English, Pinyin or Chinese Characters

If you read my former posts: Basic Rules for Reading Chinese Characters, you might get some ideas about how to guess the meaning of one character by reading its radical.

In this post, I will talk about which way is good to read out the Chinese character.

If you are a very beginner, when you start to learn Chinese characters, you might feel so frustrated and just want to get some help from your native language —— English and feel happy when you do so.

You are not alone. We all do the same thing all the time.

When I started to learn English, I used that method too. I remember, when I tried to read English phrases: How are you? I used Chinese characters like: 好 (hao3) 阿 (a1) 有 (you3). Hey, it seems work.

I also found a seem popular Mandarin-Chinese learning book  on amazon. The author told his readers, if the English speaker wishes to say “你好吗” (ni3 hao3 ma), he could just speak this phrase in English words: knee how ma.

I guess many Mandarin-Chinese learners love this idea, that is why that book received a lot of good reviews.

However, this method is not a good way to read Chinese characters. Actually, this seem smart idea will hurt your pronunciation somehow, thus you will have slim chance to sound like a native speaker.

Of course, if you don’t mind your pronunciation, it is OK, but your speaking will sound very funny to us native speakers.

If I could start over to learn English, I wish I won’t put Chinese characters to imitate the pronunciation of English words. I will read along with the tape.

Unfortunately, we even had no chance to listen to a tape by that time as a student at a village school.

How about Pinyin? Some of you might ask. Yes, Pinyin is a much better idea to help read Chinese characters.

Actually, the creation of Pinyin is the result to help foreign Mandarin-Chinese learners.

With the help of Pinyin, a foreign Mandarin-Chinese learner could read Chinese characters in an easy way.

For more information about Pinyin, please check out Pin Pin Chinese Pinyin Chart.

However, even with Pinyin, you still need make some efforts to make sure your pronunciation is right.

For example, some learners have difficulty with “q”. In Pinyin, if you wish to pronounce “q”, you could say “shhhh” first, then grin to push the sound “qi” quickly and shortly, the “qi” is the sound you need.

Since Pinyin is not hard to master for many learners, so many Mandarin-Chines learners are happy with Pinyin all the time.

Every time, when they wish to read Chinese characters, they always expect Pinyin has to be there, if not, they will feel disappointed if not frustrated.

However, Pinyin is just a tool to help you pronounce Chinese characters. You could use Pinyin to help you when you just start, but reading in Pinyin is not your final goal.

You have to read Chinese characters instead of Pinyin. If you go to Chinese speaking countries and areas, you won’t see Pinyin everywhere. You see Chinese characters here or there.

In my opinion, the best way to read out Chinese characters is reading characters directly.

Some of you might say: How come? I even don’t know how to read characters.

Don’t worry. There are two ways. One is, first, you read the character with the help of Pinyin, once you know the pronunciation, next time, just read characters without Pinyin.

Another way is, you could buy an audio book with a book or MP3 files along with the text or watch videos with text on screen.

By imitating the pronunciation, you focus on each character. Once you could read most popular characters, go to learn some basic knowledge about Pinyin to help you type on screen.

If you are a parent to help your child learn Mandarin-Chinese, I suggest to put off the Pinyin learning until the child is seven or eight years old when he is in second or third grade, so he won’t feel confused with English letters.

I hope this post is helpful for your Mandarin-Chinese learning. Learning a new language is an exciting but challenging experience. Actually, it is also very rewarding.

Don’t give it up easily and also enjoy it. Once you get it done, you will know you could get everything done if you wish.


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