How to Pronounce Xi Jinping's Name

Tips on Accurately Saying the President of China's Name

Xi Jinping
Public domain

Pronouncing names in Chinese can be very hard if you haven't studied Chinese, and sometimes it's hard even if you have. The alphabetical letters used to write sounds in Mandarin (called Hanyu Pinyin) don't often match sounds they describe in English, so simply trying to read a Chinese name and guess the pronunciation will lead to many mistakes. 

Especially if you study Mandarin, it is important to be aware of these traps and pitfalls.

Ignoring or mispronouncing tones will just add to the confusion. These mistakes add up and often become so serious that a native speaker would fail to understand who you are referring to. 

A name you probably read about a lot in the news is Xi Jinping, the president of China since 2013. An important political figure, you might be interested in knowing how to pronounce Xi Jinping's name correctly when reading out loud. 

Quick Cheat Sheet

The truly quick and dirty way is to pronounce the name of the president of China is to say SHEE JIN PING. If you want to take a shot at the tones, they should be rising, falling and rising respectively. You can also listen to a recording of a native speaker pronouncing the name and mimic.

If you happen to be familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet, you can also look at this: [ɕi tɕinpʰiŋ] (tones not included).

Deeper Understanding 

The president's name is 习近平 (or 習近平 written in traditional form).

In Pinyin, it is written as Xí Jìnpíng. His name, as do most Chinese names, consists of three syllables. The first syllable is his family name and the two remaining being his personal name. Let's have a look at the syllables one by one.

"Xí" pronunciation is pretty hard because the "x" sound does not exist in English.

It is alveolo-palatal, meaning that it's produced by placing the body of the tongue against the front part of the hard palate. The tongue position is similar to the first sound in "yes" in English. Try producing a hissing sound and you'll get pretty close. "i" is like the "y" in "city", but longer. Read more about how to pronounce "x" here. The tone should rise.

"Jin" is also tricky, but if you know how to pronounce "x", it becomes a lot easier. "J" is pronounced like "x", but has a stop in front of it. Think of it as a very light "t", or "tx". Be careful though, don't breathe out too hard on "t", because then it turns into a Chinese Pinyin "q"! The "i" in "jin" should be similar to the "i" in "xi" but shorter". The tone should fall.

"Ping" is fairly straightforward and relying on your English pronunciation will take you reasonably close to the right pronunciation. One minor difference is that the "ng" is pronounced farther back and is more prominent than in English. The tone should rise.

More Practice

Now you know how to pronounce the name of the president of China. Did you find it hard? Don't worry, learning to pronounce both names and words will become easier and easier. You can also read more about how to pronounce Chinese names.