pin yin

August 14, 2012, 12:25 PM posted in General Discussion

Hi guys, as a newbie, shall I learn the pin yin writing exactly (as for example when learning english, you must learn the spelling exactly).

I am asking, whether I would be required to write any pin yin somewhere in the future, or is it just a tool to learn the pronounciation "only"? Thank you for your advice.

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August 14, 2012, 12:39 PM

Hi jirikoci,

it's just a tool mate [they use it for Chinese kids when learning at a young age]. Ultimately you want to learn the Hanzi...Chinese characters.

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August 14, 2012, 12:40 PM

Ok, let me chime in strong against starting with pinyin at all if you don't have a fluent speaking Chinese teacher. Reasons against:

1. Despite constant statements about not using it as a pronunciation guide by itself, people tend to use pinyin as a pronunciation guide by itself. This leads to horrible pronunciation.

2. Pinyin pronunciation varies by personal experience, and region and country. Ask any English speaker with no Chinese language experience how to pronounce zhun3bei4 and you hear plenty of variety.

3. Chinese kids don't start learning pinyin when they are 1 or 2 years old, they start learning by listening to the language being spoken. So should you.

4. Chinese people really know characters. Pinyin tends to be used with people who've attended at least high school. What are you planning on doing with Pinyin.

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August 14, 2012, 06:36 PM

Hi jirikoci, while I totally agree with what pretz and baba said above -- learn Chinese characters, you won't be sorry! -- I have a slightly different take because I'm interpreting your question a little differently. I hear you asking if there is any downside to learning pinyin with careless spelling as opposed to learning the correct pinyinization.

In the sense that you asked, no, outside of a classroom environment no one is going to judge you for poor spelling. Not the way you'd be subject to such judgement if learning to write in a language that is always written phonetically.

However, if you are learning via Pinyin, I strongly urge you to take spelling differences in Pinyin seriously. As a newbie, you are likely having difficulty distinguishing not only between some initial consonants (sh/x; ch/q; zh/j), but also finals like in/ing and uan/uang/ang. As difficult as they might be for you to hear early on, to a native speaker the difference is pretty obvious.

Chinese is full of homonyms. It's hard enough to remember the difference between two completely different words pronounced zhuāng without also confusing them with words pronounced zhuān, zhāng or zhōng.

Also, if and when you get to a point where you want to be able to type in Chinese characters hànzi 汉字, there are many different typing systems available but it is probable that you will learn one based on Pinyin that will require you to know the "correct" spelling of various syllables.

Good luck with your studies! Learning Chinese is very rewarding. A final plug for learning to write in Chinese characters -- it's really a bonus feature of learning this fascinating language. Aside from the fact that after a few initial difficulties, knowing some 汉字 actually makes acquiring new vocabulary easier, it's also a unique chance to experience and appreciate the journey from illiteracy to literacy.