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Spelling/Pronounciation Guide

In this document, many Chinese words are shown. In each case, a pronounciation guide is placed in parentheses following the first usage of each word. For example:

Mahjong (májiang)

The word is first written in Chinese characters, then spelled out the "Pinyin" Ramanization method (i.e., spelled out using our Roman alphabet).

The sounds represented by Pinyin letters do not exactly match the way one would pronouce those letters in English. The following is a basic guide to Pinyin:
PinyinEnglish-equivalent SoundExample
bb (as in "boy")bai
pp (as in "paper")pai
mm (as in "mother")ma
ff (as in "father")fa
dd (as in "dog")dai
tt (as in "toy")tai
nn (as in "nice")nao
ll (as in "land")le
z(i)dz (try starting the sound as a "d" but end like a "z"... this one takes a little practice.)zai
c(i)tsz (as above, but start with a "t" sound and end in "z")cai
ss (as in "sand")san
zhhard "j" (as in "jam")zhong
zhipronounced "jur" (as in "jury")zhi
chhard "ch" (as in "chair")chao
chipronounced "chur" (as in "churn")chi
shhard "sh" (as in "shelf")sheng
shipronounced same as "sure"shi
rr (same as English, but with a very slight roll)ren
ripronounced "rrr"ri
jisoft "ji" (as in "jingle")jing
qisoft "chee" (as in "cheap")qing
xisoft "shee" (as in "sheep", but with a very soft "h", almost a "syee" sound)xiao
ghard "g" (as in "game")guo
khard "k" (as in "kick")kang
hh (as in "house")hei
ashort a (as in "ha" or "father")ma
eshort e (as the u "uh")de
aias "eye"pai
eias the "ay" in "hay"hei
aoas the "ou" in "ouch"dao
oulong o (as in "open")zhou
anas "on"ban
enas "un" in "undecided"ben
angas "ong" in "ping pong"pang
engas "ung" in "rung"peng (Although "peng" is pronounced "pong" (long o) in Mahjong. Go figure.)
ongas above but with a long "o"pong
eras "are"er
ilong e (as in "easy")yi (which is "ee", not "yee")
iaas the "ya" in "yard"xia
ieas in the last part of "yeah"xie
iaoas in "yeeee-ow!"miao
iuas in "yo" of "yo-yo"liu (like "Leo")
ian/yanas in "yen"yan
inas "een" in "keen"yin
iang/yang"ee"+"ong" as in "ping pong"yang
ing"ing" (as in "king")jing
iong/yong"ong" with a long "o"yong
u"oo" (as "woo")wu
ua/wa"wah" (as in "want")hua
uai/waias in "why"huai
uias in "way"hui
uan/wanas "wan" in "wander"guan
uang/wangas in "wong" (long "o")huang
ü(hard to explain... shape your lips like you're going to say "ee" but instead make a long "u" or "o" sound)yü
üe"ü" + "eh"yüe
üan"ü" + "en" (like "yen" but with funny ü sound)xüan


Chinese is a tonal language. The correct pronunciation of a syllable depends on the inflection you use when speaking it as well as the actual sounds spoken. The five tones in Mandarin Chinese are written with diacritical marks (not all of which show up in HTML, sorry) over the first vowel (a, e, i, o, r, u, y or z) in each syllable:
ToneMarkInflection used
1bar over vowelsteady high pitch
2rising mark (má)pitch rises from low to high
3curve down over voweldrop to low pitch, slight rise at end
4falling mark (mà)sharp fall from high to low pitch
5dot over vowel or no mark at allno inflection (normal voice)


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