I am currently learning Chinese but I've been struggling with perhaps a very easy sound to do.

How do I pronounce Xué (学)? I know that with "x", it's "sh" with the tip of your tongue on your front bottom teeth. However, managing the tones and the ué seems to be very hard. Is it just shoo-e or shoo-ee?

By the way, I am not practicing with a native speaker, it's with Siri and voice recognition software. That's one thing I must definitely admit. Is that good practice to use Siri for pronunciation?

Perhaps I could 学 how to say it?

  • Odd, I struggle with the ü sound as an English speaker but 学 was never an issue for me, I guess I just pronounce it as I hear it Commented Jan 8, 2020 at 19:05

4 Answers 4


Xue can be broken down into three components:

  • X, ipa: ɕ, similar to the English ‘sh’ in sheep but with the tongue placed closer to the teeth.

  • u, ipa: y, not to be confused with ipa letter: u, similar to German: ü; or the u in French: tu

  • e, ipa: e, similar to the “e” in English: yes.


Tone: second tone in Mandarin, which 学 is, is a 35 on the tonal scale - meaning you need to start kind of high-pitched to begin with and then rise it even higher. It’s often compared to the English intonation of asking a question, with a rise at the end.


The biggest pitfalls for foreigners: most westerns end up pronouncing 学 more like 水 - I’m not totally sure why because the initials and finals are completely different. Try finding audio to imitate and only treat pinyin as a guide because it won’t match up with English in the way you might imagine it should.

  • x -> sh, ü -> u, e -> ey. ofc English speakers end up in "Shu(e)i", coz none of the 3 phonemes are present in English Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 14:59

I suggest finding some videos, or even better, native speakers who can show you. More than just the sound, you need to understand the mouth position. This syllable is a combination of two of the most difficult sounds for Americans at least because the x and u are not in English. The x, j, and q sounds all have the same mouth position which is tip of the tongue behind the bottom teeth, and the breath and friction over the top middle, the place where you'd say 'd'.

The 'u' is the ü from yu, lv, qu, nv etc. You have to make your mouth into a very tight and somewhat protruding 'o', and make the sound from there.

the 'e' is like the English 'eh', like 'meh' or 'head'.


Late to the party here but I had a native speaker help me with this one time. Pronouncing xue2 is like telling the moon to be quiet.

First say "shhhh" like you are telling someone to shush.

Then pronounce 月.

This has always stuck in my head for some reason.


Here is a chart for pinyin pronunciation, https://chinese.yabla.com/chinese-pinyin-chart.php, I use that when I am puzzled.

  • Would it be possible to explain how the link addresses how to pronounce 学?
    – Becky 李蓓
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 5:08

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