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Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 15 – The J and Zh sounds

Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 15 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to perfect your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones.

In this video we’re looking at the ‘J’ and ‘Zh’ sounds in Mandarin Chinese.

J and Zh are two more sounds that are not pronounced like the English letters used to represent them.

The Zh sound in Pinyin is pronounced in a similar way to the J sound in English. Your tongue touches the top of your mouth near the front, but a bit further back than the J sound in English, and you might have to curl your tongue a bit.

But the J in Pinyin is a sound that doesn’t exist in English at all, so it would be misleading to say that it is LIKE anything in English, because it’s not.

In English, when you say a J sound, the tip of your tongue generally touches the top part of your mouth at the front, whereas when you say the J in Pinyin, the tip of your tongue rests in the middle of your mouth at the front, behind your teeth. It might not be touching your teeth, but it almost does, and the bit of the tongue behind the tip presses up against the top of the mouth at the front. This gives it kind of a ‘softer, less harsh’ sound. Your tongue might well have to move a bit as you say the sound.

Now you have a rough idea, let’s try saying some of the sounds with J in pinyin, and then compare it with the pronunciation of Zh, which is more like the English J.

Ji – 机会 jīhuì – opportunity
Jia – 大家 dàjiā – everybody
Jie – 结婚 jiéhūn – to get married
Jiao – 水饺 shuǐjiǎo – dumplings
Jiu – 红酒 hóngjiǔ – red wine
Jian – 看见 kànjiàn – to see
Jiang – 长江 chángjiāng – the Yangtze River
Jin – 今天 jīntiān – today
Jing – 北京 běijīng – Beijing

When a ‘j’ sound is followed by a ‘u’, the ‘u’ is like the u in French, or in ‘huge’.

Ju – 橘子 júzi – tangerine
Zhu – 柱子 zhùzi – pillar / post
Zhi – 蜘蛛 zhīzhū – spider
Jue – 决定 juédìng – decide
Juan – 考卷 kǎojuàn – test paper
Zhuan – 专家 zhuānjiā – expert
Jun – 军队 jūnduì – army
Zhun – 准备 zhǔnbèi – to prepare / get ready