Pinyin will be the first lesson for many beginners who just started learning Mandarin. Pinyin can teach you how to pronounce each Chinese word even if you don’t know it and make your accent sound authentic like a native speaker! Here is a brief introduction to pinyin and a useful guide to guide you how to learn pinyin step by step.
What is Pinyin?
Once you learn pinyin, you can type and chat with your friend on WeChat or other Chinese social apps! Pinyin is a practical tool for whom want to learn Mandarin. Pinyin is set as the first course for Chinese students in elementary schools in Chinese classes. This system can be traced back to the 1950s, developed by Youguang Zhou and other experts of linguistics. They came up with a simple system that aimed to help people to learn Mandarin faster.
Why Pinyin is important?
Chinese is different from English because it is a hieroglyphic language, meaning you cannot directly read the words. It needs another system to guide you how to read the words. Not only it is easy to understand by students, but it is a practical tool in daily communication since most people were using pinyin IME(Input Method Editor) these days.
How Pinyin Helps Study Chinese
Try to imagine that you are a non-native speaker. You have never ever seen those characters before. How can you pronounce these words by using the pronunciation system of your first language? Pinyin can assist teachers to teach students how to read a new word that they have never seen before. It is like a rule between every learner and teacher. When everyone follows this rule, teaching will be easier. Pinyin is friendly to English speakers because pinyin is using English alphabet. If your first language is English, Congratulations! Pinyin has been proven to be the most efficient, practical, and useful teaching method of Chinese for decades.
The Steps of Learning Pinyin
Know and differentiate each pinyin character and its pronunciation.
This is the first and most important rule. Even though pinyin also consists of English alphabet, the pronunciation is a little bit different. So, do not use English pronunciation to understand pinyin. They are different. Furthermore, you have to know more than one sound of a pinyin character, including tones and intonation.
Put them together and try to read out
While you have already known every pinyin character and its intonation, your next step will be spelling a single word. You can try to use pinyin to represent those simple words that you have learned. Like “ni hao(hello).”
Practice by using pinyin IME
Pinyin IME is a useful practicing tool. You can download any kind of IME online and type in a Microsoft Word document. Besides single word, you can try to type a short sentence that you just learned. Like “Wo zai xue Zhong Wen(I am learning Chinese).”
The Ways to Learn Pinyin
Take a course
This is the most direct way. Go choose a program in your school or find a nice tutor! Most of them will teach you pinyin in the first and second weeks. If you would rather take a virtual class, there also have many good online classes.
Learn pinyin on mobile apps
There are many free apps in the app store on your devices. This option allows you to learn pinyin whenever and wherever you want even you are on the metro or bus! It is also easy to review your lessons by checking your phone.
Turn to your friends
You can also learn pinyin with your Chinese friends. Most of them learned and mastered pinyin. If you have Chinese friends, this is also an option that you can consider! However, this method is more suitable for those learners who have already got in touch with pinyin or learned Chinese for a while.
In short, pinyin is important in learning Mandarin. Maybe pinyin is a little hard to understand and master at the first time you get in touch with, but I believe you can overcome these challenges if you work hard! Practice makes perfect!