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In this website, English phonetic symbols are used to describe Chinese pronunciations. The table below is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) for English. The vowels and consonants in red are used precisely or approximately in Mandarin Chinese. Don’t worry if you can’t read IPA symbols. Examples of each sound in common English words are provided to help you.

Vowels Consonants
IPA Examples IPA Examples
ʌ cup, luck b big, lab
ɑ: art, father d do, lady
æ cat, black f far, if
e met, bed g give, flag
ə away, taken, common h how, hello
ɜ:r turn, learn, her j yes, yellow
ɪ hit, sitting k kit, back
i: see, heat l let, lot
ɒ lot, odd m man, lemon
ɔ: call, four, law n no, ten
ʊ put, could ŋ sing, finger
u: blue, food, boo p pet, map
five, eye r red, try
now, out s sun, miss
say, eight ʃ she, crash
əʊ go, home t tea, getting
ɔɪ boy, join check, church
r where, air θ think, both
ɪər near, here ð this, mother
ʊər pure, tourist v voice, five
w wet, win
z zoo, lazy
ʒ pleasure, vision, Jean-Baptiste (French)
just, large, judge
ts hats, cats
dz kids

The two special consonants /ts/ and /dz/ are only used at the end of words in English, such as hats and kids. In Mandarin Chinese, however, they are used in the beginning of words. The only Chinese sound that is not included in this table is /ü/, but it is the same as the ü in German and the u in French, so English speakers should not find it difficult to pronounce:

As you can see, fewer phonetic symbols are used in Chinese than in English, so in this sense, Chinese is in fact easier than English.