I have had several requests from readers for a guide to help them pronounce Chinese characters in pinyin 拼 音. So, here it is. Because of the computer, I was able to insert the sound after each character to illustrate its pronunciation. Please wait a few moments for the page to load.

Part One: Pronunciation of Consonants which begin a Chinese word

1. b is pronounced abruptly. Such as

bà 爸 (father)
ben̄ 奔 (run)
bing ̌饼 (pancake)

2. c is pronounced like ts in bits. Such as

caǒ 草 (grass)
can ̄餐 (meal)
cù 醋 (vinegar)

3. ch is pronounced like ch in chop. Such as

chá 茶 (tea)
chanǵ 长 (long)
choù 臭 (stinky)

4. g is pronounced abruptly and `hard’ as in go. Such as

gē 哥 (older brother)
gen ̄根 (root)
guan ̄官 (official)

5. q is pronounced ch as in chin. Such as

qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)
qiań 钱 (money)
qiú 球 (ball)

6. x is pronounced sh as in ship or a hard she with the teeth clenched. Such as

xī 西 (west)
xiaǒ 小 (small)
xuě 血 (blood)

7. z is pronounced `hard’ as in beds. Such as

zang ̄脏 (dirty)
zaǒ 早 (morning)
zì 字 (word)

8. zh is pronounced j as in jug. Such as

zhaǹ 站 (stand)
zhǐ 纸 (paper)
zhuǎ 爪 (claw)

Part Two: Pronunciation of letters in the middle of a Chinese word

1. ai is pronounced as in aye. Such as

aì 爱 (love)
laí 来 (come)
waì 外 (outside)
maǐ 买 (buy)

2. an is pronounced two ways:

First way is
maň 满 (full)
or lań 蓝 (blue)

Second way is
yaǹ 燕 (the bird swallow).

3. ang is pronounced ahn as in

fang ̄方 (square)
manǵ 忙 (busy)
ranǧ 嚷 (shout)

4. ao is pronounced ow as in owl. Such as

laǒ 老 (old)
maó 毛 (fur)
qiaó 桥 (bridge).

5. e is pronounced as in her. Such as

cè 策 (strategy)
hé 盒 (box)
rě 惹 (provoke)

6. ei is pronounced as in eight. Such as

beì 背 (back)
leì 累 (tired)
meǐ 美 (beautiful)

7. en is pronounced as in open. Such as

ben̄ 奔 (run)
meń 门 (door)
reń 人 (person)

8. eng is pronounced as un. Such as

chenǵ 城 (city)
deng̀ 凳 (stool)
fenḡ 疯 (crazy)

9. i is pronounced in three ways:

The first sounds like the word me. Such as
lǐ 里 (mile),
mǐ 米 (uncooked rice)
qì 气 (gas, vapor, energy)

The second way is when i follows c, s, and z. These words sound harder like tzu. Such as
cì 刺 (thorn)
sī 丝 (silk)
zì 字 (word)

The third way is when i follows ch, r, sh and zh. These words have an er sound with the tongue curled against the roof of the mouth
chī 吃 (eat)
rì 日 (day)
shì 事 (business)
zhǐ 纸 (paper)

10. Words ending in a and ia are pronounced like the English words ah or lard. Such as

là 辣 (spicy)
fā 发 (expand)
mǎ 马 (horse)

Words ending in ia have a hint of the i sound. Such as
jiā 家 (family)
xià 夏 (summer)

11. Words ending in ian are pronounced similar to send or yen. Such as

bian ̄边 (side)
miaǹ 面 (face)
xiań 咸 (salty)

12. Words ending in iang are pronounced as in

lianǵ 凉 (cool)
jiang ̌奖 (prize),
xiang ̄香 (fragrant)

13. Words ending in iao are pronounced as in

biaǒ 表 (watch)
miaò 庙 (temple),
qiaó 桥 (bridge)
xiaǒ 小 (small)

14. Words ending in ie are pronounced as in

bié 别 (other)
jiè 借 (borrow)
xiě 写 (write)

15. Words ending in iong are pronounced as in

qionǵ 穷 (poor)
xionḡ 凶 (fierce)

16. Words ending in iu are pronounced as in

liú 留 (stay, keep)
jiǔ 酒 (wine)
qiū 秋 (autumn)

17. Words ending in o are pronounced as in more. Such as

bó 薄 (thin)
fó 佛 (Buddha)
mó 魔 (demon)
pò 破 (broken)

18. Words ending in ou are pronounced as in dough. Such as

choú 仇 (enemy)
doù 豆 (bean),
loù 漏 (leak)
moú 谋 (strategy, plot)

19. Words ending in ong are pronounced as oong. Such as

lonǵ 龙 (dragon)
zhonḡ 中 (middle, central)

20. Words ending in u are pronounced in two ways:

First way is to pronounce it like rule. Such as
bù 布 (cloth)
chū 出 (exit)
mù 目 (eyes)

Following the consonants j, q and x, u is pronounced like the French word tu. Such as
jú 橘 (orange)
qǔ 取 (take)
xū 需 (need)

21. Words ending in ua are pronounced like wa. Such as

shuā 刷 (brush, clean)
zhuǎ 爪 (claw)

22. Words ending in uai are pronounced like why. Such as

guaì 怪 (strange)
huaì 坏 (bad)
kuaì 快 (quick)
shuaī 摔 (fall)

23. Words ending in uan are pronounced like waan. Such as

chuan ̄穿 (wear)
duaǹ 断 (broken)
guan ̄官 (official)
luaǹ 乱 (chaos)

24. Words ending in uang are pronounced like waang. Such as

chuanḡ 窗 (window)
huanǵ 黄 (yellow)
zhuang ̄装 (install)

25. Words ending in ue are pronounced this way:

jué 决 (decide)
què 雀 (sparrow)
xué 学 (learn)

26. Words ending in ui are pronounced like may. Such as

chuī 吹 (blow)
shuǐ 水 (water)
zhuī 追 (run after)

27. Words ending in un are pronounced like

chun̄ 春 (spring)
dun̄ 敦 (urge)
xun̄ 薰 (smoke)

28. Words ending in uo are pronounced similar to war. Such as

duō 多 (numerous)
guó 国 (country)
luò 落 (falling)