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Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 17 – The X and Sh sounds


Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 17 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to tune up your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones.

The last few videos have been a bit difficult, and this is the last of the really difficult sounds in Chinese.

In this video we’re looking at the ‘X’ and ’Sh’ sounds in Pinyin.

The ‘X’ sound is another one that simply doesn’t exist in English at all, so it often creates problems for English speakers.

The sound in English that it is most similar to in English is the Sh sound, but it’s softer, and the position of the tongue in your mouth is completely different.

When you say the ‘X’ sound in Pinyin, the tip of your tongue stays in the middle of your mouth behind your teeth, probably touching them (in the same place as for the J and Q sounds).

The bit of your tongue behind the tip is curved and presses up against the top of your mouth at the front. This tongue position gives the ‘X’ sound a softer feel to the Sh in English. For this sound, you’re probably not going to move your tongue much, you’re just passing air across it.

In this video, we’ll also be practising the ‘Sh’ sound, and looking at how it is different to the ‘X’ sound.

xi – 西方 xīfāng – west, the West
shi – 事情 shìqing – a matter
xia – 夏天 xiàtiān – summer
xie – 鞋子 xiézi – shoes
xiao – 笑容 xiàoróng – smile
xiu – 休息 xiūxi – to take a rest
xian – 先生 xiānsheng – Mr, sir
xiang – 香港 xiānggǎng – Hong Kong
xin – 辛苦 xīnkǔ – hard work, hardworking
xing – 星星 xīngxing – star
xiong – 熊猫 xióngmāo – panda

Just like the ‘J’ and ‘Q’ in Pinyin, whenever the ‘X’ is followed by a ‘u’, the ‘u’ is pronounced like the u in French or something like the ‘u’ in huge.

When the ‘u’ comes after an ‘Sh’ in Pinyin, it is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘fool’. Your lips are pushed out towards the front of your mouth, and are in a round shape.

We have covered the other vowel sounds here in previous videos

xu – 需要 xūyào – need
shu – 一本书 yī běn shū – a book
xue – 学习 xuéxí – to study
shui – 水 shuǐ – water
xuan – 选择 xuǎnzé – to choose
shuan – 消火栓 xiāohuǒshuān – fire hydrant
xun – 咨询 zīxún – to inquire
shun – 顺利 shùnlì – smooth, without a hitch

This one is a tricky one, and you might not be able to get it straight away, but keep paying attention to it and practising, and it might come to you suddenly, when you’re least expecting it!