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Chinese Written Form, Tones and Pronunciation

Traditional Chinese Characters/Simplified Chinese Characters

The traditional form of written Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The simplified form of written Chinese is used in China and Singapore. The characters in the English – Chinese Food Mini (China) guide are in the simplified form. The characters in the English – Chinese Food Mini (Taiwan) guide are in the traditional form. On the version you are reading on FoodMinis.COM, both versions are provided – first the traditional form and then the simplified form.

The Four Tones

First tone – high level (ex. sān)

Second tone – rising (ex. tái)

Third tone – falling, then rising (ex. wǒ)

Fourth tone – falling (ex. piàn)

Please view this online resource for a quick guide on pronouncing the tones:


Pronunciation of initials:

b : as in [spit]

p : as in [pay]

m : as in [may]

f : as in [fair]

d : as in [stop]

t : as in [take]

n : as in [nay]

l : as in [lay]

g : as in [skill]

k : as in [kay]

h : as in [hay]

j : as in [hatch]

q : as in [cheek]

x : as in [she]

zh : as in [junk]

ch : as in [church]

sh : as in [shirt]

r : as in [ray]

z : as in [reads]

c : as in [hats]

s : as in [say]

w : as in [way]

y : as in [yea]


Pronunciation of finals with zero initial:

-i : a buzzed continuation of the consonant following z-, c-, s-, zh-, ch-, sh- or r-. (In all other words, -i has the sound of [bee])

a : as in [father]

e : similar to [duh]

ai : like [eye] but lighter

ei : as in [hey]

ao : approximately as in [cow]

ou : as in [so]

an : as in [bun]

en : as in [taken]

ang : as in the German [Angst]

eng : like e in [taken] but with ng added

er : similar to the sound in [bar]


Pronunciation of finals beginning with i- (ex. yi-ge):

i : as in [bee]

ia : as in [yard]

ie : similar to the initial sound in [yet]

iao : as in [i] + [ao]

iu : as in [i] + [ou]

ian : as in [yen]

in : as in [i] + [n]

iang : as in [i] + [ang]

ing : as in [i] + [ng]


Pronunciation of finals beginning with u- (ex. wu-fu):

u : as in [boo!]

ua : as in [u] + [a]

uo, o : as in [u] + [o] where the [o] is pronounced shorter and lighter

uai : as in [why]

ui : as in [u] + [ei]

uan : as in [u] + [an]

un : like the [on] in [won]

uang : as in [u] + [ang]

ong : starts with the vowel sound in [book] and ends

with the sound in, as in [sing]


Pronunciation of finals beginning with ü- (ex. yun):

u, ü : as in German [über] or French [lune]

ue, üe : as [ü] + [ê]; the ü is short and light

uan : as [ü] + [ê] + [n]

un : as [ü] + [n]

iong : as [i] + [ong]



ê : as in [bet]

o : approximately as in [office] in a British accent

io : as [i] + [o]


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