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Categories: Tattoo Picture | Author: admin 17.03.2014

I have taught a brief introduction course in Chinese at my university now for five years running and every time, I try to give the students as much guidance as I can within the allotted time. Mandarin consists of around 1000 common syllables (including tone), which is a very small number compared to English. One of the most well-read articles on this website is my discussion of some of the more common problems students encounter when learning Pinyin (see A guide to Pinyin traps and pitfalls). The solution to the above problem is to ignore the details of the spelling of each letter and look at the initials and finals as whole, unbreakable units. That being said, I think it’s useful to learn more than one transcription system, but if you have already learnt basic pronunciation, I think you would benefit more from learning all initials and finals in IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) instead of either Zhuyin or Pinyin. Great Post, I have recently enough started learning but I sat down for a few minutes every night over the last month and spoke aloud the chart or most common sounds ( I think you get it in New Practical Chinese reader. IPA is the only way to go if you want to talk pronunciation, but as you say, it’s not as accessible and difficult to both type and display.
It really helps to clarify that Pinyin was based on Russian Cyrllic… much confusion clear up, especially the assignment of the X and Z in a phonetic range. Initials and Finals can be a helpful approach; but with BPMF, their are elements that seem to be medials.
Since the course contains everything from basic character writing and vocabulary to pronunciation and conversation practice, I really need to think about what I should say and what I shouldn’t.

In theory, you could learn those syllables one by one and make sure your pronunciation is correct for each one.
There are only slightly more than 20 and slightly less than 40 initials and finals respectively, so that makes a total of 60, which is definitely doable. The spelling will of course be used as a reminder of the pronunciation, but you should study the pronunciation of each initial and final individually.
If it takes you ten second to calculate how something should be pronounced, you’re not doing it right. This system uses unique symbols for initials and finals (and medials, but that goes beyond the scope of this article). Unlike the others, this is a real phonetic alphabet that represents sounds in writing much more accurately than any of the other systems mentioned here. I’m no expert, but my conclusion was that, while it feels good to try a different transcription system to wean myself from bad Pinyin pronunciation habits, Zhuyin feels no better than Pinyin, just differently wrong.
But Unicode support has improved so I may finally be ready to learn at least the subset of IPA that applies to Mandarin. One of the things I receive the most questions about and that has sailed up my priority list is pronunciation and Pinyin.
When it comes to initials and finals, a Chines syllable can traditionally be divided into initial, final and tone.

My usual reply nowadays is that the students should focus on the initials and finals, not the Pinyn spelling. If you remove the tones, there are still some 400 syllables that you need to learn, which isn’t impossible, but still a lot. Some students go further than this and try to understand what sound each letter in Pinyin actually represents. I can of course give the answers to these questions, they are not hard, but it takes a lot of time and I think there is a better way that leads to less confusion and better pronunciation. This is not a good idea, you shouldn’t spend your first week of learning Chinese trying to map letters to various sounds in Pinyin, there is a better way. If you’re not sure which finals hide behind these, check the original Pinyin traps and pitfalls article. These irregularities are very hard to overcome and it’s simply something you have to learn.

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