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Getting started with Chinese 1
Getting started with Chinese 1

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6 Pronunciation: single finals

Mandarin Chinese is a vowel-dominated language. In total, there are 35 vowel sounds known as ‘finals’ because they occur at the end of syllables. Amongst those 35, there are six single finals: a, e, i, o, u and ü (e.g. ‘i’ in ), and the rest are ‘compound finals’ (e.g. ao in hăo).

The six single finals are:

a    as in the English word, ‘are

o    as in the English word, ‘or

e    as in the English word, ‘dirty’

i    as in the English word, ‘tea

u    as in the English word, ‘food’

ü    as in the French word, ‘tu

Activity 5

Listen to the six single finals, as described in the above, and type in the box below the six single finals in the order in which you hear the sounds.

Click on ‘Transcript’ to check your answer.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: lxc001_wk1_act_aud014.mp3
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Discussion

Tip: The easiest way to remember these six finals is to put them in order as in the box above: a, o, e, i, u, ü for the following reasons:

  1. when pronouncing them in this order, your mouth shape will change from the biggest a sound to the smallest ü sound;
  2. when putting the tone mark on syllables with compound finals, this order will indicate which vowel of the final will carry the tone mark. Normally, the tone mark will go to the higher order vowel. For example, for the syllable hăo, the tone mark is on a, because a is before o in the order.