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An Introduction to Mandarin Chinese Pronunciation

Before we get to the building blocks of pronunciation, here are a few words of advice:

To learn proper Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, you should plan to start with a great deal of listening practice, and then receive coaching from someone who already speaks Chinese to help you work out whichever sounds give you, individually, the most trouble.

That is, you may master many sounds the first or second time you hear them, but some are bound to give you trouble for hours, days, weeks....

Even sound files or tapes can't teach you to make the sounds that challenge you most, perhaps how to twist your tongue and cheeks to differentiate between xi and shi, or between chu and qu.

No, you'll need a coach.

And here's a hint: Look for a coach who can explain in clear terms and show you what you need to do with your speech organs to make each sound properly, such as where your tongue should go, and whether your lips should be tight or relaxed. If a person cannot do that, that person cannot teach pronunciation effectively.

If you're not able to find a competent "human" tutor, the next best thing is a program that analyzes your pronunciation, comparing it to the sounds of standard Mandarin pronuniciation, and provides feedback to help you refine it. The best tool on the market for this is Rosetta Stone (now with a 6-month money back guarantee).

Now, on with the show.

To get you ready for the rewarding work of learning to speak Chinese, let's look at these pronunciation topics:

You might also find these Pronunciation Reference Tables useful in your studies:

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