Overview of PinYin

The next step after tones is to learn PinYin.  If you have at least an idea of how the tones work, you’ll now be able to practice each of the four tones using each sound in PinYin.  While this might seem impractical for all the sounds, it is nonetheless, extremely efficient in building your tonal skills if you at least do so with the “vowels” of the language.

Overview of PinYin

Let’s get started with a brief overview of the PinYin sounds.  First, there are two categories of sounds in PinYin (the initials and finals) which are much like consonants and vowels.  The initials are more like the consonants, while the finals are more like the vowels.

Initials come at the beginning of a word, thus the designation “initial.”  There are 23 initials using the simplest form of PinYin.  Not bad, since there are 21 consonants in English.

When you consider the finals, however, it might seem a little overwhelming at first.  But, an important idea to keep in mind is that even though there are 24 finals (which are much like our vowels), this set of 24 includes many of the combinations of sounds that we use once we combine two or more vowels together.  In this way, you’re able to get rid of a lot of the rules for putting vowels together, and simply focus on the 24 sounds.

See the intro to PinYin finals in the next post…

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