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How to pronounce [zh]/[ch]/[sh]/[r] in Chinese Pinyin

How to pronounce [zh]:

      zh

Raise the tip of your tongue to touch the hard palate in order to form an obstacle and the airflow comes out suddenly by break through the obstacle without vibration of the vocal cord.

The sound of [zh] kind of sounds like the “j” in English word “jack”.

How to pronounce [ch]:

      ch

The position of articulation is the same as that of [zh] but airflow comes out strongly. The sound of [ch] is similar as the “ch” in English word “church”.

How to pronounce [sh]:

      sh

Curl up the tip of your tongue closing to the hard palate and release the airflow through the passage thus made with fraction without vibration of the vocal cord. The sound of [sh] is similar to the “sh” in English word “sheep”.

How to pronounce [r]:

      r

The position of articulation is the same as that of [sh] but the airflow comes out with fraction and with vibration of the vocal cord. The sound of [r] kind of sounds like the “r” in English word “right”.

The Similarity:

Articulation: [zh] [ch] [sh] [r] are all post-alveolar affricate requiring curling up the tip of tongue.

The Differences:

1. Aspiration: [zh]<[sh]<[ch] [zh] is unaspirated while [ch] is aspirated. The amount of air released by [sh] is in between [zh] and [ch]. 

2. Vocal cord: [zh] [ch] [sh] are voiceless initials while [r] is voiced initial.

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