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Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 16 – The Q and Ch sounds

Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 16 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to improve and tune up your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones.

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

The Q in Pinyin is another sound that doesn’t exist in English, so it’s misleading to say it is LIKE anything in English.

It is most similar to the English Ch, but again, the position of the tongue is different.

When you say the Pinyin Q. the tip of your tongue should be resting in the middle of your mouth at the front, behind your teeth, it could be touching your teeth, 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. You might not be used to putting your tongue in that part of your mouth to speak, so it does take a lot of getting used to.

The Ch sound in Pinyin is almost the same as the Ch sound in English. Your tongue touches the top of your mouth near the front, but a bit further back than the Ch sound in English, and again you might have to curl your tongue a bit.

Let’s practice the Q sound in Pinyin, then compare and contrast it with the Ch sound.

qi – 起来 qǐlái – to get up
qia – 恰好 qiàhǎo – by coincidence, exactly
qie – 茄子 qiézi – aubergine / eggplant
qiao – 桥梁 qiáoliáng – bridge
qiu – 秋天 qiūtiān – autumn
qian – 多少钱 duōshǎo qián? – How much money?
qiang – 强壮 qiángzhuàng – strong
qin – 钢琴 gāngqín – piano
qing – 情绪 qíngxù – mood, feelings
qiong – 贫穷 pínqióng – poor

Remember that when Q is followed by a u in Pinyin, the u sound is pronounced like the u in French or in ‘huge’.

When the Ch in Pinyin is followed by a u, then the u is pronounced in a similar way to the u in ‘fool’.

qu – 有趣 yǒuqù – interesting
chu – 清楚 qīngchu – clear
que – 确定 quèdìng – confirm
chi – 吃饭 chīfàn – to eat (rice)
quan – 完全 wánquán – completely
chuan – 四川 sìchuān – Sichuan (province)
qun – 裙子 qúnzi – skirt
chun – 春天 chūntiān – spring (season)