Years ago, China was an isolated country that had little contact with the outside world. Today, this Asian giant now manufactures a variety of products that are sold virtually everywhere in the world. As the business community grows smaller in respect to communications, it is a good idea to learn as many languages as possible. To learn Chinese can be a challenging but greatly rewarding experience.
Becoming familiar with the Chinese alphabet is the first step to learning the language. Originally, the language had no alphabet, but the different symbols were easily understood by anyone who spoke one of the many Chinese dialects. In the 1950s, Pinyin was developed, a Latin based alphabet for the language, which is used by the Chinese government today.
There are, however, a few rules to remember when you begin to learn Chinese. Most importantly, there is no letter “v” in the Chinese alphabet. The translation given below is used only when the word is being translated to or from other languages. Consonants can also be read individually, although in certain cases, you read the consonant sound plus the “schwa” sound, like the French “e” without an accent mark.
Vowels and diphthongs can stand alone in the Chinese alphabet without consonants. Also, capital letters are shown as lower case and vice versa.
Below is what the Chinese Pinyin alphabet looks like along with the pronunciation of each letter.
A ei (pronounced like the “a” in “car”)
B bi (pronounced as an unaspirated “p”)
C xi (pronounced as a aspirated sharp “dz”)
D dí (pronounced as an unaspirated “t”)
E yi (pronounced as in the French “schwa”)
F ài fú (pronounced as in the “f” in “father”)
G jí (pronounced as an unaspriated “k”)
H ài chi (pronounced as in the “h’ of “house”)
I ài (pronounced as in “eye”)
J jié (pronounced as an unaspirated “ts” as in the “tu” in “picture”)
K kai (pronounced as an aspirated “k”)
L ài lè (pronounced as in the “l” or “lorry”)
M ài ma (pronounced as in the “m” of “mother”)
N ài nà (pronounced as in the “n” of “nook”)
O ó (pronounced as in the “o” in “long”)
P pì (pronounced as an aspirated “p”)
Q jí wú (pronounced as an aspirated “ts”)
R ài ér (pronounced as the Spanish “r”)
S ài si (pronounced as a hard “s”, between an “s” and a “z”)
T tí (pronounced as an aspirated “t”)
U yi wú (pronounced as in the French “u”)
V wéi (pronounced with a “w’ as there is no “v” in the Chinese alphabet)
W dòu bèi er wéi (pronounced as the “oo” in “boo”)
X yi kè si (pronounced as the “s” in “silk”)
Y wú ài (pronounced as the French “u”)
Z zéi dé (pronounced an unaspirated sharp “dz”)
Other sounds that you will need to know as you learn Chinese include:
ai (pronounced as “eye”)
ei (pronounced “ay” as in “hay”)
ao (pronounced as “ou” in “couch”)
ou (pronounced as “oa” in “coach”)
an (pronounced as the “a” in “car” and “n”)
en (pronounced as “schwa” and “n”)
ang (pronounced as the “a” in “car” and “ng”)
eng (pronounced as the “schwa” and “ng”)
er (pronounced “schwa” and “r”)
yi (pronounced “ee” as in “eel”)
zh (pronounced as an unaspirated “ch”)
ch (pronounced as an aspirated “ch”)
sh (pronounced as “sh” in “shower”)
This is just a glimpse of the Chinese alphabet and the many sounds that are associated with it. To learn more about the Chinese language and style of writing, the Internet has many Web sites designed specifically to help people who would like to learn Chinese.