5 Pronunciation: initials
In Mandarin Chinese, there are 23 consonant sounds and they are called ‘initials’ since they always appear in the initial position of a syllable.
Amongst them, j and z occur in the expression for ‘goodbye’ (zàijiàn), and x is in ‘thanks’ (xièxie). The initial j sounds like the ‘j’ sound in the English words, ‘jeep’ and ‘jeans’, but with the tongue nearer the teeth and the mouth relaxed. The initial z sounds like the ‘ds’ sound in the English word, ‘beads’. The initial x sounds like the ‘ch’ sound in the English word ‘machine’ (when pronouncing x, raise the tip of your tongue near to your hard palate, then let the air rub through the channel between them). To see a full list of initials and to hear how each of them is pronounced, click here.