠 😆 😅 😜 😉 😭 😇 😴 😮 😈 ❤️️ 👍

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Friday at 06:30 PM
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Which vowel sound was the most difficult for you to learn? Please comment and share your thoughts.

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 05:20 PM
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你好 robert groulx!


不用谢。(Bú yòng xiè.) = No need for thanks. You're welcome. 😇


谢谢 (Xièxie) for studying with us, it's great to have you here!


Let us know if you have any questions.


Kind regards,

雷文特 (Levente)

Team ChineseClass101.com

robert groulx
Saturday at 10:28 PM
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thank you for the lesson transcript


favorite word is 欧洲


robert

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Tuesday at 07:59 PM
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Hello Kristine,


Thank you for your positive comment. We're glad to hear that you found this series useful! 👍


Keep practicing! And let us know if you have any questions.


Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Kristine
Monday at 03:26 PM
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The videos on how to properly pronounce the vowels and consonants are so great! I learned a lot. The vowels Ü in liü and the e sounds are a little bit hard. Kudos to the chinese class team!

ChineseClass101.com Verified
Wednesday at 11:04 PM
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Hello chris huff,


Thank you for your comment. In my opinion the "awe" sound is more like the "o" in "我 wǒ", there's a nasal sound in "ong" making it sound closer to the word "hook". There are also variations among native speakers, listen more and practice more, you'll get the hang of it. 😉


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


Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

chris huff
Sunday at 05:38 AM
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红 sounds NOTHING like the o's in the word hook. It sounds more like "awe" as in "He was in awe over the beautiful painting."

ChineseClass101.com
Sunday at 09:15 PM
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Hello Bill,


Thank you for your comment.


The 'a' sound is almost identical of the 'a' in father, when paired with 'ao' and 'ang', the 'a' sounds identical to the 'a' in father. The change is in the position of the tongue. 'ao' and 'ang' as a whole do not sound alike, 'ao' sounds more like 'ow', while 'ang' has a nasal ending.


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


Ngai Lam

Team ChineseClass101.com

Bill
Friday at 08:37 AM
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When introducing the a sound, you indicate it is like the a in father. Then you say when paired with ao, ang it changes and sounds like the a in father (but the original a sounds like the a in father so what changed?)

Also, these two do not sound alike. Ao sounds like augh in baugh. Ang sounds like the a in baa.

Am I missing something? I would appreciate your help.

Thank you

Bill


ChineseClass101.com
Wednesday at 11:27 AM
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Hi Akashi,


Thank you for your comment! Feel free to let us know if you have any questions.


Cheers,


Khanh

Team ChineseClass101.com

Akashi
Tuesday at 09:28 PM
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oh god that's so overwhelming...😭