Pinyin is the main standardized form of writing out Mandarin Chinese in English letters. This is needed as a foreigner, especially one who speaks a language that uses the Latin alphabet, because the pronunciation of Chinese has to be memorized, and cannot fully be determined by simply looking at the Character.
There are many ways to write out Mandarin Chinese phonetically, but the one that I use and the standard in Mainland China is Pinyin or 拼音。Pinyin is used in combination with the older Wade-Giles system in Taiwan.
To read more about the system and learn some of it, check out the article
I think that a more universal system is the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). But I like Pinyin specifically for Mandarin Chinese.
Here are some pros and cons of Pinyin
Some spelling in Pinyin can be a little confusing
For example, Zh is pronounced somewhat like the English J, hui, would be pronounced like (hway). There are some spellings that you have to learn to get used to.
Easy to read
I find Pinyin to be easy to be read. It’s not messy and does not use any extra things besides Latin letters and accents.
One thing that I like about Pinyin is that tones are expressed by accents on a vowel in a particular word.
Example-好-hăo- this character means (good) and the accent on the a indicates a third tone.
Numbers are not normally used but can be used instead of accents to indicate tones.
The tones are written in an easy to understand way.
The IPA is a better all-around system, but for specifically Mandarin Chinese, I like Pinyin as at least a supplement to IPA.
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