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Chinese: Pronunciation

The Chinese have their own set of characters to write with. The Chinese writing system is much more complex than the Latin writing systems, a person should know around 2,000 characters in order to be able to read a Chinese book or newspaper. However, it is not necessary to know any Chinese characters in order to learn the language. The so called Pin-Yin translitteration uses Lating characters (A-Z) which resembles the way in which Chinese words are pronounced. We will use this system also on Languagetrav.com, and the below description will give you a feeling of how each vowel and consonant is pronounced.

If you are interested in Chinese characters, click here to learn more.

Consontants and Dipthongs

The following consonants are pronounced similairly as in English:

b, d, f, g, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, w, y
ch is pronounced as in 'church', but it is aspirated, as if an additional 'h' would follow.
sh is pronounced as in 'ship', but it is aspirated.
c is pronounced as in 'betsy'.
h is pronounced very strong and tends to be pronounced as in the Schottish word 'loch'.
j is pronounced as in 'jeep'.
g is pronounced as in 'gap' when it starts a phrase or when it is preceded by 'n'. Before 'e' or 'i' it is prounced as the Scottisch word 'loch'
q is pronounced as in 'cheese'. The pronunciation differs from 'ch' in a way that 'ch' is prounced much more in the back of the mouth, whereas 'q' is pronounced much more in the front.
x is pronounced as in 'sheep'. The pronunciation differs from 'sh' in a way that 'sh' is pronounced much more in the back of the mouth, whereas 'x' is pronounced much more in the front.
z is pronounced as in 'pizza'.

Vowels

i is pronounced as in 'sheep', if it is preceded by c, r, or s it is not prounced. If preceded by ch, sh, or zh it is pronounced as 'r'.
u is pronounced as in 'cool'. Preceded by j, q, x, y, or it is pronounced as the German ''-sound.
is pronounced as in German.
a is pronounced as in 'father'.
ia is pronounced as 'y+a'.
ua is pronounced as 'w+a'.
o is pronounced as in 'hot'.
ou is pronounced as 'w+o'.
eo is pronounced as in 'hell'.
ie is pronounced as 'y+e'.
ai is pronounced as in 'eye'.
uai is pronounced as in 'why'.
ei is pronounced as in 'say'.
ui is pronounced as in 'way'.
ao is pronounced as 'a+o'.
ou is pronounced as in 'low'.
iu is pronounced as in 'leo', but 'eo' is pronounced very fast as one syllable.
ong is pronounced as in 'kung fu', but 'eo' is pronounced very fast as one syllable.

The 4 intonations

One of the characteristic features of the Chinese language are the 4 intonations of words. This means that the meaning of a word does not only depend on how it is pronounced, but also the intonation in which it is pronounced. These intonations are usually represented by accents placed on top of the vowels. However, as these accents are special characters which might not be read by each browser, we have decided to represent these intonations by the numbers 1 - 4.

The four intonations are the following:

(1) indicates a steady sound, the word is pronounced monotone.
(2) indicates a rising sound.
(3) indicates a falling sound.
(4) indicates a falling sound at first, and then rising again.

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