Learning to speak Chinese is difficult.

Learning to pronounce names, places, and simple phrases well is perhaps easier than you think (and also more useful).

At The China Learning Curve, we are dedicated to helping companies and professionals succeed in China. That includes providing support with everyday challenges like communication, of which language is obviously an important part.

Our first aim is to teach beginners how to pronounce simple Chinese (names, places, and simple phrases) correctly. Beyond that we will provide occasional advice and guidance to those pursuing more serious language study. More generally we will provide communication advice that extends beyond language and addresses issues like how culture impacts communication. Check out the posts and downloadable material on this page to obtain our materials on language and communication.

Pinyin and the Degree of Difficulty

This table describes the degree of difficulty for pronouncing the basic sounds in Chinese, as represented by the Pinyin system. As you can see, the vast majority of sounds are relatively easy for an English speaker to pronounce. The challenge is knowing what the actual pronunciation is based on the Pinyin spelling. Once we teach you the Pinyin system, your basic pronunciation will be good enough to make a good impression on your Chinese colleagues.

Pinyin Letters Degree of Difficulty
b,p,m,f,d,t,n,l,g,h,k,s, j, w, y, Easy to say, say it like it’s spelled
a, e, i, o, ou, ei, ai, ao, x, q, z, c, Easy to say, but pronunciation doesn’t match the spelling
r, ch, sh, ng, u Pronounced not exactly as in English, but can be approximated with English. Pronounced like spelled.
zh Pronounced not exactly as in English, but can be approximated with English. Pronunciation doesn’t match the spelling.
ü Sound not found in English, not like anything in English.

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