Sounds & Tones: Get The Foundation Right
The pronunciation of Chinese language is not necessary as difficult as you image if you can build the foundation in a down to earth manner. Before getting into the bush of words, sentences & conversations, make sure you can speak the initials and finals slowly, clearly and accurately
When I was a little kid, my grandma always told me "沒學走，先別跑 (méi xué zǒu, xiān bié pǎo)", means "Don't run before you can walk". This is truly a natural attitude to learn new things, and it's really something very important in my life.
Nowadays, there are two major phonetic systems to learn to speak Chinese - Hanyu Pinyin and Zhuyin. Here I'm going to take the Pinyin system to teach you the basic sounds as it uses western letters for representation, makes it easier for English speakers to recognize. I'm going to organize the initials and finals into different sounding groups according to the way how you make the sound.
Initials Groups (聲母 shēng mǔ) - categorized by the place of articulation
The initial determines whether your pronunciation is accurate or not. So it's very
important to master the initials. Please click the buttons to play the sounds.
These sounds are articulated with both lips
These sounds are articulated with the tip of the tongue
These sounds are articulated with the back part of the tongue against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth
Articulated with the blade of the tongue behind the alveolar ridge and the body of the tongue raised toward the palate
The tongue has a concave, or curled shape, articulated between the alveolar ridge and the hard palate.
Phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary
Finals (韻母 yùn mǔ) - the main part of any final is always the vowel.
Remember the initial determines whether your pronunciation is accurate or not.
And the final determines whether your pronunciation sounds elegant or not.
So when we practice finals, it needs to be a bit exaggerated, after you build up
the elegant sense, then you go back to normal. Pay attention to the difference.
Simple finals are the foundation of all finals, get the simple finals right is critical.
Simple Finals (normal)
There are 10 simple finals in hanyu pinyin, we learn these four for now, because the other four are much more complicated, we leave them for later. Each of these six is a single vowel, so it's not difficult, but they are pretty much the whole foundation of finals.
Simple Finals (exaggerated)
This is the exaggerated version of the six simple finals. Now please listen and compare with the above normal version, and practice it this way, see if you can get that elegant sense?
Because the compound finals are based on the simple finals, so I'm grouping them with the simple finals. This helps you to understand the compound finals better and get the pronunciation faster and more accurately.
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