Chinese characters are the main writing symbols of the Chinese language. Pinyin is the phonetic notation for Chinese characters. Each character has a specific syllable. Each syllable is composed of three parts: initial, final, and tone. The pinyin system has 21 initials, 36 finals, and 4 tones. It also has 2 semi-vowels and a neutral tone.
Tones are very important. Many characters have the same spelling in pinyin but have different tones, and therefore have different meanings.
This pinyin table is a complete listing of all Hanyu Pinyin （汉语拼音）syllables used in Standard Mandarin. Click on the cell for pronunciation.
* An empty cell indicates that the corresponding syllable does not exist in Standard Mandarin.
The first tone, marked by -, is a high and flat sound, naturally prolonged.
The second tone, marked by /, is a rising tone, from low to high, like making a question, e.g. táng (sugar, candy) 糖
The third tone is a comparatively long tone, falling first and then going up, e.g. tǎng (to lie down) 躺.
The fourth tone, marked by \ , is a falling tone, short and strong, as if in anger, e.g., tàng (boiling hot) 烫.
The neutral tone, light and short, has no mark. It is usually the last syllable of a word or a phrase, e.g. māma (mother) 妈妈.
Here is the Pinyin pronunciation guide. Please read it carefully and then practice.
After you can pronounce them all, you can try to find some books (for example, a graded reader) with pinyin and try to follow the included CD to read. You can also find a Chinese class on-line to practice your Pinyin pronunciation.