Monosyllabic morphemes compose the Chinese language. Some syllables are only Chinese characters, and other syllables are composed of Chinese initial + final + tone, for example, the initial in the pinyin of qiang is “q”, the final is “iang”, and the tone is “―” above the vowel. Mandarin has 22 initials of which 21 consonant uses 3 consonants that are combinations of two letter, “zh”, “ch” and “sh”, and 19 single English letters, and the last one is zero initial. Some of these consonants sound similar to English, but others aren't.

Mandarin Chinese considers to these initials characters as the basic building blocks, so if you want to learn Mandarin, you cannot put it aside. To understand and learn better Chinese, you can use a Roman alphabet that is known as Pinyin. Pinyin is a system that transcribes Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet, uses to enter Chinese characters into pc, spell chines names and surnames in some publications and helps you to learn better.

Mandarin is a language that requires much practice and precision in pronunciation, and it is important to practice a lot these sounds, because if you learn some words of this language without have a good pronunciation, you probably will get a bad habit in the pronunciation, and it will sound really bad. On the other hand, it is difficult to get rid of a bad habit, so it is advisable you get the highest level of pronunciation, before you start to learn some words.

If you are thinking that practice these sounds will be very laborious, you are in a wrong due to there are few phonetics in this language. Many people view the initials as letters to make them easier to learn. These initial are quite difficult to say without a final. The following list has the 21 initials:

  • b, p, m, f, g, k, h, d, t, n, l: The letters from “b” to “l” are not difficult to say, if you speak English, because the sound of them are the same in both English and Chinese.

  • j: The letter “j” is really similar to “j” in English such as in the word “jeep”.

  • q, x: The letters “q” and “x” are quite difficult to pronounce, and they aren't found an exact equivalent in English. Both letters sound as “ch” and “sh” respectively, for example “cheep” and “she”.

  • z, c, s: The letter “z” sounds as “dz” or “ds” such as in “birds”. The letter “c” sounds as “ts” such as in the word “bits”, but you should not pronounce the “t” very strong. Finally, the letter “s” sounds as the English “s”.

  • r, zh, ch, sh: The letter “r” sounds as the English “r”, the letters “zh” and “ch” sound as “j” and “ch” such as in the words “jug” and “churn” respectively, but it isn't the same, you must be very subtle with this letter. Finally, the letter “sh” sounds as English “sh” in the word “shirt”.
After learning all these sounds, the rest is really easy.

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