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Survival Chinese Language Lessons- Speak Chinese Now! features basic survival Chinese lessons as online podcasts and mp3 downloads. With a simple listen and speak communicative language approach you will learn and become confident with using simple basic survival Chinese. However, a basic knowledge of Chinese Pinyin is required to help you speak Chinese without using the complicated hanyu characters. So what is Pinyin? Pinyin is the romanization of the chinese characters into phonetic symbols. It was adopted in 1958 to help foreigners learn Chinese pronunciation using a romanized phonetic approach.

This lesson was brought to you by Kah Joon Liow - Read about him here

The Four Tones

Chinese pronunciation is made up of four tones, each indicated by a tone mark. The tone marks are placed over the vowels. (for example, if the letter “i” has a tone mark over it, the dot is removed.”

First Tone: a high, level tone represented by “-“ as in mā 妈 “mother”

Second Tone: a rising, questioning tone represented by “/” as in má 麻 “to have pins and needles”

Third Tone: a drawling tone falling then rising represented by “v” as in mǎ 马 “horse”

Fourth Tone: a sharp falling tone represented by “” as in mà 骂 “to scold”

It is important to get the tones right so as to avoid misunderstanding. For example buy and sell are differentiated by the 3 and 4th tones respectively - mai3 and mai4

This site has done some work on this:

Consonants in Chinese

1. Consonants

There are 24 consonants in pinyin which are pronounced a lot like in English.

b, p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, ng, h, j, q, x, zh, ch, sh, r, z, c, s, y, w

Chinese pronunciation of Consonants

b as in boy

p as in pine

m as in mother

f as in food

d as in dig

t as in talk

n as in none

l as in loud

g as in good

k as in kid

ng as in song

h as in hot

j as in jeep

q like “ch” in cheat

x like a sound between the “s” in see and the “sh” in she

zh like “dg” in sludge

ch as in children

sh as in shake

r as in raw

z like “ds” in words

c like “ts” in eats

s as in son

y as in Yao Ming

w as in we

2. Vowels

There are 6 simple vowels.

a, o, e, i, u, ü

Chinese pronunciation of Vowels

a as in mama

o as in drop

e as in earn

I as in sit

U as in look

ü like the u in the French rue

3. Vowel Combinations

In Chinese pronunciation, basic vowels can form vowel combinations with each other or with a nasal consonant.

Chinese pronunciation of Vowel Combinations

- ai like eye

- an sounds like “ah” with an emphatic “n” at the end (NOT like “an” in can)

- ang sounds like “ah” with a soft “ng” (NOT like “ang” in hang)

- ao is like “ao” in Tao

- ei is like “ay” in bay

- en is like “u” in sun

- eng is like “ung” in sung

- er like “ur” in purse

- ia is like ya

- iang is like young

- ie is like yeah

- iu is like the “ou” in you

- ian like yen

- iao is like “eow” in meow

- in as in “in” in gin

- ing as in “ing” in sing

- iong is like pinyin “yong”

- ong is like “ong” in kong

- ou is like “ow” in low

- ua is like “ua” in guava

- uan like one

- uang like “oo” + ang

- ui is like way

- un is like “wou” in would and ending in “n” sound (woon)

- uo sounds like “wo” as in wall

- uai is like why

- ua is like “wa”

- üan like yuan and written without two dots

- üe is like “yue” (“we” in “wet”)

Now, I know you’re going to ask...

Get the rules and tips of using pinyin at



Chinese Lesson Podcasts


Try this Sample Lesson- Click Play

Basic Beginner Chinese Lessons- First words in Chinese

  1. Greeting & Meeting People in Mandarin Chinese & Jobs vocabulary
  2. Where are you from? & Names of Countries vocabulary
  3. Expressing Thanks and Apologies in Chinese
  4. Numbers-count in Chinese - Easy- Number Vocabulary Lesson & how to build more words using numbers as prefixes and suffixes.
  5. Talking about family and jobs & Occupation in Chinese


Elementary & Survival Chinese Lessons

  1. Eating out - At the restaurant : In this this podcast lesson you will learn the following:
  2. At the hotel : This lesson contains the following parts:
  3. Shopping for clothes- Learn how to go shopping for clothes in this podcast
  4. Making phone calls in Chinese: Learn telephone Chinese
  5. Post office Chinese lesson podcast: Learn how to send and receive things at the post office
  6. Seeing a doctor : Learn how to talk about your health problems to a doctor
  7. Going Places: Learn words related to traveling
  8. Going to the bank : You will learn the following:

By breaking down the lessons into useful phrases, vocabulary and sentence structure analysis, experience has proven that most foreigners will learn enough to communicate with while in China. We have picked the most relevant topics ( the things a traveler always needs)

Chinese Dictionary



For English Learners & Teachers

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