Languages › Mandarin An Insider's Guide to Mandarin Chinese Pronunciation Learn How to Pronounce Chinese Syllables With This Sound Chart Share Flipboard Email Print Ratnakorn Piyasirisorost/Getty Images Mandarin Pronunciation Mandarin History and Culture Vocabulary Understanding Chinese Characters By Qiu Gui Su Chinese Language Expert Qiu Gui Su is a native Mandarin speaker who has taught Mandarin Chinese for over 20 years. our editorial process Qiu Gui Su Updated May 24, 2019 One of the first steps in learning Mandarin Chinese is becoming accustomed to the language's pronunciation. Learning how to pronounce Mandarin Chinese helps with speaking and listening skills as it is a tonal language. What Makes a Syllable? The Mandarin language has 21 consonants and 16 vowels. They can be combined together to create more than 400 mono-syllabic sounds. There are also four tones that change the meaning of the syllable, so in theory, there are about 1600 possible syllables. Only around 1000 of these are commonly used, however, which means that Mandarin words actually are more similar than words in English. Similar to English, you should learn to hear the tone differences and work on learning how to pronounce Chinese sounds. Sound Chart Here is a chart of the 37 sounds of Mandarin with a sound clip of each. Practice these as much as you can—they will provide the foundation learning how to pronounce Mandarin. The sounds are given in Pinyin, but please be aware that each letter does not represent just one sound. Just like how in English, the vowel "a" is pronounced differently in different cases. For example, compare the more nasally-sounding "ant" to the elongated "a" in "at". There are also many tricky cases you need to learn in Chinese! Pinyin Explanation Sound Clip b similar to 'b' in the English 'boat' - softened to approach a 'p' sound audio p similar to 'p' in the English 'top' - with more aspiration audio m same as 'm' in the English 'mat' audio f same as 'f' in the English 'fat' audio d similar to 'd' in the English 'down' - softened to approach a 't' sound audio t similar to 't' in the English 'top' - with more aspiration audio n similar to 'n' in the English 'name' audio l similar to 'l' in the English 'look' audio g similar to 'g' in the English 'go' - softened to approach a 'k' sound audio k similar to 'k' in the English 'kiss' - with more aspiration audio h similar to 'h' in the English 'hope' - with a slight rasp as in 'loch' audio j similar to 'j' in the English 'jeep' - tongue is positioned below lower teeth audio q similar to 'ch' in the English 'cheap' - tongue is positioned below lower teeth audio x similar to 'sh' in the English 'sheep' - tongue is positioned below lower teeth audio zh similar to 'j' in the English 'jam' audio ch similar to 'ch' in the English 'cheap' audio sh similar to 'sh' in the English 'ship' audio r similar to 'z' in the English 'azure' audio z same as 'ds' in the English 'woods' audio c similar to 'ts' in the English 'bits' audio s similar to 's' in the English 'see' audio (y)i similar to 'ee' in the English 'bee' audio (w)u similar to 'oo' in the English 'room' audio yu purse your lips and position the tongue high and forwards audio a similar to 'ah' in the English 'Ah-hah!' audio (w)o similar to 'or' in the English 'bore' audio e similar to 'er' in the English 'hers' audio (y)e similar to the English 'Yay!' audio ai similar to the English 'eye' audio ei similar to 'ei' in the English 'weigh' audio ao similar to 'au' in the English 'sauerkraut' audio ou similar to 'ou' in the English 'dough' audio an similar to 'an' in the English 'fan' audio en similar to 'un' in the English 'under' audio ang a Mandarin 'a' followed by the 'ng' sound like in the English 'sing' audio eng a Mandarin 'e' followed by the 'ng' sound like in the English 'sing' audio er a Mandarin 'e' with the tongue curled back audio Learning Mandarin Chinese Understanding Mandarin Chinese Tones How to Pronounce Chongqing, One of China's Major Cities History of Mandarin Chinese How to pronounce Ma Ying-jeou (Ma Ying-jiu) The Four Mandarin Chinese Tones How to Pronounce "Mao Zedong" How to Pronounce "Thank You" in Chinese How to pronounce Li Keqiang, China's premier How to Pronounce the Name of Taiwanese Politician Tsai Ing-wen How to Pronounce Deng Xiaoping The Mandarin Tone System How to Pronounce 'Xi Jinping's' Name Understanding the Use of Numbers in Mandarin Chinese Pinyin Romanization to Learn Mandarin How to Pronounce the Chinese City "Shenzhen"