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The Best Chinese Words to Practice as a Beginner: The Definitive List Part 1

When it comes to learning a new language, one thing always comes up almost immediately: vocabulary. Students often wonder which words they should learn and how they can learn them in the best (read: the fastest) way possible.

What Chinese words are the easiest?

What Chinese words are the most important?

Any Mandarin Chinese teacher expects these types of questions and usually has a book or resource on standby. It’s to be expected really. Yet the best Chinese words to know are usually mixed in with a bunch of other vocabulary, some of which just isn’t needed by a beginner.

To help every Chinese language beginner out there, we’re gotten rid of what you don't need and put together a list of basic Chinese words and meanings for helping you to work on your pronunciation and make a good start in developing your second language skills.

Simply click on the numbers next to a word to listen to its pronunciation.

![Study Begins](/content/images/2017/09/study-1968077_960_720.jpg) ##The Best Words for Pronouncing Pinyin Initials

b – Like ‘b’ in ‘bat’

Like we talked about in the How to Speak Chinese - The Ultimate Guide to Chinese Pronunciation, in this case the b is your friend. It is the same as in English. You got the sound down. Check out these 100 words below to add to your starting vocabulary.

Example #1: Bu 不 - No

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Example #2: Bao 包 – Bag

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Example #3: Bangzhu 帮助 - Help

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Example #4: Beijing 北京 - Beijing

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Example #5: Ben 本 - Book

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p – Like ‘p’ in ‘pants’

While Mandarin does have its difficult sounds, this is another one you can cross off the list as mastered. Make the Chinese ‘p’ the same way, except a little bit louder and you are good to go.

Example #1: Pǎo 跑 – Run

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Example #2: pào 泡 - Bubble

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Example #3: péngyǒu 朋友 - Friend

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Example #4: lǎopó 老婆 - Wife

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Example #5: pàng 胖 - Fat

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m – Like ‘m’ in ‘mat’

Adding to your polished English skills, another easy one to transfer over to your Mandarin. Focus on these common words below and grow your vocabulary,

Example #1: mā 妈 – Mom

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Example #2: má 麻 - Bother

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Example #3: mǎ 马 - horse

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Example #4: máfan 麻烦 - problem

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Example #5: ma 吗 – Question Particle

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f – Like ‘f’ in ‘fat’

Same as the English version.

Example #1: máfan 麻烦 – problem

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Example #2: fù zé 负责 - be responsible for

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Example #3: fēng kuáng 疯狂 - crazy

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Example #4: Fúwù 服务- service

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Example #5: Fāyá 发芽- germination

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d – Like ‘d’ in ‘dad’

Again, same as English. Are you seeing a pattern yet? While there are many things to learn, it is also good to remember that you already have a good starting point and do not have to build your knoweldge from scratch.

Example #1: Dānxīn 担心 - worry

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Example #2: Dōngxī 东西 - thing

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Example #3: Dǔzi 肚子 - stomach

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Example #4: Dōngtiān 冬天 - winter

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Example #5: Dàmǐ 大米 - rice

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t – Like ‘t’ in ‘tat’

Need I say it again? Stick to the English Pronunciation-and you'll be doing just fine.

Example #1: Tèbié 特别 - especially

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Example #2: Táng cháo 唐朝 - Tang Dynasty

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Example #3: Tōngguò 通过 - pass

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Example #4: Tàidù 态度 - attitude

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Example #5: Tāmen 它们 - it

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l – Like ‘l’ in ‘like’

Same as English. Take in the words and keep building your personal dictionary.

Example #1: Liúlèi 流泪 - Tears

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Example #2: Lāmiàn 拉面 - Ramen

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Example #3: Luòyáng 洛阳 - Luoyang

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Example #4: Lǎnduò 懒惰 - lazy

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Example #5: Lǐ 李 - Li

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g – Like a Soft 'g' in 'get'

Finally! Something similar, but with a small twist. While we voice the 'p' a bit louder, you'll want to make sure your 'g' is just a little bit softer in Mandarin pronunciation.

Example #1: Xiānggǎng 香港 - HongKong

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Example #2: Gāoxìng 高兴 - happy

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Example #3: Guòqù 过去 - past

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Example #4: Guìhuā 桂花 -Osmanthus

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Example #5: Guānxīn 关心 - concern

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k - Like a Soft 'k' in 'kit'

You just got 'g', now apply those skills to 'k'. "K' should also be unvoiced. You should be feeling a puff of air escape your mouth when you pronounce 'k'. Try starting the sound in your mouth, not your throat.

Example #1: Kūnmíng 昆明 - KunMing

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Example #2: Kǎpiàn 卡片 - card

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Example #3: Kěyǐ 可以 - can

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Example #4: Kuàilè 快乐 - happy

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Example #5: Kuānróng 宽容 - tolerant

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h - Like a Hard 'h' in 'huh?'

'H' is a bit different than 'g' and 'k' above because it does the opposite. While you have been softening your 'g' and 'k', your 'h' should actually be harsher. Imagine that something has surprised you and all you can say is 'huh?' in a rather force tone. We've all been there. Use that familiar feeling to add some more specific words to your growing data base.

Example #1: Héxié 和谐 - harmonious

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Example #2: Yǒnghéng 永恒 - eternal

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Example #3: Kāihuì 开会 - have meeting

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Example #4: Hǎitān 海滩 - beach

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Example #5: Húběi 湖北 - Hu Bei (1) (2)

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x - Like a Soft 'sh' in 'sheet'a

This one can be a bit tricky. As we said in the Ultimate Guide, to make the 'x' sound, arrange your mouth as though you were about to make the 'sh' sound in English, and then lower your tongue to behind your bottom set of teeth. It'll take a bit of practice but you'll get there in the end.

Example #1: Xiàmén 厦门 - Xia Men

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Example #2: Xiāngshuǐ 香水 - perfume

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Example #3: Xiàtiān 夏天 - summer

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Example #4: Xīnwén 新闻 - news

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Example #5: Xuéxí 学习 - learn

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q - Like a Mandarin 'x' But With a 't' First

To make the 'q', we are going to add a 't' infront of our Mandarin 'x'. Note that despitre what many say, the Mandarin 'w' is not the same and the English 'ch'. Bring your tongue a little bit more forward and touching your bottom set of teeth.

Example #1: Qǐng 请 - please

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Example #2: Qiáng 强 - Strong

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Example #3: Hóngqí 红旗 - red flag

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Example #4: Qiānxū 谦虚 - modest

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Example #5: Qúnzi 裙子 - skirt

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j - Again With Your Tongue Down

As we continue to scaffold into the new sounds, draw upon your new found skills and familiarity with the Mandarin 'x' . Make sure to position your tongue behind your lower set of teeth and then try to pronounce the English 'j'.

Example #1: Jiànshè 建设 - Construction

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Example #2: Jiāngjūn 将军 - General

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Example #3: Jiějiě 姐姐 - sister

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Example #4: Xǐjù 喜剧 - comedy

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Example #5: Jǐ gè 几个 - several

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zh - Like 'J' in 'Juice'

The 'zh' sound is going to be another old friend with a twist. Think of the English 'j' as your starting point, now make sure that you bring your tongue up to the roof of your mout. Take a few minute wrapping your mouth around this sound and you will be good to go, to keep building your vocab.

Example #1: Zhèn 镇 - town

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Example #2: Zhāng 张 - Zhang

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Example #3: Zhídé 值得 - worth it

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Example #4: Zhùyì 注意 - note

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Example #5: Zhuōzi 桌子 - table

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ch - With A Tongue Curl

Curl your tongue towards the roof of your mouth again, to master the 'ch' and these high frequency words. Make sure to touch the roof with the tip of your tongue, and then let a small gap appear when you let the air escape.

Example #1: Chīfàn 吃饭 - eat

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Example #2: Chūlái 出来 - come out

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Example #3: Chéngshì 城市 - city

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Example #4: Chūntiān 春天 - spring

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Example #5: Qìchē 汽车 - car

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sh - Like 'shhh' With A Forced Lisp

Curl your tongue towards the roof of your mouth once more, but leave a small gap. Once ready, gently go shhh as if you were quietly shushing someone in a library.

Example #1: Huángshān 黄山 - Huangshan

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Example #2: Shàngwǔ 上午 - morning

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Example #3: Shén 神 - God

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Example #4: Shùxué 数学 - mathematics

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Example #5: Shìjiè 世界 - world

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r - Like the 'rrrrrr' in 'brrrrrrrr'

We talked about how tricky the 'r' is in the Ultimate Guide. Hop on over to review it, if need be, and add these everyday and helpful words below to your active vocabulary.

Example #1: Ràng 让- let

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Example #2: Rúguǒ 如果- in case

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Example #3: Ruìxuě zhào fēngnián 瑞雪兆丰年- Ruixue Zhaofeng years

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Example #4: Rénlèi 人类- humanity

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Example #5: Rènzhēn 认真- serious

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c – Like the ‘ts’ in ‘bits’

Another tricky sound, but one you should master if you ever want to order a dish at a restaurant. As a reminder, to pronounce 'c', make sure that the tip of your tongue touches the back of your bottom set of teeth and then say the 'ts' from 'bits'.

Example #1: Cài 菜 - dish

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Example #2: Cāntīng 餐厅 - restaurant

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Example #3: Cǎo 草 - grass

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Example #4: Cèliáng 测量 - measuring

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Example #5: Cuìruò 脆弱 - fragile

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z - Like 'ds' in 'kids'

Seemingly tricky, but this sound can be found in English. However it makes an appeareance at the end of words like kids. With some practice, you will have it in no time.

Example #1: Zán 咱 - we

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Example #2: Zàng 脏 - dirty

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Example #3: Zěnme yàng 怎么样 - how is it

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Example #4: Zérèn 责任 - responsibility

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Example #5: Zǎoshang 早上 - morning

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s - Like 's' in 'super easy!'

We are ending your 100 words, with an easy sound for you. The 's' is identical in Mandarin and English. Add these next 5 words to your vocabulary, and you are at 100 new words with correct pronunciation to jump start your Mandarin.

Example #1: Sāhuǎng 撒谎 - lie

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Example #2: Bǐsài 比赛 - game

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Example #3: Sān 三 - three

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Example #4: Sǎozi 嫂子 - sister in law

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Example #5: Sēnlín 森林 - forest

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Conclusion

That's about all we've got time for, folks! Good luck as you proceed with learning Chinese and truly come to perfect your Mandarin pronunciation.

Remember: Practice makes perfect, 加油!

Make sure to also check out the best Chinese words to practice as a beginner for Pinyin Finals.

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Robert Bailey

Robert Bailey

Having lived in China for three years - and studied the language for just as long - I would like to think I've picked up a few things along the way. I'll let you decide.

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