Tough sounds s-sh-, c-ch-, z-zh-

Although the sounds themselves aren't too bad, the way they're combined can be difficult. These sounds are also difficult for some native speakers of Chinese! Practice the following words and phrases to be sure that you've got a good handle on these tough sounds.

Pronunciation Tips for s-sh-, c-ch-, z-zh- (A2)

A reminder from the "ch" "sh" and "zh" sounds page:

These are the famous "retroflex" sounds of Mandarin Chinese. You may have heard that to make these sounds, you have to "curl your tongue back into your mouth." You may have visions of the tip of your tongue pointing way into the back of your throat, your tongue horribly contorted. It's really not all that crazy. You just need to pull your tongue a bit further into the back of your mouth to pronounce these sounds properly, but you won't need to do any insane contortions.

You'll definitely want to take care with the vowel sounds that follow the "sh-," "ch-," and "zh-" sounds. That's a big part of what helps distinguish them from similar sounds.

When struggling with words like "chūcuò," it helps to first slow down. Make sure you're pronouncing the initial "ch-" and "c-" sounds correctly. Then also make sure you're pronouncing the individual "-u" and "-uo" vowel sounds correctly. If you can do each correctly individually, then you can (slowly!) pronounce them correctly in sequence as well. As you get better and better, increase the speed at which you are pronouncing these words.

Tough Sound Words: s-sh-, c-ch-, z-zh- (A2)

The words in the following table are designed to give you a good pronunciation workout. Practice them on your own and practice them with your teacher.

Audio Chinese Pinyin English
出错 chūcuò to make an error
sān three, 3
shān mountain
suì [measure word for years old]
shuì to sleep
four, 4
shì to be, is, are
三十 sānshí thirty; 30
十四 shísì fourteen; 14
厕所 cèsuǒ toilet, restroom
超市 chāoshì supermarket
zài to be located at/in/on
zuò to do; to make
zǒu to walk, to leave
zhè this
zhù to live
住在 zhù zài to live (in/at)

Tough Sound Video Practice: s-sh-, c-ch-, z-zh- (A2)

Sources and further reading

More sources and other links coming soon...