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How to teach Hanyu Pinyin

Do you freak out when hanyu pinyin comes to your mind?
Even more, freak out when the thought of teaching your little one?

What exactly is hanyu pinyin and why do we learn it?

In the “English” world, we have phonics and in order to learn to read and spell, we will follow the phonics instruction where it teaches the connection between word sounds and written letters. Furthermore, phonics instruction teaches spelling patterns as well.

In the “Chinese” world, we have pinyin which means “phonetic notation” or “phonetic symbols” where pin means to spell and yin means to sound it out. Simply said, hanyu means the Chinese Language and pinyin is how we pronounce the Chinese words.

Phonics are being introduced mainly during preschooler years and teaching your preschoolers’ pinyin at this age may cause confusion to some children because pinyin is not English and should not pronounce according to English conventions. Hence, parents or school teachers generally teach this at the later stage.

Why do we need to learn pinyin?
If you want to speak Chinese fluently, that’s where we need to learn pinyin. Pinyin is based mainly on the sounds of Mandarin Chinese, not for dialects. Furthermore, if you require to input a Chinese character or word on a device, pinyin is the way easy way to go.

How do we go about learning pinyin?
Mr. Google has tons of great pinyin guides and tools. Following are the 3 main steps to learning pinyin.

1. Initials

The first thing we look at is the pinyin initials. The initial is the initial consonant of the syllable. Do note that the letters “y” and “w” are not included in the table of initials in the official pinyin system.

Some syllables in Mandarin are considered as “zero” or “null” initial.

For example, if a word begins with u, such as ‘ua’, it will be replaced with ‘w’ and written as ‘wa’ but the pronunciation is the same. But in my chart, I will include ‘w’ and ‘y’ in it.

2. Final
The final is where it consists of all the vowels and consonants after the initial without the tone. For example, the final “ai” in the syllable “bai”.

3. Tone
The tone, which is the pitch pattern, is associated with each syllable in Mandarin. There are 4 tones in total and each changing tone will change the meaning of the syllable.

– 1sttone: bā = 八(eight)

– 2ndtone: bá = 拔(to pull out)

– 3rdtone: bǎ = 把(bundle or grasp)

– 4thtone: bà = 霸(tyrant)


Alright, there are more to learn with pinyin. For now, let’s digest what was being taught here. Do stay tuned for the next part of this pinyin lesson. 😉

Do you have tips and tricks to share in regards on how to get started with hanyu pinyin? If yes, do feel free to share in the comment box below.

Do you feel this article is useful? Do comment below, I would love your view on this.


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