Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Chinese sounds

Many people struggle with Chinese pronunciation, and looking at the Chinese characters doesn’t really help much. Thank god we have pinyin. Pinyin is an officially adopted system of writing Chinese using the Latin alphabet. It was developed to help people with the accurate pronunciation of Chinese words. So far in my posts, I have included pinyin after each Chinese character to give everyone an idea of how those characters are pronounced. While most of the pinyin alphabets are pronounced like they would be in English, there are some notable exceptions:

C is pronounced TS, example: Cong

Q is pronounced CH, example: Qi

Z is pronounced DS, example: Zun

X is pronounced SH, example: Xi’an

U is pronounced OO, example: Hu

UI is pronounced AY, example: Sui

OU is pronounced OH, example: Zhou

ZH is pronounced JH, example: Zhou

To look at more examples and listen to audio clips, visit the National Gallery of Art website.

And here is a video that might help


  1. Great! Pinyin is really helpful for those who have problems with pronunciation and the phonetic spelling makes it quite easy! Also, I have to say that the video is really cute! ;D

  2. I think I need to sit down with a Chinese speaker and have them pronounce each of the sounds above for me a few times so I can get it right. I've got "X" down, but C= TS? So Chen would be like Tshen? And Z is like DS... I think I need to hear that.

    Thanks for the guide. I didn't know quite a few of these.

  3. Thanks for this article - I agree pinyin sounds are confusing at the beginning. The one I really struggled with was 'c' vs 'z', until I came up with a system to help me. I actually wrote an article about it called The "sleeping cats" guide to pinyin pronunciation - happy reading!

  4. thanks for sharing the article Greg

  5. I used your chart in a work presentation today. I had faculty/staff emailing me afterward for copies! way to go :)

  6. Good to know that it was useful