During my teaching experience, I've come across many students who make the same mistakes in pronunciation in Chinese, especially the self-learners. The most common one is the pronunciation of the vowel ü. There is a video on youtube made by me about this.

How to pronounce ü correctly

 

Firstly, it's hard to pronounce it, because there is no such sound in most languages. But here I have a tip for you.

 

The sound of ü is a combination of how you pronounce i and u in English. The tongue in your mouth is the same as when we say i, but the shape of your lips are the same as when you say u. You can see that, when we say u, your lips are in a round shape. When we say ü, they should also be in a round shape. Try practicing by pronouncing i at first, and holding your voice. Then change only your lips to a round shape. You can see in the end, you are pronouncing the sound ü. Here are some words for you to try and practice with:

  • lǜsè 绿色, green

  • nǚrén 女人, women

 

When do we say ü when we see u

 

Perhaps you know this, or you don't. Sometime when we see u in a syllable, we actually say üinstead. For example: 

  1. qù 去 (to go)

  2. jùzi句子 (sentence)

  3. xūyào 需要 (to need)

 

You may feel confused. When we say ü, why do we write u here? Where are the two dots? To tell you the truth, when we Chinese were learning Pinyin in primary school, we found it a headache as well. Our teacher just told us, when little ü meets j, q, x, he takes off his hat to show respect. 

  • ü + j = ju

  • ü + q= qu

  • ü + x= xu

 

There is another one you need to pay attention to. It's y. When you see y and u together, we don't say u but rather we say ü. 

  • ü + y= yu

 

The rule also applies for compound vowels. Let's see some examples. 

  1. juéde觉得 (to feel, to think)

  2. xuéxí学习 (to study)

  3. qúnzi裙子 (skirt)

  4. yún云 (cloud)

 

If you want to know more about the reason, let’s have a look at this a chart which has covered all the syllables with ü in Chinese:

You will find out that there are only five initials which can be put together with ü. They are n, l, j, q, x. Among these five, n and l can also be put together with u. So for those two, we don’t omit the two dots. For example: zǒulù (to walk), lǜsè (green), nǔlì (work hard) and nǚrén (woman).

 

However, this is not the case for j, q, x, because they never go together with the u sound in Chinese. So omitting the dots will not cause any problems.

 

To make it simple, you just need to remember this rule: Whenever you see j, q, x or y with u together, you should pronounce it as if it was a ü, instead of u.

 

Here are more words with the ü sound, and some sentences for you to practice with:

 

绿色lǜsè,女人nǚrén,去qù,句子jùzi,需要xūyào,鱼yú,觉得juéde,学习xuéxí,裙子qúnzi,云yún,必须bìxū,邮局yóujú,军人jūnrén,歌曲gēqǔ,缺少quēshǎo,却què,也许yěxǔ,顺序shùnxù,雨yǔ,遇到yùdào,运气yùnqi

 

Sentence #1: 明天我去买裙子。

  • Míngtiān wǒ qù mǎi qúnzi.

  • Tomorrow, I will buy some skirts.

 

Sentence #2: 我觉得这个句子不错。

  • Wǒ juéde zhège jùzi búcuò.

  • I feel this sentence is not bad.

 

Sentence #3: 他需要学习汉语。

  • Tā xūyào xuéxí hànyǔ.

  • He needs study Chinese.

 

Sentence #4: 昨天中午下雨了。

  • Zuótiān zhōngwǔ xiàyǔ le.

  • Yesterday at noon it rained.

 

Sentence #5: 这个月我花了三千元。

  • Zhège yuè wǒ huāle sāqiān yuán.

  • I spent 3000 RMB this month.

 

All in all, the ü sound is important for all Chinese learners. Being aware of the rule and special exercises will help you go over it easily.

The 'ü' Sound In Chinese

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