Mandarin Pinyin. What’s the difference between Pinyin and Mandarin?

What’s the difference between Pinyin vs. Mandarin?

Short Answer

First, Mandarin refers to a whole language dialect and is the standard dialect for Chinese.

Pinyin is just the romanization of the pronunciation of Chinese.

Expanding on differences between Pinyin vs. Mandarin

pinyin table, download Chinese pinyin

PDF download of Chinese pinyin alphabet

There are Chinese characters and their pronunciations.

Chinese characters are pictorial, which makes them a bit arbitrary in their pronunciation. You cannot necessarily figure out the pronunciation of a Chinese character just by looking at it if you don’t already know it.

That’s where pinyin comes in.

Pinyin is an artificial system designed by scholars five decades ago created to use the English alphabet to pronounce Chinese words. This is especially helpful for foreigners starting to learn Chinese, but is also learned by Chinese kids themselves!

A quick example of Pinyin

download pinyin table


This Chinese word for “hello” is “你好.” Do you know how to pronounce this by looking at it? Of course not! Now try looking at the pinyin for the Chinese word for hello, “Nǐ hǎo.”  This tells you the first characters sounds like “ni” (sounding like “knee”) and uses the third tone (the dipping tone). The second character is “hao” (sounding like “how”) and also with the third tone. Pretty convenient, huh?

You can probably already tell though, that you still need to learn the pinyin pronunciation to get it right and you’ll have to learn the Chinese tones if you want to speak Chinese. Sign up for a free class and we’ll get you started with good habits!

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