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The Chinese language has some important differences with English - some of the sounds of their vowels and consonants will be new to English speakers, and Chinese is a tonal language that uses four main tones to change the meaning of words.
Tones - which mean how high or low the pitch of your voice is, and how your pitch rises or falls over time - can seem like a very difficult part of learning Chinese. It does indeed take some time to get used to being able to use the four main tones correctly, and even longer to be able to easily hear them when someone else is speaking. However, the good news is that you can already make all four of the tone sounds because you use tones in English too! In fact, each of the four tones is sometimes (or often) used in everyday English, so you will not be having to learn anything that feels 'unnatural'.
Pinyin is a way of writing Chinese sounds using a romanised alphabet (They look like English letters but aren't really). It was first developed to help Chinese children more easily learn standard Mandarin, but is also very helpful for foreigners like us to learn how to pronounce, read & write all of the different Chinese sounds. When we learn new Chinese words, we learn the pinyin to show us how to pronounce the word, and we also will learn the character for that word, which is a bit like a picture to represent the meaning of the word. The problem with characters is that they don't tell you how the word sounds, but pinyin does. So our focus this year is more about learning pinyin - the sounds of Chinese, rather than characters, although you will learn to read and write a range of basic characters as well! Pinyin has two different types of sounds which we will learn this week - initials, which are a bit like English consonants, and finals, which are a bit like English vowels. Some of these sounds will be completely different than sounds you have made before, and will take some time to be able to pronounce them properly. But again, the good news is that most of the sounds in pinyin are the same or very similar to sounds you already use in English. We have another advantage in NZ when learning Chinese - some of the pinyin sounds that English doesn't have are sounds that we use in te reo Maori! So between English and te reo Maori, the vast majority of the sounds you'll need to make to speak Chinese aren't really that different from sounds you already know and use!
After our weekly VC lesson, don't forget to continue to work through each of the weekly tasks. Also, don't forget to look at the bottom of the lesson page at the resources Padlet, which contains lots of helpful resources to help you learn the four tones and pinyin.