What is pinyin?

Pinyin is the system of Romanization for Chinese characters. It is the system for learning the pronunciation of Chinese characters and it is used for typing Chinese as well. Most of the credit for inventing pinyin is given to linguist Zhou Youguang.

Hanyu pinyin is not a “middle ground” for non-Chinese to learn the Chinese language without having to learn the characters. School children in China today learn hanyu pinyin from early on and everyone from office workers to grandparents use the system to type into their phones and computers. Conveniently for foreign travelers, street signs in China often have both Chinese characters and pinyin.

Pinyin was developed in the 1950s and officially adopted in China in 1979. Taiwan uses a system called zhuyin (better known as bopomofo) to romanize Chinese characters.

Do I need to learn pinyin in order to learn Mandarin Chinese?

Pinyin is important for learning Mandarin Chinese. We use it in order to write Chinese on the computer or on our phones. Some Chinese classes are “pen-less,” meaning that students only write with the assistance of technology and do not do any handwriting of characters. I’ve found that students (especially elementary and middle school aged) love to practice writing Chinese characters, so I generally cover handwriting in class. In the 21st century, however, we do so much writing on the computer or on our phones, so learning pinyin is essential.

screenshot of pinyin input method for typing Chinese characters
Screenshot of me using pinyin to type Chinese on my phone

Further reading:

On the rules for writing pinyin: http://www.pinyin.info/tools/index.html

On writing by hand in Chinese: Mechanics of Chinese Writing

To learn more about Mandarin Chinese classes: Contact Page

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s