Learning Mandarin: Pinyin initials

Old typewriter keys

In a previous post, I described the basics of Pinyin, and mentioned that words are made up of Initials (starts of words) and Finals. There are only a predefined set of each.

What confuses many new learners is that while these look like our characters, they are often pronounced differently.

The character initials that are pretty much the same as ours are:

p, m, f, t, n, l, k, h, j, s, zh, sh, r

These are almost the same:

b, w, y

But the ones that are quite different are these:

d is closer to the t in stay, than the d in dog
g is closer to the k in skill than the g in gender
q is like the ch in chosen
x is like the sh in she
z is like the ds in buds
c is like the ts in cats

As an example, I previously mentioned:

(Cǎo) which means "grass", "C" is the initial, and "ǎo" is the final.

It's pronounced more like "tsow" than "cow".

Learning Mandarin

I'll write more soon on the best methods for learning Mandarin. If you want to get a taste for it in the meantime though, my current favorite site is iTalki, and my favorite teacher by far is Amy He. If you decide to try it, click here and it's cheaper for both you and me.

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