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From Teflpedia

Pinyin is a Romanisation system for Chinese, specifically Mandarin Chinese.

It’s the most commonly-used Romanisation system for Chinese, and is commonly used to show the pronunciation of Chinese characters, which can be otherwise impenetrable to non-Chinese speakers.

For example, if we write the Chinese characters 英语作为外语教学, a non-Chinese speaker doesn’t know how to say them. If we write this in Pinyin, it’s Yīngyǔ zuòwéi wàiyǔ jiàoxué. Someone with minimal experience with Pinyin can pronounce it, even if they don’t know what it means.

When transliterating Chinese names, Pinyin is commonly used. However, the diacritics are typically removed. So for example:

  • 北京 Běijīng, commonly rendered as Beijing /beɪʤɪŋ/.
  • 上海 Shànghǎi, commonly rendered as Shanghai /ʃæŋhaɪ/.
  • 张伟 Zhāng Wěi, commonly rendered as Zhang Wei /ʤæŋ weɪ/, the most common name in China.

Pinyin itself is 拼音, pīnyīn but commonly rendered as pinyin.