Learn Pinyin

Tips, resources, and apps to help you spell and pronounce Mandarin words

Hanyu Pinyin (often referred to simply as pinyin) is a system for spelling the sounds of Chinese characters in the Latin alphabet. It is the official system used in China and by most foreign students of the language. Mandarin has a very limited range of sound combinations, and in fact every syllable (i.e., every sound associated with one character) used in the entire language can be seen on the tables linked below. These resources will help you learn pinyin and Mandarin pronunciation:

Mobile Apps

There are numerous mobile apps available for learning pinyin. In general, however, these apps don't really explain the pinyin system; they assume that you have already learned the basic rules. (They don't explain, for example, that “c” in pinyin represents a “ts” sound; you have to infer such things from the pronunciations of the syllables.) Here are a few of the more popular apps in different formats:

  • Pinyin Chart HD is a simple guide to pinyin and Mandarin pronunciation presented as an interactive table showing all sound combinations in the language. Many students may find this visual format helpful.
    Pocket Pinyin is a similar app for Android that also includes the Zhuyin Fuhao (注音符号) system, popularly known as "bopomofo."
  • Pinyin Teacher, by Thimar International, is a handy reference tool with a useful “practice” feature to help you study pinyin. It is available in numerous versions: Pinyin Teacher Lite (free; compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), Pinyin Teacher ($4.99; compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad), Pinyin Teacher for iPad Lite (free), Pinyin Teacher for iPad ($9.99)
  • Pinyin Trainer, by trainchinese/Molatra, is another pinyin learning app with more features. The free version is very limited; a $2.99 in-app upgrade gives you the full version. (Also available for Android.)