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Tips for English speakers to learn Chinese pinyin


Don't get me wrong, pinyin is a must for early Chinese language learning. You can use pinyin to communicate in basic Chinese much faster than if you had to rely on characters.



However, the fact that pinyin looks like English causes confusion. Furthermore, the fact that some of the letters carry the same sound as English whilst others do not add more complexity.



For example the pinyin b- is basically the same as the English b- sound. The pinyin c- though sounds nothing like our letter "c" and instead would be more closely approximated as a hissed “ts” sound. There’s no real consistency so the best approach to take is to assume that pinyin is nothing like English and try to break all associations with the English alphabet.



Otherwise you’ll end up with a large number of underlying mispronunciations like the very common mistakes of 很 hěn sounding like the English “hen” (as in female chicken hen).



To break associations use native recordings whenever reading a word in pinyin. Try to never read pinyin without also hearing it being said.



If you are still at an early stage take a decent amount of time to work on pinyin.



Get into good habits early by using a pinyin course that has a lot of native recordings and that carefully explains how to explain the different sounds.



If possible sit down with a native speaker and have them run through the pinyin system with you.



Here is a pinyin chart that you can use for this practice.



The basic process is to listen to them and repeat until you get it right. This is the feedback loop of all language learning.



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