🐼 Chinese for English-Speaking Beginners

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  1. basic pronunciation (Travel China Guide)
  2. pinyin's 21 consonants (5:35 video)
  3. pronunciation index (ChinesePod)
    ...has lots of pop-up ads (maybe delete if a better one is found)
  4. pinyin Wade-Giles converter (see comment #2)
  5. Forvo pronunciation speakers help validate/correct Google machine pronunciation


  1. dictionary/thesaurus (YellowBridge) can search for context examples
  2. translator/pronunciation (mdbg.net) graphically shows components of Chinese characters and what they mean
  3. entire document translation (Yandex)
  4. translator with male voice sound files (HanTrainerPro)


  1. basic greetings lessons (Loecsen); tests only work in Chrome browser
  2. basic lessons (FreeChineseLessons)
  3. basic lessons (DuoLingo)
  4. flash cards (YellowBridge)
  5. colloquial phrases with pronunciation (TravelChinaGuide)
  6. counting:
  7. video (1 to 10; Emma)
  8. video (ChineseFor.us)
  9. written (1-100; Dummies)

Reading Library

  1. Chinese literature (YellowBridge)
  2. _

Phone Apps:

  1. https://www.mondly.com/learn-chinese-online | web lessons |


Comments on Tools, Etymology, Etc:

  1. Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the meaning of a word you're saying can change with the tone/pitch/inflection. I find pinyin characters' accent markings very helpful with the tonal aspects of Chinese, but some aspects are misleading to the beginning English speaker. For example, "son" in pinyin is "érzi" looks like "ERRzee," but is actually pronounced more like "ERRzuh." So I need to REMEMBER these peculiarities that don't seem logical...like doing two translations simultaneously. As it turns out, Wade-Giles doesn't quite give the phonetic guidance I'd expect, either. It spells "son" as "o rzi" which I don't thinks looks the way this word sounds in Chinese.
  2. As I suspected from some of the pinyin that doesn't SOUND the way it's spelled, pinyin was NOT originally developed to help English speaking people learn Chinese. It was developed in China for the Chinese, to help them pronounce in a more unified way because of there being so many dialects. So, as a tool to help an English speaking student learn Chinese, I find it a little frustrating. I'm not alone, as you can see here and here. Pinyin was first published by the Chinese government in 1958, the year I was born. Early Pinyin (1956) used a mixture of Cyrillic (Russian) and IPA letters. So why did English-speaking people abandon the Wade-Giles system that was in place for over a century? In 1958, the PRC government dropped the ROC’s 1928 GR Tonal Spelling (Gwoyeu Romatzyh) in favor of a newer tone-optional romanization called Hanyu Pinyin. Wade-Giles, a foreign diplomatic system created in 1867, was never officially adopted by either government, so it never had to be “dropped."
  3. Here's a good summary from ChinesePod.com that helps me to stop whining and get back to learning: "It is important to remember that although pinyin uses the same letters as European languages, the sounds those letters represent are the sounds of Mandarin Chinese. Thus some letters may not make the sounds you expect. It is important that you pay close attention to how each letter of pinyin is pronounced, as you cannot read pinyin as if it were English." Further encouragement can be found here.
  4. Despite the challenges mentioned above, piyin (litterally "spelled sounds") is the most popular instructional tool for students who are not trying to learn the [traditional or simplified] Chinese han characters. It's deviation from the western-centric NAPA or International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) phonetics can be overcome with some practice and memorization, and it's a LOT easier than trying to learn the han characters.
  5. How Mandarin became the official language of China on ThoughtCo.com.
  6. English words of Chinese origin on Wikipedia (Mandarin & Cantonese).


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