Pronounce Pinyin Characters

Different from the English Convention


pinyin character

A pinyin character is written as a letter of alphabet. While looks familiar, it is important for you to be aware that:

It is meant for Mandarin Chinese only

The hanyu pinyin characters are meant for Mandarin Chinese only. You cannot use it to notate sounds of Chinese dialects such as Cantonese.

Sound differently from the English convention

Although hanyin pinyin is in alphabet, its Roman letters are not pronounced in the English conventions.

It consists of consonants and vowels, known as initials and finals respectively. There are 21 initials or consonants and 39 finals or vowels altogether. So you can see that Mandarin is quite vowel, i.e. final, dominated language.

The pronunciation of the vowels and consonants can be very different from the ways English words are pronounced. So, do not take things for granted. You will have to learn the letters and their associate sounds in pinyin before using the system to notate the Chinese sounds.

For example, 'can' and 'women' are pronounced differently from English. Listen to the audio examples below to hear the difference.

Video example:

'can' and 'women'


To have an understanding of how hanyin pinyin works:

Click here to go to hanyu pinyin table.

Click here to go to hanyu pinyin video tutorial.


Read more about hanyu pinyin

Go to Mandarin tutorials

Go to home page