Pinyin is an essential part of learning Mandarin Chinese, especially at the beginning stage. Usually, People who study Chinese as a second language and elementary school students in China learn Pinyin as they start learning Chinese systematically. However, PinYin is not Chinese; it is only a tool used in the last few decades to modernize Chinese, making it easier to learn, more comfortable to computerize for international communication and PinYin cannot represent Chinese, that is to say, sooner or later, you still have to learn the “Chinese” beyond PinYin.

  • What is Pinyin?      Pinyin is the romanization of the Chinese language from characters to a phonetic system represented by Roman letters. To simply put, it is the TAKING of Chinese sounds and putting letters to it so that people can learn to speak Chinese. It is a tool for beginners to pronounce Chinese characters and to understand what people say in Chinese. The current version is using 25 letters in the Roman alphabet and borrows V to represent Ü, as Chinese is a unique language, its sounds of letters would not be the same as English; therefore, DO NOT expect the letter in Pinyin will pronounce in the same way as you learn the letters in English or vice versa. If you are learning both languages, the first thing I will suggest you learn is the similarity and difference between Pinyin and English letters so you will not confuse yourself.
  • What is Pinyin made of?
    • All Chinese character is a single syllable; that is, each Chinese character has only one “sound” which is made of Pinyin.
    • Pinyin has three parts, the initials, the finals, and the tones.
      • Initials are the consonants, such as b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l.
      • There are two types of finals, simple final and compound final. For the simple final, there is only one vowel followed the initial; for the compound final, there is more than one vowel or vowels along with consonants.
      • There are five tones in Mandarin Chinese, the 1st, which is a flat tone, the 2nd tone, which is a rising tone, the 3rd tone, which is a down and up tone, the 4th tone, which is a falling tone. And the neutral tone. Since Chinese is a tonal language, different tones for the same syllables produce different meanings (different Chinese characters). For example, mā means mother (妈); má means hemp (麻).
  • How is Pinyin used?      When we learn words in Mandarin Chinese, we learn both how to say it and how to write it. For speaking, we need Pinyin as a tool that helps us pronounce the words. For reading and writing, we learn Hanzi (Chinese characters), which is the writing system of Chinese, but PinYin is very efficient in being used on an electronic device to “write” Chinese. To understand what you have to learn for proficient Chinese, Pinyin is a good helper in speaking Chinese; however, your ultimate goal is to master as many Hanzi (Chinese characters).
  • Why do we need PinYin?      Chinese characters don’t represent their pronunciation by themselves; you simply can’t guess how to pronounce a new character by induction and deduction (When people do, they make mistakes in most cases). Also, with computers and other modern data process devices, PinYin, which is using the standard 26 English keyboards, will assist you in communicating with the world with PinYin.

Therefore to begin our course of PinYin, we will assume that you are an English speaker. We will tell you the similarity and difference of letters to be used in PinYin and English. Then we will follow the content to be geared to your interest and follow our tips used to tackle non-Chinese speakers. We don’t try to make you a perfect Mandarin speaker, which most of the native Chinese aren’t; we make you fluent.