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Pronunciation of Initials

PinyinIPAExplanationExamples
b[p]unaspirated p, as in spit宝贝 baǒbeì, baby; treasure
p[pʰ]as in English炮弹 pàodàn, bomb
m[m]as in English马车 mǎ chē, cart
f[f]as in English发财 fācaí, make fortune
d[t]unaspirated t, as in stand伟大 wěidà, great
t[tʰ]as in English太平 taìpíng, peaceful
n[n]as in English男人 nánren, man
l[l]as in English老人 lǎorén, old people
g[k]unaspirated k, as in skill格式 géshì, format
k[kʰ]as in English客人 kèren, guest
h[x]like the English h if followed by “a”; otherwise it is pronounced more roughly (not unlike the Scots ch)喝水 hēshuǐ, drinking water
j[tɕ]like q, but unaspirated. (To get this sound, first take the sound halfway between joke and check, and then slowly pass it backwards along the tongue until it is entirely clear of the tongue tip.) While this exact sound is not used in English, the closest match is the j in ajar, not the s in Asia; this means that “Beijing” is pronounced like “bay-jing”, not like “beige-ing”.教堂 jiàotáng, Eglise, church;
家 jiā, home or family
q[tɕʰ]like church; pass it backwards along the tongue until it is free of the tongue tip生气 shēngqì, angry
x[ɕ]like sh, but take the sound and pass it backwards along the tongue until it is clear of the tongue tip; very similar to the final sound in German ich, Portuguese enxada, luxo, xícara, puxa, and to huge or Hugh in some English dialects小孩 xiǎohaí, child
zh[tʂ]ch with no aspiration (take the sound halfway between joke and church and curl it upwards); very similar to merger in American English, but not voiced着火 zháohǔo, on fire
ch[tʂʰ]as in chin, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to nurture in American English, but strongly aspirated吃饭 chīfàn, eat dinner;
吵架 chǎojià, dispute
sh[ʂ]as in shinbone, but with the tongue curled upwards; very similar to undershirt in American English沙漠 shāmò, desert
r[ɻ]similar to the English r in rank, but with the lips spread and with the tongue curled upwards日 r(ì),sun; 热情 rèqíng, passion
z[ts]unaspirated c (halfway between beds and bets), (more common example is suds)妻子 qīzi, wife;
章子怡 Zhāng Zǐyí, Name of a Chinese actress.
c[tsʰ]like ts, aspirated (more common example is cats)小草 xǐaocǎo, grass;
次 cì, one time
s[s]as in sun拉萨 Lāsà, Lhasa, capital of Tibet Autonomous Region;
苏州 sūzhoū, capital of the province of Jiansu, near Shanghai
y[j]as in English月亮 yuèliang, moon
w[w]as in English外国人 wàiguórén, foreigner

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