I recently met someone who had just started to learn Chinese and asked me if it was important to learn pinyin. He wanted to learn to read Chinese characters, but thought learning pinyin was a waste of time. However, I explained that understanding pinyin is really important to be able to pronounce the words. It also helps in being able to practice the right pronunciation with the right tone. It’s hard at first, as many of the initials and finals are not spoken the way we would in English. But it gets easier once you know the basics and then it’s just practice. The best part of knowing how to write pinyin is using it to type emails and SMS in Chinese. Of course you still have to know the right Chinese character, which is the hardest part. However, mastering pinyin is an essential foundation to speaking good Mandarin.
PS. There are lots of online tools which are great for learning pinyin and practicing tones. My favourite is Chinesepod’s pinyin tool which can be download to your desktop.
(Blog posted by Ray on August 20, 2013. You can see the original article by following this link to rayallychina.com)