How to Pronounce Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh Sound Correctly in Chinese Pinyin?
What is the difference between Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh sound in Chinese Pinyin Pronunciation? It is tricky for Chinese learners when an ‘h’ sound is being introduced after the Z, C, S consonants, making them Zh, Ch and Sh.
If I put the two sounds together, one without ‘h’ and one with it, I am rather sure that you would be able to hear the difference immediately.
It might be harder to learn the group of sounds on its own without making an appropriate comparison. Students would always be unsure whether they have pronounced the words correctly with and without the ‘h’ sound for a start.
I could not use the 4-Chinese Tones method as many tones in ‘Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh’ are missing. It means the Chinese words do not exist in the Chinese dictionary or so rarely used that Google does not have the sound file for it.
Instead, I arrange the words in the first tone [ ¯ ] as much as possible since traditionally, the first or neutral sound is always used for the Chinese consonants practice.
What is the Trick to Pronounce Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh Sound with Chinese Vowels [ a e i ]?
One simple trick is to adjust the shape of your mouth to get the correct sound with the Chinese vowels that contain [ a e i ] after the z, c, s and zh, ch, sh consonants.
Examples are za – zha | ze – zhe | zi – zhi | zan – zhan – zang – zhang (and so on).
Pinyin Pronunciation Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh Sound with Chinese Vowels [ a e i ]
How to Pronounce Z, C, S Sound with Chinese Vowels [ a e i ]?
Look at the photo below.
- Lengthen your mouth as long as possible and show your teeth.
- Listen to the audio below and pronounce all the 9 Chinese Pinyin sounds without shortening your mouth shape.
- In another word, maintain the mouth position at all times when pronouncing all the words at one go.
Once you can do this, you can do the same for longer words starting with the z, c, s consonants.
How to Pronounce Zh, Ch, Sh Sound with Chinese Vowels [ a e i ]?
Look at the photo below.
- Pout your mouth or make mouth in a round shape. Bite your teeth.
- Listen to the audio below and pronounce all the 9 Chinese Pinyin sounds by always maintaining an “O” shaped mouth.
- For exercising purpose, always start the pronunciation by biting your teeth first before you read the word aloud.
If you can do it right, the distance between the teeth will not open wide and move much. You can even pronounce ‘zhi chi shi” while biting your teeth at all times!
Zā Cā Sā
Zhā Chā Shā
Zè Cè Sè
Zhè Chè Shè
Zī Cī Sī
Zhī Chī Shī
Zāi Cāi Sāi
Zhāi Chāi Shāi
Zāo Cāo Sāo
Zhāo Chāo Shāo
Zān Cān Sān
Zhān Chān Shān
Zāng Cāng Sāng
Zhāng Chāng Shāng
Zēng Cēng Sēng
Zhēn Chēn Shēn
Zhēng Chēng Shēng
Pinyin Pronunciation Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh Sound with Chinese Vowels [ o u ]
The rule of the mouth shape for vowels [ a e i ] that we discussed above cannot be applied when Z, C, S and Zh, Ch, Sh meets with vowels [ o u ].
The mouth shape for pronouncing these 6 Chinese Pinyin is always in the pout position. That is to protrude your mouth when you articulate them. Since there is no difference in the mouth shape, the trick lies in the placement of the tongue.
How to Pronounce Z, C, S Sound with Chinese Vowels [ o u ] with Low Position of the Tongue?
- Place the tip of your tongue behind your lower teeth.
- Pronounce all Chinese Pinyin words below without moving your tongue.
See if you can pronounce all 21 of the Z, C, S Pinyin below without removing away your tongue behind your lower teeth.
How to Pronounce Zh, Ch, Sh Sound with Chinese Vowels [ o u ] in High Tongue Position?
- Place the position of the tongue higher to pronounce the Zh, Ch Pinyin to achieve the desired sound. The tongue position is the lowest for Sh sounds, around mid-position but not touching the base.
- Often, the inner tongue is in contact with the hard palate, or rub against them during the pronunciation.
- Sometimes, the tip of the tongue will touch the incisive papilla depending on which words you are pronouncing.
Moreover, since there is an ‘h’ sound like the English word “her”, the Pinyin sound will contain a light ‘her’ sound. For words starting with ‘Sh’, it has the sound “Shhh” as if you are asking someone to keep quiet.
Zòu Còu Sòu
Zhòu Chòu Shòu
Zōng Cōng Sōng
Zū Cū Sū
Zhū Chū Shū
Zuō Cuō Suō
Zhuō Chuō Shuō
Zuì Cuì Suì
Zǔn Cǔn Sǔn
Zhǔn Chǔn Shǔn
The emphasis on the last group of sound ‘Zhuang Chuang Shuang‘ is on the intonation of the ‘ang‘ sound. It has the same sound as the English word ‘angst’.
Zuān Cuān Suān
Zhuān Chuān Shuān
Zhuāng Chuāng Shuāng
Something more interesting? How to introduce yourself in Chinese? I have provided a few audio speech examples on self-introduction so you could hear them.