Chinese characters are most often romanized by a system called pinyin ("peen -yeen"). In nearly all of the cities in China you'll see street signs and store names written in both the pinyin and Chinese characters.
Basic pronunciation is as follows:
a: "ah" as in father, arm
e: "uh" as in were, fur
i: (after z, c, s, zh, ch, sh and r) "er" as in sir, otherwise "ee" as in we, tea
o: "or" as in bore, snore
u: "oo" as in who, too
z: "ds" as in zoo, but zh is pronounced "j" as in job
j: "g" as in get
q: "ch" as in cheek
x: "sh" as in shy
Some Useful Chinese Phrases and Words
A few hard to pronounce Chinese pinyin letters
- Mei-guo (May-gwaw) - America
- Zhong-guo (Joong-gwaw) - China
- Ni Hao. (Knee How) - Good day / Hello / How are you
- Xie-xie ni. (Syeah-syeah nee) - Thank you.
- Dui-bu-qi. (Dway-boo-chee) - Excuse me.
- Wo bu dong. (Waw boo-doong) - I don’t understand.
- Qing shou Ying-wen. (Ching shwaw Ying-wun) - Please speak English.
- Qing bang-zhu wo. (Ching baang-joo waw) - Please help me.
- Wo mi-lu le. (Waw mee-loo luh) - I am lost.
- Zai jian. (Dzai gee-en) - Goodbye.
- Ni, chi fan le, mai you (Knee chir fawn la, may yo) - Have you eaten
- Ming tien jian. (Ming tien jian) - See you tomorrow.
- Tai gui le. (Tai gwee luh) - (It is) too expensive.
- ZH - as in the beginning of "jeweler"
- CH - as in ZH above, but with a strong puff of breath
- SH - as in "shoe"
- R - as in "run"
- C - like the "ts" in "it's high," but with a strong puff of breath
- J - as in "Jeff"
- Q - like the "ch" in "cheese"
- X - like the "sh" in "sheep"
Wo  (Waw)
Ni  (Knee)
He / she
Ta  (Tah)
Zhong-guo [1-2] (Joong-gwaw)
Good day / hello / how are you?
Ni hao? [3-3] (Knee how?)
Xie-xie ni [4-4-3] (Syeah-syeah nee)
Dui-bu-qi [4-2-3] (Dway-boo-chee)
I don't understand
Wo bu dong [3-2-3] (Waw boo-doong)
Please speak English
Qing shou Ying-wen [3-1-1-2] (Ching shwaw Ying-wun)
Please help me
Qing bang-zhu wo [3-1-4-3] (Ching baang-joo waw)
I am lost
Wo mi-lu le [3-2-4-0] (Waw mee-loo luh)
Zai jian [4-4] (Dzai gee-en)
Have you eaten?
Ni, chi fan le, mai you? [3-1-4-5, 3-3] (Knee chir fawn la, may yo?)
Zhen jiu [1-1] (Gin joe)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
(counting from one to ten)
Yi, Er, San, Sz, Wu, Leo, Qi, Ba, Jou, Shi
Qi gong [4-1] (Chee gung)
See you later
Ming tien jian [2-1-4] (Ming tien jian)
Taijiquan (T'ai Chi Ch'uan)
Tai ji quan [4-2-2] (Tie gee chwan)
I don't understand
Wo bu dong [3-4-3] (Waw boo dung)