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Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 13 – The Pinyin ‘r’

Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 13 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to tune up your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones.

In this video we’re looking at the ‘r’ sound in Mandarin Chinese.

The r in pinyin is actually completely different from the ‘r’ in English, so it’s quite confusing that it is written like that. A lot of beginner learners will just pronounce it like the ‘r’ in UK or American English, and while native speakers can usually still understand, it’s not the correct way to pronounce it.

Here’s a quick guide to how to pronounce the ‘r’ sound in Pinyin, correctly.

The sound starts with a sound quite like the ’s’ in pleasure, but then it turns into more of an ‘r’ sound.

Your tongue should be in the middle of your mouth, and curled up backwards or cupped. You have to curl your tongue much more than for the English ‘r’.

It is the curling of the tongue that gives it the distinctive sound. There is also a slight friction to the sound at the beginning. It is these two aspects that make it different from the ‘r’ in English.

You’ll notice that when certain native speakers pronounce certain syllables, the curled tongue sound will be there but not so much of the ‘friction’ from the ‘s’ in ‘pleasure’. This can vary slightly, depending on the person and the situation.

This one can be a difficult sound to produce at the beginning, so don’t worry if it takes you some time to master. Just keep listening and repeating and trying again until you get it. You may find that if you can’t do it and then come back to it after a while, it will come to you!

Listen carefully to the examples in the video and follow along as closely as you can.

Re – 热 rè – hot
Ri – 日本 rìběn – Japan
Rao – 打扰 dǎrǎo – to disturb
Rou – 鸡肉 jīròu – chicken
Ran – 然后 ránhòu – then, afterwards
Ren – 美国人 měiguórén – an American
Rong – 荣幸 róngxìng – honour
Ru – 如果 rúguǒ – if
Ruan – 柔软 róuruǎn – soft
Run – 湿润 shīrùn – moist