• Letters here are as spoken in normal everyday English usage
• Capital letters are a capital letter sound, wherever they
appear in a word
• All basic sounds are a flat phonetic sound
• Double letters, especially vowels, mean a longer flatter sound
• ‘I’ is a very common upper case letter. Do not
confuse with lower case 'l'('L'). It is not a rising sound
• ‘i’ indicates a rising sound
• ‘y’ indicates a flat sound
• Hyphen: A nasal sound that defines how the following letter
• Apostrophe: The following consonants embrace the sound of
the preceding letter; especially “d’zh”
The basics are that simple!
• Chinese languages do not use Male or Female words
• Plurals are usually stated as ‘so many of one thing’
• Most consonants that finish a word are either silent or less
than 20% sounded
• The last word of a clause or sentence is often very exaggerated
and ‘tuneful’. Hence ‘-ah’ and ‘-la’
are very commonly added. There are others in common usage, such as
• Chinese characters (Simplified Chinese) can be read by all
Chinese people, irrespective of the language they actually speak.
This is 'Mega'!
• The only other Official language of the Chinese Mainland is
Cantonese, which has it's own set of characters - ones most other
Mainlanders will not understand fully. These 'Traditional' characters
are used liberally in this guide - which is all about 'Cantonese'
You will need to master several basic sounds, sorry:
• ‘xi’ = ‘C’ sound as in ‘see’,
which we have written as 'CEE'
o Mandarin people may say: ‘sh’, ‘ch’, or
• ‘q’ = ‘ch’ and is basically the tongue
and teeth sound, like we make the sound of a train ‘cha-cha’.
It can have a ‘t’ sound version also, but very hard to
distinguish these apart. Therefore read ‘qin’, ‘tien’,
‘tian’ and 'chin' as being virtually the same sound. Think
English ‘chin’, then listen & learn
• ‘zh’. Trying to get the ‘zh’ sound
right can also be a nightmare! It is very complex for foreigners
o Start simply by using ‘J’ as in ‘Joe’
o Then listen to what Cantonese are actually pronouncing,
and try to copy them for each word
• The Chinese characters determine the ‘zh’ sound
as being intoned as either:
• t’zh is often used in Hong Kong
• 'zhou is a Mandarin word. The correct Cantonese is 'zhao'
(zh + 'ow' as in 'that hurts')
o You have probably cracked this sound, if you can make
a ‘J’ sound like a buzzing Bee– Then add a 5% consonant
conditioner sound in front!
• Special mention for the word ‘zhou’, the name
of an ancient Empire, and number 6 most common out of all Chinese
surnames. It is Cantonese, and should always be pronounced ‘zhao’
instead = ‘jaow’ not ‘Jo’
• 'e' lowercase is most often a very short sound that is only
just audible upon examination of the word. This is especially true
when 'i' and 'n' are together as in 'lin'. The true pronunciation
is 'lien' with 10% 'e'. Apply this rule also when 'e' is before or
Cantonese generally pronounce the vowels: e, o, and u as capital letter
sounds, with a and i usually being phonetic.
Questions: Ying and Yang
1. Later you will realise that all questions are of the form:
a. ‘Do you, do you not’ = ‘Yes or “Not
yes”’ = ‘xxx, mmm xxx’
i. ‘Not Yes’ is the opposite
ii. ‘No’ has a different
meaning, and is not an antonym of ‘Yes’
2. "Why do chinese pronounce jin as jean"?
a. This is taken from our website searches for March
2010, and is as the last item above. To explain we need first to understand
that each of the basic 40, 000 Chinese characters has a specific character
of its own, and a specific pronunciation.Each one is learnt at school
b. There is no western equivalent, and the ways of writing
Chinese using the English alphabet are at best approximate. Mandarin
written in English is called 'pinyin', whilst Hong Kong Cantonese
written in English is called 'jyutping'. Guangzhou Cantonese has never
been written in English until now in these pages; and is markedly
different from jyutping.
c. When Jin is pronounced as if it were 'Jean', then
first you need to know it is a Guangzhou Cantonese pronunciation.
If you listen very carefully, or ask a local to speak the word very
slowly, you will realise it is actually best spelt 'jien'. As with
lin above, the 'e' sound is very short, and is a Capital 'E' sound.
The perfect way to write this in English would be ji'en (Remember
the 'n' is a nasal tone also). 'Jin' is the Mandarin 'pinyin' spelling
which is universal throughout China. Therefore Cantonese readers of
'pinyin' would see the Mandarin word, but pronounce it differently.
Please send us your feedback via our contact page - as we continually
strive to improve and your constructive comments are most welcome
We have kept this page deliberately printer friendly for your convenience.