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Say It Right Series

大家Hao: The Chinese H sound.

Posted by xiaohu October 4, 2008 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: Unvoiced Sounds, Voiced Sounds, Aspirate, Aspiration, Aspirated Sounds, Correcting Chinese Proununciation, Correct Pronunciation of Chinese Sounds, Natural Chinese Accent Guide, How To Reduce American Accent, American Accent Reduction, Accent Reduction

The Chinese “H” Sound

The first sound we are going to focus on in this series about aspiration is a sound, not marked with an Apostrophe in Wade-Giles, but is probably the most obvious of all the aspirated sounds to western ears, the one marked in Pinyin and all other romanization systems as,

  • "H"

In the case of the "H" sound, those that do hear that is sounds different from the English "H" often get caught into the trap of pronouncing it like the Hebrew "Ch" (as in Chanukah), this is wrong.  There is no such sound in Chinese.

A good place to start practicing this sound is to start with the Chinese "He" as in "Hē Shuǐ" 喝水.

Once you listen to the pronunciation a few times in the Chinesepod Pinyin introduction, (make sure to listen to all four tones), you will soon see that the sound is dependent on two factors:

  1. Aspiration
  2. Constricting the back of the throat

Keep in mind, that without partially closing the back of the throat, the sound will have no friction, and therefore not sound correct.

Now, once you've practiced , a few times, let's move on to "Hěn Hǎo" 很好.

With regards to the "H" sound, remember to always constrict the back of the throat and really give the sound a good, guttural puff of air coming directly from the back of the throat.  You should feel the back of the throat slightly rattle.

Put your hand in front of your mouth when you make this sound...did you feel the air on your hand as you made the sound?

Now, contrast it with the American English "H" sound.  Say the English words "Hen" and "How" (the common words that English speakers use in place of the Chinese "Hěn Hǎo").

Did you feel the difference?  As you say the English "Hen How" You should not feel any air on your hand, as you do with the correct Chinese pronunciation of, Hěn Hǎo.

Remember, there needs to be vibration in the back of the throat for the sound to be correct.

Now, apply this to all the other "H" sounds in Chinese:

  • Ha
  • Hai
  • Hao
  • Han
  • Hang
  • Hong
  • Hou
  • He
  • Hei
  • Hen
  • Heng
  • Hu
  • Hua
  • Huo
  • Hui
  • Huai
  • Huan
  • Hun
  • Huang

Once you have mastered the Chinese "H" sound, you are ready to move on. 



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