Mandarin Lesson 1: The Pinyin System and The Tone  

Posted by Kemauan in

Lesson 1: The Pinyin System and The Tone

Ok guys and gals, let's start with the first lesson of mandarin chinese, I will try to share 'the simple way to speak mandarin chinese' (in my opinion hehehe ).

Before that, let's read this rhyme :

Qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià.
1000 mile’s journey, begin at foot down
A long journey begins with a single step. (Laozi)

So, first thing that I think is the most important is knowing the Pinyin system to accelerate our study in mandarin. If we know it, we can speak mandarin ASAP, although we still don't understand what we read :), so at least we can more confidence to speak (this is very important if we learn a foreign language, we must not shame to speak, or "tidak tahu malu" in bahasa :) , that way, we can learn and speak faster)

Pinyin, more formally Hanyu Pinyin, is the most common Standard Mandarin romanization system in use. Hanyu means the "Chinese Language", and pinyin means "spell sound", or the spelling of the sound.

Rules given in terms of English/Bahasa pronunciation

All rules given here in terms of English/Bahasa pronunciation are approximate, as several of these sounds do not correspond directly to sounds in English/Bahasa.

Pronunciation of initials





unaspirated p, as in spit or pisau in bahasa


aspirated p, as in pit, or babi in bahasa


as in English mum


as in English fun


unaspirated t, as in stop, or tong in bahasa


aspirated t, as in top, or dop in bahasa


as in English nit


as in English love


unaspirated k, as in skill, or kuil in bahasa


aspirated k, as in kill or gagah in bahasa


like the English h if followed by "a"; otherwise it is pronounced more roughly .


like q, but unaspirated. Like cuaca in bahasa


like church; in English both "ch" and "q" are often pronounced the same. Like juanda in bahasa


like sh or palatalised s, Like siuman in bahasa


ch with no aspiration (a sound between joke and church). Like tz in bahasa


as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture American English. Like jarang in bahasa


as in shinbone, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to undershirt in American English

[ʐ] or [ɻ]

Similar to the English r in rank


unaspirated c (something between suds and cats). Like coba in bahasa


like ts in bats, however more aspirated. Like juga in bahasa


as in sun

[w] or [u]

it is pronounced as the "u" (pinyin-pronounced) that "w" replaced.

[j] or [i]

case 1)it is pronounced as the "i" (pinyin-pronounced) that it replaced.

case 2) Similarly, note that "yu" is not pronounced as a "yu", rather it is pronounced as the (pinyin-pronounced) "ü" that it replaced.

Beside the pinyin system, what we also should know in the first time is the pitch tone.

The most famous example of this, is the word "ma" :

() The first tone (High Level Tone) is represented by a macron (ˉ) added to the pinyin vowel

() The second tone (Rising or High-Rising Tone) is denoted by an acute accent (ˊ)

() The third tone (Falling-Rising) is marked by a caron (ˇ)

() The fourth tone (Falling or High-Falling Tone) is represented by a grave accent (ˋ)

(·ma) The fifth or neutral tone (Neutral Tone) is represented by a normal vowel without any accent mark

If you want to know how to spell the tone, you can click -> hear the mandarin tone (this is tone 1-4 only)

Now, let's try to familiar with the sounds and syllables of pinyin. Beginning now, I will use bahasa pronunciation to read the pinyin (but I have an obstacle to write the accent mark - above is only copy paste :) , so no accent mark here - any body know how to write that mark ?)

ok let's begin :

Wo yao xue xi zhong wen (read: wuo yao sie se chong wen) = I want to learn mandarin
Wo bu zhi dao (read: wuo pu tze tao) = I don't know
Beijing (read: pei cing) = Capital of PRC

Hope you can understand this first lesson, if you don't, please review again and again until you are familiar with this pinyin system, so that we can begin to learn the mandarin the faster way - using daily conversation :)

This entry was posted on Friday, August 1, 2008 at Friday, August 01, 2008 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


hao de lao shi

August 1, 2008 at 1:36 PM

@devita: wah cepet sekali commentnya, baru saja selesai nulis sdh comment :) eiitt, Wo bu shi lao shi, bu yao jiao wo laoshi, hao bu hao ? :), I'm also a student here, and we are study together :)

August 1, 2008 at 1:47 PM

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