注音符號 - Zhu (4) Yin(1) Fu(2) Hao(4) 注音符號 is a phonetic system (not an alphabet) consisting of 37 symbols representing specific sounds. Each symbol is used in combination with 1 of 4 tones to produce all of the possible sounds in the Chinese language.
Like most people, I relied heavily on the Hanyu Pin Yin romanization of Chinese characters when I first started to "study" Chinese. It was familiar and easy but it quickly became a crutch that limited my ability to actually learn the characters. I would strongly suggest using 注音符號 as the basis of your Chinese language studies. It may be more difficult at first but after you become familiar with the symbols (which will be quicker than you think) you will learn and remember the characters more reliably, and understand their meaning more thoroughly than if you rely on the pin yin romanization systems.
These are the first 14 symbols and the pronunciation/sound of each. I included the Hanyu Pin Yin romanizations only because they are so prevalent in textbooks and translated literature that they cannot be ignored. The pronunciations in this set are fairly straightforward and familiar to western ears so I am not going to get into any additional explanations of the linguistic technicalities. Next Post: ZZZZZZZ.