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PinYin Finals (Part II)


Review some of the PinYin sounds using a chart that relates the sounds to English.  That way, when you briefly forget a sound, it’s easy to get back on track.  Next, you WILL want to learn to the PinYin sounds said in Chinese.  By listening carefully, and mimicking the sounds, you offer yourself the best opportunity for cementing these sounds in your mind.  In essence, it helps to

  • Study
  • Review
  • Listen
  • Mimic

But, to truly get the most out of this workout, you’ll at least want to take the finals (“vowels”) and say EACH FINAL using all four of the tonal sounds.  In this way, you’ll be able to learn a sound and put it to use just as it is normally said in Chinese (with a tone, of course!).  Not only that, but this daily routine will ensure that you master both the tones and PinYin, which are the fundamentals of the language.

As I practice the finals on all four tones, I decided to call this daily exercise the “PinYin song.”  The reason for this is that as you are saying this routine, it truly does sound like a song you are singing!  At least, it should if you are saying your tones correctly!

PinYin Sounds–the Finals


Some would argue that PinYin is nothing like any of the sounds in English. However, I would disagree and believe that the best way to learn something new is to first go from what you know. For this reason, I have put together a set of initials and finals that includes the similar sounds from English.

Others prefer to strictly adhere to a routine of rote memory that they use in order to learn PinYin. While I feel that this is the most painful way to go, there are some benefits from first listening to and then repeating these sounds. Thus, you’ll find that my approach is really a combination of the two.

To hear the finals (with both male and female voices), click here.

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…

Moving from Tones to PinYin


You’ve been introduced to the four tones, but it will be up to you to practice as much as possible so you can master these tones!  Of course, you can expect to sound pretty strange at first as you are learning to speak them and will probably make many mistakes as you begin.  But the important point is to keep going!

As you continue on your journey to learn the language, you’ll find that soon the tones will become like second nature.  As you learn new characters, words, and phrases, you’ll find you always need to concentrate on the tones, but once memorized and practiced, you be surprised at how easily they come!  (Eventually, the tone–and the word it goes with–becomes ingrained in your mind so much so that it’s difficult to separate the two).

You’ve uncovered the basics of tones and are now up to challenge of beginning to learn PinYin which are the spoken sounds of the language.  Some like to think of it as the Chinese alphabet or phonetics, but it’s not exactly either.

See the next post to find out more about PinYin…

Four Tones of Chinese


There’s just no underestimating the importance of the tones as you are speaking the Chinese language.  Of course, the trick is to either

  • think of them as though you are singing OR
  • associate the tones with sounds you already know in English.

So, here’s my attempt at making this as easy as possible.

  • 1st TONE is pretty annoying and sounds like when you say “Aaahhhhhhhhhh” at the doctor’s or dentist’s office.
  • 2nd TONE is like asking a question because your voice rises at the end–like asking, “Huh?”
  • 3rd TONE is a little complex because it falls & rises, but is close to the sound of exasperation or frustration, “Oh!” or “No!”
  • 4th TONE is like a sigh of relief because your voice falls slowly over time.

To listen to the four tones briefly, click here.

Learning Chinese


Overview of Learning Chinese

Knowing how the Chinese language is different from English is the first step toward success in Mandarin Chinese! Once you have a basic understanding of these differences, then it becomes easy to focus on the essentials.

  • This language focuses on ideas rather than individual words.
  • Chinese characters are the way to express these ideas.
  • Others will only be able to understand your Chinese when you use tones that are a lot like singing.
  • Mandarin Chinese has four tones.
  • Once tones are mastered, PinYin will be the best way to master Chinese sounds.

The Essentials of Learning Chinese

To become fluent in Mandarin, being able to speak the four tones is crucial!  (If you can’t speak them, no one will know what you’re saying)!  Once tones become like second nature, you’ll be ready to move on to the “alphabet” of the Chinese language–which is PinYin.

So, in review, focus on

(Click on the links above for more detailed information on these topics).  Of course, if you’re ready to learn Chinese fast, then download my free study guide by clicking on the study guide to the right.

Good luck on your journey!

Asking Questions in Chinese


How to Ask Questions in Chinese

If you’ve ever wondered how to ask a question in Chinese, then join the rest of us who often must pause to figure out whether or not we’re asking it correctly! Indeed, you’ll find that asking questions in Chinese is actually easier than in English. It is, however, something you need to get used to in order to do well.

How to Ask Questions

In English, you can start with the question like, “What is her name?” When you answer this in English, you have to reorder the sentence by beginning with the end in stating, “Her name is ________.” In this case, to properly answer the question, you are required to reorder the sentence pattern.

In Mandarin, the sentence structure is kept the same as for a statement, but you replace the answer with the question word. So, “What is her name?” changes to “Her name is what?” From this example, you can then see how the name of the person will easily slide in and replace the “what.”

Let’s Practice with a Few Questions…

  1. What color is this?
  2. How many photos did you take?
  3. Where are you going?

Next, we’ll examine these questions in light of Chinese grammar. How was it rearranging the above questions? (The statements related to these questions will help you in properly ordering the question).

To get the answers to these questions, click here.

What is Elderly in Chinese?


“Lăo” is the character used to express old (as in elderly).  Notice that in Chinese culture, the elderly are highly respected.  Therefore, you will also find related terms to hold a good connotation (like the word used for “old friends”).

old in Chinese

“Lăo” is also used for teacher and master.  However, there are numerous words formed with this character.

How to Say Hello in Chinese


To get started with how to say hello in Chinese, it’s important to know PinYin (the romanization/phonetics/alphabet) of the Chinese language.

For example, you can see what the PinYin looks like by viewing the letters written beneath the characters:

How to Say Hello in Chinese

The pronunciation is similar to “knee how,” but notice that there are also markings above some of the vowels.  This let’s you know the tone to use when speaking the words in Chinese.  The tone marking you see above is known as the third tone or the “falling and rising tone.”  That is because your voice must fall and rise in pitch in order to say the tone correctly.  For more on how to Learn to Speak Chinese , read this eBook on your tablet with the Kindle app.

You’ll see what I mean by taking a look at this video on hello in Chinese . . .

If you found this post or video helpful, download your free copy of the study guide.

Learn Chinese


An Overview of the Chinese Language

Knowing how the Chinese language is different from English is the first step toward success in Mandarin Chinese! Once you have a basic understanding of these differences, then it becomes easy to focus on the essentials.

  • This language focuses on ideas rather than individual words.
  • Chinese characters are the way to express these ideas.
  • Others will only be able to understand your Chinese when you use tones that are a lot like singing.
  • Mandarin Chinese has four tones.
  • Once tones are mastered, PinYin will be the best way to master Chinese sounds.

The Essentials of Learning Chinese

To become fluent in Mandarin, being able to speak the four tones is crucial! (If you can’t speak them, no one will know what you’re saying)! Once tones become like second nature, you’ll be ready to move on to the “alphabet” of the Chinese language–which is PinYin.

So, in review, focus on

(Click on the links above for more detailed information on these topics). Of course, if you’re ready to learn Chinese fast, then download my free study guide by clicking on the study guide to the right.

Good luck on your journey!