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Pinyin - Aid or Crutch?

Wean Yourself From Pinyin


Pinyin Romanization is commonly used to teach Chinese phonetics. It transposes the sounds of Mandarin using the Roman (Western) alphabet.

Pinyin simplifies Chinese language study by sidestepping the more difficult task of learning Chinese characters. However, many students become dependant on Pinyin and don’t spend enough time learning to read and write the language. This is a mistake because knowledge of Chinese characters gives a broader understanding of Chinese culture and the Mandarin language.

Learn the Characters

Each time you learn new vocabulary, you should also practice the written characters. The best way to do this is by using a writing practice book specifically designed for Chinese characters. Write each character several times until you can do them from memory.

Having learned a few characters, how can you put them to practical use? A few characters, after all, will not give you the fluency necessary to read Chinese texts.

The best way I’ve found is to combine a few Chinese characters with Pinyin. This approach is used in the excellent series, “New Read Chinese.”

The “New Read Chinese” books present a number of Chinese characters in each chapter, followed by a reading section which combines Pinyin and the characters which have just been studied. This gives the student an opportunity to gradually expand their reading repertoire.

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