Tag Archives: transliteration

Chinese pronunciation tip 6: si, shi, ci, chi, zi, zhi, Cixi, and mei shir

I’m going to turn my pronunciation tip attention to the Olympics soon, but I wanted to cover one more thing in Chinese first: the I’s. Half the time you say them just as you see them, but the other half the time… you have to keep your eyes steady on this. I mean your I’s.

Peking, Beijing, whazzup?

Pity the capital city of China. No matter what, its name gets mispronounced. It used to be written Peking, but that led to millions of people saying it like an act of voyeurism. Now it’s written Beijing, and anglophones all over the world can’t believe that a j could represent anything like how we say it in English, so in the spirit of foreignness they blubber the b and say the j as though it were French.

In fact, the phonemes involved in the name of China’s capital are such that Peking (the Yale transliteration), Pei-ching (Wade-Giles style, but never commonly used) and Beijing (Pinyin style) are all arguably viable, but all misleading in one way or another for the simple reason that the sounds used are not all sounds we make in English. Continue reading