Mandarin Chinese - Pronounciation
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+
Deutsch English


This page gives a theoretical introduction into the pronounciation of Mandarin, if you look for a guide on how to learn it, please have a look at the course teaching you the basics of Mandarin here.

4 Tones

What are "tones" actually? Tones make one single word, as we know it in English, change into several different words with different meanings, depending on how high or low your voice is, or on whether it is going up or down.

4 tones of mandarin chinese

In the picture the black numbers stand for the pitch of your voice, 1 is low, 5 is high. You can see how the 4 tones work out then. Simply speaking, when saying a word having tone 1, you need to say it high, one with tone 4, you need to say it starting high and finishing low.

Here you can find a full introduction on how it works in practice.


When learning how to pronounce characters, Pinyin will be the biggest help for you. Pinyin is a way of romanizing characters, which means to use roman letters to write how a character is pronounced.

There are also other romanization standards, but Pinyin is by far the most commonly used one. Have a look here to see how the words spelled in Pinyin are pronounced.


As mentioned in the introduction already, Mandarin has quite a number of different accents. This has advantages and disadvantages:

Disadvantages, because it makes it more difficult to get to a level, where you understand most of the people. You might for example finally understand everything in Beijing, but travelling to the South you realize, well, actually there is still some way to go. However, if your Mandarin is good enough to understand people at one place, it usually just takes a couple of days to get used to the Mandarin at another one.

With dialects, on the other hand, it is more difficult. But this also is fine, as Chinese themselves often don't understand certain dialects, like Bejing people don't understand Cantonese, so you don't need to worry about that, those people are usually also able to speak Mandarin.

And here is the advantage: Having that many accents makes it easier for you to sound good. Even though you might not speak that standard, it is quite likely that there is an accent that sounds similar to how you speak, so overall it makes it easier to sound like native Chinese.


Learning how to pronounce words correctly is not easy. The best way, of course, is practicing with a native speaker who can tell you exactly what you're doing wrong and shows you how to do it right. But you can also practice by yourself and these tools might be of help to you in doing so:

Listen to all syllables in the proncounciation section, or Have a look at the basic practical pronounciation course