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The "ü" vowel

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So you've learned 5 vowel sounds already, but those are not all the vowel sounds in Mandarin Chinese! The “ü” vowel is a totally different sound, and it does not exist in English. If you speak French or German you might be familiar with this sound, but otherwise, you probably have to train your mouth to make a whole new sound.

Also, don't think that "ü" must be basically the same as "u." They're not the same sounds; those two dots make a big difference!

To make pinyin's "ü" sound, make the pinyin "yi" sound (or the English "ee" sound), and then slowly round your lips. That's all there is to it! Your tongue needs to stay tense like it is when you make the "yi" sound, but your lips must be rounded. If you're having trouble making the sound, it's probably because you let your tongue relax. (The tongue is totally relaxed when you make an English "oo" sound, but you need it to stay tense, like it is for the "ee" sound.)

Notice that the chart below is mostly empty. That's because pinyin's "ü" sound really likes to combine with the initials "j-", "q-", and "x-", which you'll learn in the next and final section. For this section, be sure to really learn the "ü" sound in isolation, which will usually be written as "yu" in pinyin.

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-ü- -üe -üan -ün
∅-
yu
[y]
yue
[y̯œ]
ㄩㄝ
yüeh
yuan
[y̯ɛn]
ㄩㄢ
yüan
yun
[yn]
ㄩㄣ
yün
b-
p-
m-
f-
d-
t-
n-
[ny]
ㄋㄩ
nüe
[ny̯œ]
ㄋㄩㄝ
nüeh
l-
[ly]
ㄌㄩ
lüe
[ly̯œ]
ㄌㄩㄝ
lüeh
z-
c-
s-
zh-
ch-
sh-
r-
g-
k-
h-