Students just beginning their Chinese study may think the characters are too difficult to remember. Therefore, you need a tool to read and write down Chinese. That tool is called pinyin.
First, what is pinyin? Pinyin is a kind of auxiliary tool for us to learn Chinese. It is a Romanized representation of the phonetic sounds of Chinese. Chinese Pinyin is also the international standard stipulated by the United Nations for spelling Chinese special terms and names of persons and places.
The Chinese syllable consists of three parts: initials, finals, and tones. For example, the character “妈”,pinyin is “mā”， “mā” is made up of the initial “m” , the final “a” , and the level tone “-”.
In Chinese, we have 21 initials: b , p, m, f, d, t, n, l, g, k, h, j, q, x, zh, ch, sh, r, z, c, s. And there are 36 finals: a, an, ang, ai, ao, o, ou, ong, e, en, eng, ei, er, i, ia, iao, ie, iou(iu), ian, in, iang, ing, iong, u, ua, uo, uai, uei(ui), uan, uen(un), uang, ueng, ü, üe, üan, ün.
At last ,there are some spelling rules when you use and write pinyin. The first one is when finals begin with “i” or “ü” without preceding initials, they should be written like this :
i---yi in---yin ing---ying
ü---yu üe---yue ün---yun
The second rule is when finals begin with “u” without preceding initials, they should be written like this:
u---wu ua---wa uo---wo
Then third rule is when “ü” follows “j” , “q”, “x” directly, the two dots over “ü” should be omitted. For example:
jü---ju qü---qu xü---xu
And the last rule is “i” in “zhi、chi、shi、zi、ci、si、ri ” is not pronounced. In this case, “i” is used for spelling purposes only.
You can find more information on Chinese Phonetics, where you can get systematical ways to learn initials, finals, tones and rules of Pinyin.