Chinese Pronunciation

Introduction

The purpose of this section is to clarify some important issues regarding the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese. I have noticed over the years that some sources are publishing incorrect information about Mandarin pronunciation. It is my intent to identify a few of the misconceptions and to make the reality of the pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese crystal clear, both in linguistic terms and in everyday language.

Please note that the criticisms I make are based on linguistic science. I have earned a master’s in applied linguistics here in China, and the facts which I present here are not in dispute among linguists, there are simply not widely understood by many students of Chinese. (If you would like to learn more about the phonetics of Mandarin Chinese, the Wikipedia page on pinyin is a good place to start.)

I have a unique history with regards to my linguistic development (in English), but I have also successfully learned to produce all of these sounds myself as an adult. For these reasons I feel that I know what I’m talking about from a practical standpoint (the learner’s view) as well as from a technical standpoint (the linguist’s view).

In short, a lot of the websites out there which offer instructions on the pronunciation of Mandarin are wrong. This section aims to help rectify that situation.

The different pages of this feature can be navigated via the links at the bottom of each page. They are:

  • Intro – this page
  • Background – some important things to know about Mandarin in general and pinyin specifically
  • Misconceptions – an overview of “bad information” I found on the web, and the reasons why I created these pages on pronunciation
  • Phonetics – some of Mandarin’s unique pronunciation features, described simply, in linguists’ terms
  • How To – a guide to Mandarin’s difficult consonant sounds for the beginner
  • My Story – my unique set of circumstances which led to an above average awareness of phonetics from an early age

NOTE: John’s more recent efforts at pronunciation practice are available on the AllSet Learning Store. Check it out!


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