Learn Chinese through Pinyin

20 August 2018
door Regina Coeli

When you think of Chinese, do you also immediately think of complicated characters that look more like drawings than words? This can make learning Chinese seem like trying break through an impenetrable fortress, which is why the Chinese came up with something quite clever in the 1950s: pinyin. We gratefully make use of this in our Chinese language courses at Regina Coeli.

Pinyin is Chinese, Romanised. It was developed to give Westerners more insight into the Chinese language, but it has also contributed to increased literacy in China itself. Pinyin has been officially recognised since 1979, and this form of writing has taken off in recent years in particular. This is partly thanks to digitisation, as Pinyin is a better match for standard keyboards.

Help in the pronunciation of Chinese

Students start working with pinyin on the first day of their Chinese course at Regina Coeli. It is an ideal way to quickly get to know words and immediately learn correct pronunciation. For this, you need to know how to pronounce the letters and how the different tones work.

Are we talking about a mother or a horse?

There are four different tones in Chinese, which are indicated in pinyin by an accent. This accent is all-determining when it comes to meaning, because many words in Mandarin consist of the same sounds. For example, the word ‘ma’ has the following meanings, depending on the tone:
-    Mother (mā)
-    Hemp (má)
-    Horse (mǎ)
-    To swear/curse at (mà)

Because some Chinese words are pronounced so similarly, we at Regina Coeli only work with language trainers who are native speakers. They know how to correctly pronounce words and are able to communicate this very accurately to students so the students do not inadvertently swear at a mother by calling her a horse. 

The status of hanzi

So, can you completely ignore the Chinese characters—hanzi—then? Actually, you cannot. In modern China, you mainly see traditional hanzi characters. Pinyin is a tool for learning the language. Without it, you would have to learn the language completely by ear. For this reason, pinyin is incredibly helpful, especially when you first start learning Chinese. You won’t really get there, though, without knowledge of the characters. At Regina Coeli, beginners get to know the most important characters so they can survive in China and Taiwan.

Challenge yourself!

Do you want to speak Mandarin, than simply contact us. After having had a week of Chinese language training with a total of twenty private lessons, you will be able to confidently express yourself in Chinese. For an overview of our basic programme please read the information on the page about our Chinese courses.



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