Oddities in Hanyu Pinyin


Here is a link to Confused Laowai and an article he wrote regarding the oddities in Chinese Hanyu Pinyin. Beginners six or seven months into Chinese could benefit a lot by his discussion.  Sometimes when we are learning things we don’t pick up 100%.  It is nice to review.  You might be surprised what you might learn or remember.  Here it is: Oddities in Chinese: Hanyu Pinyin Syllables.

Mandarin Chinese Hanyu Pinyin “b,” “d,” and “g” Can Fool You

When I first started learning Mandarin Chinese, I pronounced the hanyu pinyin  ‘b,’ ‘d,’ and ‘g’ like the way we say them at the beginning of words in English like ‘boy,’ ‘dog,’ and ‘got.’  However, the first university I taught at was called ‘Tunghai’, written ‘Donghai’ in pinyin.  Taipei is written ‘Taibei’ in hanyu pinyin.

However, after a little linguistics training and some thinking, I realized the ‘d’ in Donghai and and the ”b’ in Taibei were not English initial d’s and b’s.  Let’s take ‘t’ for example. In English as well as in some Chinese words, ‘t’ is pronounced the English way.  It is voiceless (no throat rattle), but aspirated (might blow out a small candle).  On the other hand, “d” in English is voiced (throat rattle) and not aspirated (will not affect a small candle flame).  They are both made in the same area of the mouth.

However, the ‘t’ in Tunghai and well as the ‘d’ in Donghai, are t’s without the aspiration.  They sound like the light English “d” that you might hear in ‘later’ or ladder.”  Therefore, English has the sound in the middle of words, and that is where you can begin practicing them.

The same goes for ‘b’ as is ‘baba.’  It is not the ‘b’ in boy.  It is the ‘b’ in ‘rubber’ or ‘robber.”  The ‘g’ is as in ‘gege” in the ‘g’ in ‘goat.’  It is the ‘g’ in ‘logger’ or ‘beggar.’

So if you are speaking Chinese with English ‘b,’ ‘d’, and ‘g,” your Chinese sounds heavy!  LIGHTEN UP!

You may find Video A and Video B useful.

How to Pronounce Ü in Chinese


#Jim #Steed worked hard to make the sound ‘ Ü ‘  in #Mandarin #Chinese #Pronunciation. You can learn how to say and practice all #Chinese #sounds at Mandarin Click by Click Pronunciation. To make ‘ Ü ‘, for example, you can say the “oo” in too, but round your lips like you are whistling or like you are trying to blow “oo” through a straw with the rounded moist tissues behind your lips.

You can also say “tree” backwards.  As your lips begin to protrude outwards and as you approach the ‘r’ from behind, you will hear a close approximation of the sound.  Have you ever been to Shr..eveport, Louisiana?

Sometimes it is written out: ǖ, ǘ, ǚ, and ǜ.  It is written with ” u ” in pinyin after y, j, q, and x.

There are lots of sounds and tones to learn and practice. Don’t go for perfection at first; go for understanding.  There are 500 tiny muscles in your tongue.  Ballerinas don’t master the dance overnight, and you won’t master Chinese pronunciation overnight, either. As the Chinese say, “mànmànlái 慢慢来 ” (slow slow come-take your time).

You may find this video for ǖ interesting.

For James Steed at Mandarin Click by Click.




Pronouncing ‘c’ and ‘z’ in Chinese

I couldn’t pronounce “c” and “z” until I learned linguistics.  Then, I realized that English had both of these sounds, not at the beginning of a word, but at the end.  For example, “states” or “its” end with the pinyin “c.”   To say “cai”, the Chinese word for “vegetable,” I just said “i–ts” + “ai” = “cai.”   The same can be done with “z.”  It occurs in English also, “reads.”