Background: I am currently trying to learn Chinese. However, pronunciation isn't as straightforward as I thought.

Question: Is Pinyin actually recommended and taught by Mandarin Chinese teachers? I've seen it in videos of pre-schoolers being used for tones and sounds.

Any answers to my question will be appreciated. Thank you.

  • I think that's the 101 for Mandarin. Same cases for other languages. – xbh Sep 12 at 3:37
  • Yes, it's what kids learn at Chinese schools in their first months. Then proceed to learning characters, each new character is annotated with pinyin, always. – Vitaly Osipov Sep 13 at 2:05
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Hanyu pinyin (or pinyin) is the de facto standard for transliteration of Standard Chinese, especially for materials using simplified Chinese characters. In the last ten years, I have used or browsed textbooks, dictionaries and other learning materials; some of them were entirely in Chinese, others were for native speakers of English, German, French or Dutch. All of them used pinyin as their transliteration system.

I have also met learners who found pinyin non-intuitive, especially for the sounds represented by q, x, j and c. I have known people who devised their own transliteration system but abandoned it some time later.

If you don't want to use pinyin, you will have a hard time finding learning materials for simplified Chinese characters that use a different system; these materials are available but are typically at least thirty years old.

Pinyin is used and taught in PRC (mainland China) while a similar but different system (Bopomofo) is used in ROC.

For beginners, Pinyin is a good start for learning Simplified Chinese, while Bopomofo is widely used for learning Traditional Chinese. (And you can use both of them to input Chinese characters on a computer with a proper IME installed, for example RIME)

(edited according to droooze's advice)

  • 1
    Better is probably the wrong word to describe this situation..I think you mean more widely used. – droooze Sep 11 at 12:30

As it was already answered, pinyin is de facto standard romanisation of chinese language. Not the best though. I personally prefer to use the system called "bopomofo" that is being used in Taiwan. "Bopomofo" is not a romanisation, and therefore it requires a few hours to learn it. I see two major advantages of using "bopomofo" system in comparison to pinyin. First, it is not a romanisation. How it is an advantage? Well, when you attempt to read chinese text supported by pinyin transcript your brain automatically forces your eyes to look at pinyin and only at pinyin transcript. You simply ignore chinese characters. Second advantage is, in my opinion, that "bopomofo" characters better reflect sounds/articulation than pinyin. The one (big) disadvantage of "bopomofo" is that this system is used only in Taiwan, so you find it only in textbooks issued by Taiwanese publishers.

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