Author Topic: Different pronounciations in Chinese/Pinyin  (Read 1390 times)

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Offline sapphiresky

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Different pronounciations in Chinese/Pinyin
« on: April 17, 2012, 11:08:29 PM »
This was an article I had on my old blog which isn't up anymore because I've made a new one, so I will post this article here because I feel this is the right place for it.

The pinyin is written exactly the same as english letters and helps people pronounce the words in Chinese. However, not all pinyin letters sound like they should in English.

Specific examples include: v(), z, c, x, and q.

- (typed as v).
Unfortunately, there is no equal sound in English, so you will have to just listen carefully to the sounds. If you have trouble pronouncing this pinyin letter, then try to pronounce an -I, do not move your tongue at all, but pucker your lips so they will end up being protruding greatly, stiff and wrinkled. If this final is part of a syllable without any initial, then it will be rewritten yu. Important! Only the initials l- and n- can be combined both with finals starting with a usual u and with the . Whenever a u is preceded by a j-, q- or x- it will actually always be a . It is very important! When you encounter a u preceded by any of these three initials, you just have to know, that it is not pronounced like it would be if it were preceded by for instance zh- or sh-!

z [ts] unvoiced zoo
Z- is quite difficult for native English speakers to pronounce. Z- sounds like the zz in pizza. To exercise the pronunciation of z-, you can practice saying first the zza part of pizza, and then pronouncing just the zz part.


c [ts'] students, cats
Is quite difficult for native English speakers to pronounce. C- sounds somewhat like ts in cats is being overemphasized greatly. To exercise the pronunciation of c-, you can pratice saying first the ats part of cats, and then pronouncing just the ts part.

x [ɕ] shallow, sean
X-. At the initials j-, q- and x- it is not the position of the tip of your tongue that is crucial for good pronunciation. The blade of your tongue will push up against the roof of your mouth, and create the pressure making the sound particular for these 3 initial letters. At x- there should be a smooth stream of air through your mouth, at j- you will make a small air pressure in the gap between your tongue blade and your palate, before you let it loose creating a sound somewhat similar to an English j. At q- you basically just create a pinyin j-sound with bigger air pressure and let it go with a stronger puff of air. Also preferably make sure that your lips are pulled widely apart and tight, like if you were doing a forced smile. The standard pronunciation of the initial x- is written in pinyin as xi, and the pronunciation may remind of the shee in sheet. An exercise that can seem rather hard to perform, but will help you greatly to create a beautiful sound is: Place the tip of your tongue behind your lower front teeth, and do resist the temptation to move it away from there, while pronouncing the pinyin syllables ji, qi and xi one at a time. whenever the x-initial is followed by an i, then try at least in the beginning to overemphasize the i, that will help you to differentiate your pronunciation of x- and sh-.

q [tɕ] chance, cheese
Q-. At the initials j-, q- and x- it is not the position of the tip of your tongue that is crucial for good pronunciation. The blade of your tongue will push up against the roof of your mouth, and create the pressure making the sound particular for these 3 initial letters. At x- there should be a smooth stream of air through your mouth, at j- you will make a small air pressure in the gap between your tongue blade and your palate, before you let it loose creating a sound somewhat similar to an English j. At q- you basically just create a pinyin j-sound with bigger air pressure and let it go with a stronger puff of air. Also preferably make sure that your lips are pulled widely apart and tight, like if you were doing a forced smile. The standard pronunciation of the initial q- is written in pinyin as qi, and the pronunciation may remind of the chee in cheek. An exercise that can seem rather hard to perform, but will help you greatly to create a beautiful sound is: Place the tip of your tongue behind your lower front teeth, and do resist the temptation to move it away from there, while pronouncing the pinyin syllables ji, qi and xi one at a time. whenever the q-initial is followed by an i, then try at least in the beginning to overemphasize the i, that will help you to differentiate your pronunciation of q- and ch-.

Some of the popular words being mixed up:

Cao Tsao (instead of Cow)

Qin Chin (instead of Quin)

Why does pinyin sound different? No idea. Perhaps they didnt think this thing through when they invented it?

-. Unfortunately, there is no equal sound in English, so you will have to just listen carefully to the sounds. If you have trouble pronouncing this pinyin letter, then try to pronounce an -I, do not move your tongue at all, but pucker your lips so they will end up being protruding greatly, stiff and wrinkled. If this final is part of a syllable without any initial, then it will be rewritten yu. Important! Only the initials l- and n- can be combined both with finals starting with a usual u and with the . Whenever a u is preceded by a j-, q- or x- it will actually always be a . It is very important! When you encounter a u preceded by any of these three initials, you just have to know, that it is not pronounced like it would be if it were preceded by for instance zh- or sh-!


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Offline ElderBerryInk

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Re: Different pronounciations in Chinese/Pinyin
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2012, 08:06:05 AM »
Oooh this is a nice idea~
A couple of other sounds that I noticed people having difficulties with:

The Zh-sound: This is pronounced almost like a J, however, the main difference lies in how you the whole word that comes after the Zh or the J. When it's a Zh sound, the word "zhong" will be pronounced "jong". However, when you put a J at the start, the sound coming after will have a slight "i" sound coming after it (you might think you are imagining it even, since it is so light and actually not mentioned in the pinyin). For example, Jun is going to be pronounced sort of like Jyun (or Jiun, if you prefer), although the y/i sound is EXTREMELY SHORT AND LIGHT.

The Ch sound and Q sound operate in the exact same way, with Ch being the Zh counterpart and Q being the J counterpart. The Sh sound and X sound work the same way, with Sh being like Ch and Zh, and X being like J and Q.

One thing that will be a dead giveaway while hearing if the sound is a J, Q, or X is the letter that comes directly after. J, Q and X can only have the letters "u" or "i" come after them, so if you hear that the next letter is an "a" or "e" or "o", the the beginning of the word is Zh, Ch or Sh. (Yes, I know this is confusing  :()

Lastly (for this post anyway) I see a lot of people having a problem with the "Er" sound (usually comes at the end, therefore called a retroflex ending, if y'all want to get fancy). Think of you as a kid. Think of when you pretended to be a dog (Oh, that was only me? Well, pretend now, here's your legit chance~). Imitate the growl of the dog. Got that? Now make it short and tack it to the end (or use it as a word if need be). The best way I can describe your tongues' position is this. First, touch your whole tongue (well most of it) to the roof of your mouth and spread it. Now make a u-shaped tunnel with it, so that only the edged of your tongue touch the roof, and the middle of it is u-shaped. Now, aaallmmooossttt touch the tip of your tongue to the roof. Now try saying "er", et voila~ Did I mentioned this is called the curled tongue sound? Now you see why xP?

The easiest way to get a hang of this is by listening to people speaking, and then imitating them. Wuxia is actually brilliant for this because everything is dubbed to have a very proper, non-accented mandarin voice, so you'll be learning that, instead of an accented version, which would probably happen if you listened to real life people.