PINYIN (or Pin Yin) is a unique spelling system developed by Chinese Language Committee at the early 1950’s, with its main aim being to “standardize” the pronunciation of Chinese characters.
According to the “Resolution Regarding the Chinese Pinyin Scheme by The National Council” in 1958, the current Pinyin system is “a tool to help learn Chinese characters and promote standard Mandarin accent”. There are hundreds of dialects spoken in China, and Mandarin is actually one of them picked by the government as the “official standard accent”.
The Pinyin (sometimes written as “Pin Yin”) “words” consist of English letters with some tone symbols placed over the “vowels”. This form may look familiar to people in many Romanic countries.
Actually, Pinyin does give you some rough idea on how a Chinese character is pronounced like. For example: My team’s name 毕百思 may be written in Pinyin as “Bi Bai Si”. If we want to choose a proper English “word” to represent its Chinese pronunciation, it would be [Beebais].
Does this mean you shall expect to properly pronounce all the Chinese characters by applying English pronunciation rules on the Pinyin words (though some). No it’s not that easy. For example, 中国 (China) in Pin Yin is “Zhong Guo”. I guess you may want to read it as “Zonguo”, but actually the correct Chinese pronunciation is “Dson-guo”. Let me take another example: 手机 (mobile phone) in Pin Yin is “Shou Ji”, but actually it’s correct Chinese pronunciation is “Sou-dge”.
That’s why we say Pinyin (or Pin Yin), the “Latin Chinese words”, is actually a very UNIQUE spelling system that is designed for Chinese readers only and requires special training to master it. In China, little pupils will be studying the Pinyin in their first day entering the primary schools, and the only purpose is to help them pronounce the Mandarin in a standard way in the future.
So, if you need to learn the pronunciation of certain Chinese characters, don’t ask for their Pin Yin versions – which is not intended for English speakers, but ask a translator to provide “their accurate pronunciation in English form”.