If you are a beginner in Chinese (standard Mandarin), Hanyu Pinyin is usually your first lesson. Hanyu Pinyin is a set of phonetic symbols written in Latin letters. Basically the Chinese characters we use everyday do not tell us exactly how to pronounce the word. Therefore we need a phonetic system for the pronunciation. That’s why we need Hanyu Pinyin. So how should we learn the Hanyu Pinyin?
Firstly, you don’t have to worry about your pronunciation too much. In the lesson of Hanyu Pinyin, you don’t have to remember how many consonants and vowels are used in Chinese. Your task is to understand how different the Chinese pronunciation can be. If you can tell the difference between the pronunciation of Chinese and your language, then you complete your first task of the lesson.
Furthermore, you should learn Chinese with your ears, not your eyes. As we have mentioned before, Hanyu Pinyin is written in Latin letters. However there are other languages that use the same letters. The same letter can stand for a variety of pronunciations in different languages. So you will probably mispronounce these letters if you just look rather than listen to them.
Although there are some special pronunciations in Chinese, they are not hard to learn. In my opinion, they are not as difficult as the “rolling R sound” in Spanish. No doubt you will pronounce Chinese well with the help of an experienced teacher.
Finally we are going to talk about the tones in Chinese. Chinese is a tonal language. Different tones can bring different meanings even if the pronunciation is the same. If you have trouble learning the tones, here is my advice. You should stop speaking the tones, but singing them instead.
You don’t have to learn any music theory before singing, right? It’s the same for speaking Chinese. You don’t have to learn any phonetic theory about the tones before you speak Chinese. When you speak Chinese, it is just like singing. All you have to do is to sing the same melody with your teacher. Remember that we are learning Chinese with our ears.
Chinese might be hard to learn. However it can be easy if you know the tricks. I hope these tips will help you, especially for your first lesson of Hanyu Pinyin.