What does Chinese phonetics or Pinyin look like? What are the components that children need to know about Pinyin? I’ll try to answer your questions in this post.

Before diving in, please note this is the second out of five posts I talked about Pinyin because I think it’s imperative that parents understand Pinyin is a must-have foundation for young children before learning anything else for the Chinese language. 

Here are the other four Pinyin related posts:

Now, back to the formation of Pinyin.

If your children are just starting to learn Pinyin, they only need to know there are THREE COMPONENTS form a complete Pinyin.

Let me use this image at left to illustrate.

In the photo, I used the Pinyin for ‘ma’, which means ‘horse’ in English, to break down the three components.

Component 1 / Initial– The Pinyin ‘m’ is the Initial, which ALWAYS goes first.

Component 2 / Final – The Pinyin ‘a’ is the Final, which ALWAYS goes the second. Sometimes, it can be two Finals used at the same time.

Component 3 / Tone – The tone, either 1st – 5th tone, is ALWAYS one tone for a complete Pinyin.

To simplify the structure of Pinyin in a formula, that is:


1 complete Pinyin (for each Chinese character) = (1 x Initial)  +  (1-2 x Finals) + (1 x Tone)

In total, there are 23 Initials, 24 Finals, 5 Tones and 16 Sight Pinyin (those frequent used Pinyins that can sound out as a whole).

Here is what they look like:

This Pinyin List + the Five Tones for Pinyin is SUPER handy and we use it all the time at home.

I always keep laminated copies and pin them on the corkboard in our learning area whenever my daughter needs a quick reference.

To help your teaching, I suggest you do the same too. You can download them for FREE below.

Again, please check my other posts to have a better understanding of the Pinyin.

As always, thanks for visiting my blog. If you have any queries on this post, please leave your comments below, or go to my Panda Mama Chinese Community to discuss.

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